Arnold Ahlert / Canada Free Press
As vote tallying came to a close Wednesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party emerged as the clear victor in the Israeli election, besting the runner-up Zionist Union party headed by the Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog and his running mate, Tzipi Livni. As a result, Netanyahu has gained the upper hand in forming the country’s next coalition government.
The election reflected polling done in December, when Netanyahu appeared to have a comfortable lead following his call for new elections, due to opposition within the current coalition government. Just prior to the election, however, Netanyahu’s Likud party trailed the left-of-center Zionist Union, a party whose platform centered around a wish to resume negotiations with the Palestinians. If they had emerged victorious, Herzog and Livni would have split the four year term, with Herzog serving the first two years and Livni the second two.
Other parties that emerged on top in the election included the Joint Arab List, an Arab coalition party that increased the chronically low Israeli Arab turnout; the aforementioned Kahlon; Habayit Hayehudi, whose millionaire leader Naftali Bennette sought support of West Bank settlers; Yesh Atid, led by former TV news anchor Yair Lapid, who stressed economic relief for a struggling middle class; and a number of smaller parties including, Kulanu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Meretz, and Yisrael Beytenu, each of whom won a small number of seats. The Yahad party failed to pass the electoral threshold for representation in the Knesset.
Lapid, who was Finance Minister in Netanyahu’s outgoing government, wrongly predicted a defeat for Likud. But he nonetheless outlined the divide among the electorate. “The Netanyahu era is coming to an end. That’s not because security issues don’t matter but because social and economic issues are dominating the agenda,” he explained. Lapid may also have something to say about the final outcome with Yesh Atid garnering the fourth highest number of seats behind Likud, the Zionist Union and the Joint Arab List. He has not ruled out working with either of the top two vote-getters.
Netanyahu’s apparently successful last minute appeals were aimed at Israelis who still believe national security trumps all other considerations
Netanyahu’s apparently successful last minute appeals were aimed at Israelis who still believe national security trumps all other considerations. First, he made it clear that if he is returned to office he will never establish a Palestinian state. “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to radical Islam against the state of Israel,” he warned. “There is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders.”
Second, he warned that the Israeli left’s funding from foreign governments aimed at getting more Israeli Arabs to the polls had worked, and that Israeli right-wingers had to make the effort to counteract that reality. The Arab Joint List confirmed Netanyahu’s fears, noting that by early morning, 10 percent of Arab Israelis had voted, compared with only 3 percent at the same time in the last election. “We only have you,” Netanyahu implored his base. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Machal [Likud] to close the gap between us and Labor [Zionist Union].With your help and God’s help, we will form a nationalist government that will protect the State of Israel.”
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