The declarations of victory yesterday by Blue and White, Benny Gantz, and Yair Lapid were premature and embarrassing. The party's first announcement immediately after Channel 12 published its sample results told us that the party had triumphed.
"We won. The people in Israel have had their say. We thank the thousands of party members and over one million voters. There is a clear winner and a clear loser in these elections. Netanyahu promised 40 Knesset seats and came nowhere near. The president sees the picture, and should appoint the winner to form a government. Anything else is impossible," the announcement read. Gantz's "victory" speech was embarrassing and demonstrated a lack of political experience.
Next day came the hangover and the disillusionment. Gantz and opposition chairperson Lapid can now take turns being opposition leader - maybe. Former Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon will have a seat on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and Gabi Ashkenazi will at best be assigned a role as chairperson of one of the Knesset committees assigned to the opposition.
Blue and White is entering the Knesset as a large opposition party with a lack of experience among its members. The 21st Knesset will be interesting and odd; it will have the largest number of inexperienced lawmakers in Israel's history.
Netanyahu will have a fairly easy time forming Israel's 35th government. It is true that Kulanu Party lead MK Moshe Kahlon will want another term as Minister of Finance, but with only four Knesset seats, why should he get it? It is true that Yisrael Beitenu Party leader MK Avigdor Liberman was smart enough in 2015 to recommend that the president appoint Netanyahu to form a government, and to wait for 24 hours before a government was formed to announce that he was not joining it. He is an expert in tricks of this kind, but how much patience can there be for another round of childish games of this type?
Beyond Netanyahu's tremendous achievement in getting more Knesset seats for the Likud and carrying the weight of the campaign on his shoulders, he got two other gifts today that made his day even sweeter. His sworn enemies, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked were not elected to the Knesset, and Moshe Feiglin, who as a Likud MK refused to follow coalition discipline, will not be in the next Knesset. There was no greater relief today for each of the parties, and for the country as a whole, which was alarmed by the liberterian ideas spread far and wide over the past two weeks.
Netanyahu can take the champagne out of the refrigerator. His senior coalition partners - Shas Party leader MK Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism MKs Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni, Union of the Right Party leaders MK Bezalel Smotrich and Rafi Peretz - are easy to satisfy. Netanyahu will have a group honeymoon with these comrades.
Smotrich was a little more persistent and determined in his messages aimed at Netanyahu in recent months than what the Jewish Home Party, formerly the National Religious Party, is used to. When Netanyahu pressured the Jewish Home Party to unite with Otzma Yehudit and convened meetings, Smotrich had no hesitation about telling the press that he was not going to attend the meeting. Last Sunday, Netanyahu planned to hold a rally of rightwing leaders, and ran smack in to a refusal from Smotrich, who sensed that Netanyahu was trying to get more Knesset seats at their expense.
This indeed took place, but let it not be forgotten that MK Eli Ben Dahan, who was placed in the 28th spot on the Likud Knesset list, belongs to the Union of the Right Party. With the "double Norwegian Law," which allows two ministers from a party to resign from the Knesset, thereby putting two more people on their party's list into the Knesset, Peretz and Smotrich, the two designated ministers, will duly resign, thereby putting Orit Struck and Itamar Ben-Gvir into the Knesset.
The big losers in the election campaign
It is difficult to understate the erroneous political calculations of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. They interpreted their popularity in the polls and their warm media welcome (Shaked led the lists of people of the year in the entire press, rightwing and leftwing, since September) as an electoral asset. This failed to materialize. They still may make it into the Knesset when the votes of soldiers and diplomats are counted, but only by the skin of their teeth. The secular national rightwing remained steadfast with the Likud, leaving Bennett and Shaked looking for votes in places where they had no real foothold.
Another total collapse occurred in the Labor Party. The attempt to portray Avi Gabbay's list as what was important thing in the party, and to persuade the public to elect them, if only to support the best MKs, was not convincing enough. The leftwing public wanted to defeat Netanyahu, and therefore turned to the political center in order to replace the government, but that did not work either.
Gabbay said yesterday that he had looked for political alliances, but that the Labor Party had not found them. Listening to what he said brought on a bitter smile. How can a person who occupied himself with splits, not alliances, tell himself and the public in his political farewell speech about looking for political partners, when his first act in the campaign was to get rid of Tzipi Livni, his political partner? Gabbay should take a good look at the mirror.
The leftwing in Israel, Meretz and the Labor Party together, has shrunk to 10 Knesset seats. This a day for soul searching. Maybe it is time for one of them to get up and say that it is time to put an end to the vision of two states for two peoples. It is becoming irrelevant and uninteresting to the Israel public.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 10, 2019
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