Everyone is congratulating Netanyahu on his victory in the recent Israeli elections. President Biden called him, and the world is getting ready for another term of Bibi Netanyahu as Prime Minister.
There’s only one problem; contrary to what everyone is saying and everything you are reading; Bibi did not win these elections! Allow me to explain.
This latest round of elections was called “Round 5” since it was the 5th election in the last 2 years. “Round 1” was when Bibi lost – the first time – since he could not put together a coalition. In those elections, Likud received 35 seats in the Knesset. In “Round 2” Bibi’s Likud party managed just 32 seats – a big failure. Then in “Round 3” he won 36 seats but was still considered a loser since he could not build a coalition. “Round 4” was Bibi’s worst showing ever, with Likud managing just 30 seats. It was at this time that the crazy deal was made between Bennett, Lapid, Gantz, Liberman and the Arabs to form a coalition that lasted less than 2 years.
Then came “Round 5” – elections once again! – and Bibi led Likud to an amazing victory! Everyone is praising him, applauding his resilience and happy for his incredible achievement. How many seats did Likud win in this amazing victory? Well, if Bibi lost with 32, 35 and even 36… Likud must have won at least 40 seats in these elections… right?? Wrong! “Round 5” – the elections where Bibi was declared the winner – had the Likud winning just 32 seats. You read that correctly – Bibi and Likud were declared the winner with just 32 seats. But wait… they received 32 seats in “Round 2” and lost… and 35 in “Round 1” and lost… and 36 in “Round 3” and still lost… so how can 32 seats win in “Round 5”??
The answer to that question is simple. Bibi did not win. The reason – the only reason – that Netanyahu has been declared winner is because he stands the best chance to build a coalition of at least 61 Knesset members, but that’s not because of him… it’s because of the real – and only – winner in these elections; Itamar Ben-Gvir. Like him, love him or hate him… it really doesn’t matter. His party ran with Betzalel Smotrich and they went from 6 seats, in the last Knesset, to 14 in the present one. (One seat went to Maoz of the Noam party, who joined the Religious Zionist party until after the elections, but it is not at all sure they received enough votes for that seat.) Those 8 seats – every one of them – are due to Ben-Gvir and in part to Smotrich… and those 8 seats are the reason why Bibi is in the driver’s seat to form a coalition.
Without Religious Zionism's additional 8 seats, Bibi’s 32 would have been another dreadful loss. Political experts would have told him to throw in the towel and make room for a new Chairman of Likud. He would have been forced out of politics with people remembering his 5 consecutive losses. Instead, those same 32 seats – less than what he received in “Rounds 1 and 3” – have made him the comeback king. Yes, its silly, absurd and downright ridiculous but that’s the truth. The words written above are not my opinion or assessment of the situation… they are an undisputable fact.
Bibi did not win the election, yet he will probably become the next Prime Minister because of the Knesset’s “bad-boy”; Itamar Ben-Gvir and the head of the Religious Zionism party, Betzalel Smotrich..
So, what will be Ben-Gvir’s reward? What will Netanyahu do for him, since his votes make Bibi the Prime Minister? The answer to that is not what you think. It has been my prediction all along that Netanyahu will turn the Knesset upside down just to leave Ben-Gvir out of the coalition and ignore Smotrich. He will try to split Smotrich away from Ben-Gvir and figure out a way to bring Gantz into the government.
When I wrote, and published this, 2 weeks before the elections, people said I was crazy, but I stand by that prediction (and yes, I’m crazy…) I spoke to Ben-Gvir about this directly and told him that if this comes to fruition, it will be the best thing that ever happened to him. Ben-Gvir’s support in this recent election came from people who were angry and fed up and if their #1 choice is ignored, he can guarantee that his popularity will grow tremendously. Bibi may think that he can do whatever he wishes but a coalition that doesn’t include Ben-Gvir and give Smotrich the ministry he deserves will last even less time than the disastrous Bennett-Lapid fiasco.
You think Qatar hosting the World Cup is exciting? That’s nothing compared to watching a loser think he’s a winner by leaving the real winner out of the game. And this excitement… you can enjoy with a cold beer!
Shmuel Sackett is the Founder and Director of the Am Yisrael Chai Fund, which supports agricultural, educational and building projects across Eretz Yisrael.www.AmYisraelChaiFund.org