For weeks we heard that Bibi Netanyahu was going to lose re-election in Israel and that the Obama machine, which had set up shop along the Mediterranean to bring Chicago politics to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, would be the deciding instrument of his demise.
And we were told that Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress two weeks ago, which was one of the most forceful and articulate defenses of the Jewish people and Western culture anyone’s heard in decades, was a disaster for him back home and that the Israelis were going to punish him for it. We’ve also been told that the Israelis are unhappy with Netanyahu’s belligerence toward the Palestinians and his obstinance about establishing a Palestinian state while Hamas is the dominant political force in Gaza and, increasingly, the West Bank.
Interestingly enough, last night all we were told turned out to be bullshit. Not only did Netanyahu win re-election but he did so with a stronger hand in the Knesset than he previously has had.
There are 120 seats in the Knesset and 10 different political parties holding seats. Typically speaking, Netanyahu’s Likud party coalesces with a number of conservative and center-right parties to make a majority and the leftist Labor party, which has recently combined with another party to create something called the Zionist Union, heads up the opposition.
But last night was supposed to be the night that the Zionist Union waxed Likud and put together enough seats in its coalition to form a government. Right up until the votes actually came in, that is.
As counting of votes continues in the elections for the 20th Knesset, the Likud party may be headed for an even bigger victory than exit polls originally predicted.
As of 5:25 a.m. (Israel time), with more than 99.5% of the ballots having been counted, Likud led the pack with 29 seats. The “Zionist Union” of Labor and Hatnua has 24 seats.
By 7:00, near-final results indicated that Likud had reached 30 MKs.
Netanyahu addressed supporters of the Likud earlier Tuesday night, saying the results were a “great victory” for the nationalist camp in Israel.
“Against all odds, we have achieved a great victory for the Likud. We have achieved a great victory for the Likud-led nationalist camp and our people,” he said.
“I am proud of the people of Israel who, at the moment of truth, knew how to separate between the important and the secondary issues and focus on the important ones,” said Netanyahu, who mentioned issues such as “real security, a responsible economy, as well as social welfare. These are the things that are important to each family. Every father and mother, every young couple , every soldier, every citizen. And all Israeli citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike. All of you are important, and all of you are important to me.”
The magnitude of the defeat for Barack Obama and his political clan can’t be overstated. The failure here is three-fold.
First, Obama put himself in a position of being the villain by meddling in the Israeli election, in only a slightly more civilized manner than Vladimir Putin meddles in elections of countries Putin considers within his sphere of influence. Sending his goons to Israel in an effort to influence that vote and get rid of Netanyahu made last night’s election about whether the Israelis were OK with having their internal politics dictated by the United States. That was never a good idea and it turned out exactly the way anybody could have predicted it would. Now, Netanyahu – who runs a country with a population smaller than Ohio’s – is a larger figure on the world stage than the President of the United States for having essentially beaten him.
Second, by attacking Netanyahu over his opposition to his Iran negotiations and then attempting to get him bounced from power Obama turned the Israeli elections into a referendum on the Iran negotiations by the people most at risk from the inevitable result. Israeli voters chose Netanyahu the fighter over Obama the appeaser, which makes Obama look weak while there is an increasingly bipartisan flavor to the Congressional attempts to kill those negotiations off or at least impose limits on what kinds of considerations Obama can give away to the mullahs. The Iran negotiations look more like a nonstarter domestically every day; now, they look like a full-scale sellout of Israel thanks to the Israelis choosing the staunch oppositionist.
And third, Obama is splitting his own party. It’s not that Jewish Democrats in this country are particular fans of Netanyahu or even militant supporters of Israel – most observant Jews fit that description but observant Jews in this country overwhelmingly vote Republican. But it’s clear that such disdain shown for the Israeli prime minister makes those folks uncomfortable and you can see the Democrats who represent large Jewish communities – Bob Menendez being a perfect example – are coming into conflict with Obama on his Iran policy more and more. Appeasement of the world’s worst terrorist state when they’re actively involved in prosecuting on-again/off-again military hostilities against Israel is going to be a hard sell within the Jewish community, and there will be larger and larger questions asked about who is actually influencing Obama’s foreign policy. When he’s already a lame duck and his party needs to craft a new direction for 2016, this isn’t a particularly productive split for him to engender. But he’s done it, and aggressively.
Had Obama beaten Netanyahu last night, the gamble could have worked. Obama would have been able to say that even the Israelis, who have the most to lose if the peace negotiations go badly, are on board with his efforts and that the majority of those people reject Netanyahu’s hard line. That would have quieted Republican opposition in Congress and it would have given Obama a whip hand on the world stage that he could influence an election overseas. Instead, he has a black eye and he’s a laughing stock.
As for Netanyahu, maybe he’ll spend his summer on a speaking tour of red America. Maybe he’ll address sizable crowds in places like Shreveport, Nashville, Indianapolis, Boise, Grand Junction, Bakersfield and Buffalo, stressing the vital importance of defending Western civilization and culture against those who would destroy it and helping to build a majority of American voters in 2016 willing to head to the polls with that in mind.
In other words, meddling with American elections. The guess here is Bibi would be better at that than Obama is with the Israelis.