Voice of the Jewish News

Voice of the Jewish News

In the end, it was a “great victory” by the great survivor, and only came as a surprise to pollsters, who had him trailing in second. They were wrong. They almost always are. If the last two decades watching Israeli politics have taught us anything, it is not to bet against Benjamin Netanyahu. 

This was all about him, too. If ever there was an election that revolved around one personality, this was it.

The opposition Zionist Union had hoped “Bibi fatigue” would prevail, but Israelis are not as fatigued by Netanyahu as Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni had hoped.

Winning 30 seats when he was predicted 21, he now has the mandate he wanted. More of the same is what the Israeli electorate seems to have ordered.

In the days and hours ahead of the vote, a nervous Netanyahu went further than ever to describe what that would look like: more settlements, no Palestine.

He even boasted that he had used one to stymie the other, approving settlement construction around Bethlehem for the specific purpose of undermining the contiguity of a Palestinian state.

This is what will cause most concern among Diaspora Jews who – by and large – still hanker after a two-state solution and flinch at the announcements of building construction in the West Bank.

In ruling out the idea of an independent Palestinian state once and for all, Netanyahu’s rationale was one of security. 

No sooner would we give the Palestinians their own state than Islamist terrorists would besiege us, he seemed to be saying. To Israelis, this seemed to strike a chord. Herein lies the crucial question: what was this election really about?

Was it about the cost of cottage cheese, or the rise of ISIS?

Do Israeli worry more about the cost of Avi’s nursery, or the cost of peace with Abbas? 

Most people thought this election would be fought on socio-economic grounds, including many of the parties, whose principal policies were designed to make life in Israel easier, cheaper and fairer.

But when push came to shove, it was less about the cost of living than about living at all.

Death was on the doorstep, said Netanyahu. A vote for me is a vote for safety.

It was the politics of fear, and it worked a treat. 

Why?

In part because it reflected a newly-resurgent nemesis – that of militant Islam beheading its way to Israel’s borders. But in part it was because the argument is now being won.

Most Jewish Israelis now firmly believe that there is no Palestinian “partner for peace,” either current or emerging.

Nor do they believe that an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank would be any different to the one now firing rockets at them from Gaza.

One of Netanyahu’s problems is that this Israeli reality does not match the world’s view.

Israelis chose not to opt for change in part because they see no other way of doing things, but the international community disagrees, and thinks there is a much better way of doing things.

After years of waiting, of prodding and of nudging, it is now increasingly likely to leverage that option in the absence of peace talks. 

What next?

A testy Netanyahu has already tested allies’ patience.

With a new right-wing government eager to build over the basis of an independent state of Palestine, that patience may snap. Just because Israelis have voted for the status quo, it doesn’t mean that the world will vote accordingly.