Early headlines around the world and here in Israel declared a big victory for Benjamin Netanyahu. But in the truth, we are in the exact same position as we were after the election last April.
For this to be a victory for Bibi, he would have to have won two more seats getting 61 seats—which would mean another government with the Ultra Orthodox, who use their position in the government to extract millions in tax-payer funds for their projects in exchange for their yes vote (quid pro quo). Plus the majority of them do not serve in the Israeli Defense Force and often persecute those from their ranks who do serve.
New Year, Same Result
With 90% of the vote counted, he only has 59 seats in his Right Wing/Religious coalition. It could go up or down—but probably will not at this point. Israelis find themselves in the same stalemate as last year. The one difference is that in that election Blue and White was tied with Likud at 35 seats. This time, Likud clearly won 36-32. But the end result is the same. Unless the secularist Liberman will work with the Religious parties, Bibi cannot build the coalition he wants.
After saying there will not be a fourth election, leading some to believe he would compromise and join the collation, Liberman tweeted, “We will not join any government led by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that includes Shas and United Torah Judaism.”
The only other option for Netanyahu would be to try and get someone in the center-left to jump ship. But with 59 seats, he will need two deserters.4th Election?
This could mean a 4th election!!! Or, and this is what I am hoping for, that he and Benny Gantz will agree to work together and form a national unity government with Bibi as Prime Minister. At this point, Blue and White might feel the pressure to work with Bibi, so as to prevent a fourth election. Or, maybe, seeing the Prime Minister’s trial for corruption begins in two weeks—they will bank on a conviction, opening the door for them to win in next election.
Bibi has three hurdles and he has jumped over one.
Get more seats than Blue and White: done
Get at least 61 seats in the right wing/religious block: failed
Win in his corruption trial that begins in March 17th: We will see.
Immunity or Trial?
If he had received the 61 seats he needed, then he would have more than likely asked the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution until he is out of office—something he swore he would never do last year, and then backtracked.Dishonest Comparison
Blue and White shot themselves in the foot through a dishonest comparison. They present themselves as the squeaky-clean honest party. But then they started comparing Netanyahu to the dictator in Turkey, Erdogan (see picture), who has jailed his enemies, limited freedoms and attacked the Kurds in Syria. Bibi was democratically elected. Just because he keeps winning doesn’t make him a dictator. It turned off a lot of Israelis who were on the fence and pushed them to Likud. One believer who is not a fan of the Prime Minister told me, “God told me to vote for Bibi.”
The Blue and White partners tried to portray Bibi as a dictator. Bad strategy.
Lastly, Bibi out hustled Gantz. He went throughout the country to small communities and campaigned hard. That was part of the reason we had a huge voter turnout. On our version of SNL, they did a skit of Bibi and Gantz on election day. Bibi wakes up in a suit, jumps out of bed and immediately starts doing robo calls, but he is doing it personally—not a robot. Gantz wakes up and has a leisurely morning, forgetting that it is election day.
Two things are clear:
Israelis want Netanyahu to remain Prime Minister despite an onslaught from the media against him.
No one got a decisive victory from at least one of the candidates to prevent the stalemate.
Israelis love a day off, but don’t want a fourth election.