Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Israeli Election Results: An "Extreme Right Wing Government" says Herzog

Despite some uncertainty and excitement in the last week of the election (what else is new), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his party have prevailed in the election for the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on March 17, 2015.  Moreover, it appears he will have a stronger position, with a more ideologically right leaning coalition behind him, than he had going into the election.  

Netanyahu has won a right wing mandate. Below is a listing of the parties in the 19th Knesset (2013-15), the latest polling going into last Tuesday's election, and the results (pending final tweaking). 

The big winner here is clearly Likud, up 11 seats in the upcoming 20th Knesset (from 19 to 30). In the latest polling prior to the election, Likud was polling at 20 seats and appeared to have lost momentum in the election.  This resulted in some feverish last minute campaigning by Netanyahu. The day before the election he unequivocally threw the two state solution under the bus and affirmed that no Palestinian state would be allowed to emerge--not on his watch. Soon after the polls opened, he sounded the alarm on his Facebook page that his "right-wing regime" was being threatened because "the Arabs are mobilizing in large numbers to the polls."  Looking at the latest pre-election polling numbers, it appears that Netanyahu's apocalyptic appeal and last minute campaigning resulted in shifting 10 seats from the other conservative block parties to Likud: ~4 seats from Naftalie Bennet's Jewish Home party, five seats from (new Sha's offshoot) Yachad, one seat from United Torah, and one from Shas.  All of these seats would have been in any likely Likud governing coalition, so the overall balance of power was not shifted by this shift, but it did strengthen Netanyahu's party and mandate, and eliminated any chance for Herzog to attempt to form a government.


2013 Knesset Latest Polling pre-3/17/15 Results 3/17/15
Likud  19 20 30
Yesh Atid  19 11 11
Jewish Home 12 12 8
Yisrael Beitenu 12 6 6
Hatnuah 6 * **
Labor 15 24 24
Kulanu (new) 8 10
Yachad (new) 5 0
Shas  11 8 7
United Torah 7 7 6
Meretz 6 5 4
United Arab List 4 14 14
Hadash  4 *
Balad 3 *
Kadima 2 0 0
120 120 120


Isaac Herzog's Labor and Tzipi Livini's Hatnua parties increased their combined strength from 21 seats in 2013 to 24 seats in the upcoming 20th Knesset.  The secular centrist Yesh Atid seems to have lost seats (down to 11 from 19 in the last Knesset) to Moshe Khalon's  Kulanu party, which focuses on cost of living and other economic issues.   

Pre-election polling generally held true for the center and center-left parties.  It was the right that rallied behind Netanyahu in the last few days.

Isaac Herzog has acknowledged that the Zionist Union (Labor/Hatnua) has no realistic option to sitting in opposition.  

The Jerusalem Post reports: 
"We have proven that we know how to be a fighting opposition," Herzog said at Labor headquarters in Tel Aviv (on Wednesday).

Herzog said that the Zionist Union would present viable alternatives in all areas and in all subjects to the future "extreme right-wing" government.

Herzog said he and Livni would continue to lead a large and strong sector of the Israeli public that wants a Jewish and democratic state that is both safe and just.

"We will not apologize and we will not lower our flags, but we will serve the people who took to the streets and to the ballot box with a big hopes," Herzog said.

Four Results from this Election

First, Israel will have a governing coalition that is more right-wing than the last.  It remains to be seen what Netanyahu does with it.  For example, will there be swift passage of the terrible Nation State Bill into the Basic Law?  Time will tell.  For certain, it will mean an ongoing continued settlement process in the West Bank, no progress on any peace talks with the Palestinians, and a continuation of the harsh status quo for Palestinians. 

Second, the pressure for a post "two-state-solution" vision will increase.  The two state solution, which was the hallmark of the Oslo peace process, has been dead for a decade or more. Nevertheless liberal Zionists from J-Street to Peter Binart to Israeli politicians have continued to parade the corpse as "the only solution." Netanyahu's declaration of "no Palestinian state on my watch, ever" begs the question: what's next. In an interview with the Swiss paper Die Neue Zuercher Zeitung  [German] this morning, Amos Oz, recalls how after 1967, there was jubilation among Israeli Jews that the West Bank and Gaza had been "liberated. " He railed against this, he says, reminding his countrymen that territory cannot be liberated, only people can be liberated.  Today, the Palestinians need to be liberated from a 48 year military occupation that denies them due process of law, and denies them a voice in the political process that governs their lives.  Netanyahu has just guaranteed Israeli voters that Palestinians won't have their own state on his watch. So what's the alternate vision for achieving justice for all inhabitants of the land of Israel/Palestine?

Third, the international movement to isolate, delegitimate, boycott, and sanction Israel will benefit from this result. Whether we think BDS is a good idea, or bad, the official end of the two state solution, and no alternative vision, will feed and strengthen the BDS movement.

Fourth, the various Palestinian parties have combined into one Joint Arab List for this election and have become the third largest party in the Knesset with 14 seats.  They have an attractive and skillful leader in Ayman Odeh.  With an effective and united voice, the Arab minority may become a more effective voice within the Knesset.  

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