Israel’s Election Aftermath by Ruben Rothler
With the results of the Israeli elections confirmed, Netenyahu is on course to be Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister. Without doubt, Netenyahu’s political acumen and savy borders on that of genius. He has mastered the dark arts of discourse. He was able to successfully project himself as the man who can continue to provide security, identity and prosperity.
With the region precariously embroiled in conflict the public were primarily seeking stability. They were unwilling to gamble on fresh leadership. So Netenyahu being an incumbent, played in his favor: better the devil you know then the one you don’t. Furthermore, Netenyahu touted his new found prestige on the international arena in terms of the unprecedented concessions he gained from Washington. Trump first recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem then in a matter of mere weeks before the election he extended the same to the Golan Heights. This cemented the perception of Netenyahu amongst large swathes of the electorate as a man of influence who can get things done.
The vote was also swung by Likud due to the fact that its traditional base was fully mobilized on the day. This was achieved by appealing to the nationalists within the party with a manifesto promise for annexation of the West Bank settlements. Likud’s bold, clear message can be contrasted with the indecisiveness displayed by their major opponents, the blue and white party. In polls it was apparent that the public were unsure about their stance concerning key issues such as Israel’s presence in the West Bank and the economy. Their main agenda was to promote the ambiguous notion of national ‘unity’.
Netenyahu’s election promise to annex major Jewish settlements is widely seen as an end to the idea of a two state solution. It is instrumental to note that amongst the one hundred and twenty seats in the Kenesset, only fourteen were secured by parties that explicitly endorse the two state solution along roughly the 1967 armistice lines. So its safe to assume that now this proposed resolution to the conflict lacks any concensus amongst the Israeli public, even on a nominal level. Labor and Meretz, the two pillars of the Israeli left wing (and promoters of Oslo) were practically obliterated in the election. Netenyahu has a free hand (with the tacit assistance of Trump) to formalize his agenda for extending Israeli sovereignty to at least the major settlement blocks. He has adopted a strategy of pragmatic incrementalism in this regard which will most likely soon see the entire area swallowed up; with limited autonomy accorded to zones with a high concentration of Palestinians.
Future negotiations with the PA have effectively been terminated. It appears that as a matter of strategy Netenyahu is content with kicking the ball further down the field and leaving the situation in limbo until it becomes entirely unpractical to form any kind of coherent entity in the West Bank. He is stalling for time and some would say deliberately acting with bad faith, perhaps analogous to the man who is negotiating over a pizza pie with another party whilst at the same time eating the pizza. With regards to Hamas, Netenyahu has shown surprising restraint compared to his predecessors. He seems keen to avoid a full scale operation. This would probably not have keen the case had Ganz succeeded. He won his medals as a man of war and his campaign emphasized his tough approach towards rocket attacks during his tenure as Chief of Staff.
On a personal level, Netenyahu this time around was arguably fighting for his very survival. Many commentators predicted that had Netenyahu lost, indictment proceedings for longstanding corruption allegations would have reached trial swiftly and he may well have found himself incarcerated within a year or two (as was the case with his predecessor Olmert). Being elected to high office gives him the opportunity to galvanize the support of his ruling coalition to promulgate executive immunity legislation to prevent him from being prosecuted.
Interestingly, religious parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism increased their share of seats. This will accord them far more leverage in the right wing coalition government which is being formed. Expect them to be given key cabinet posts, particularly the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Education. Additionally, the religious academies affiliated with these movements are likely to be afforded larger subsidies. All this will probably have a roll on impact in the lives of secular Jewish Israeli’s who will see the influence of the religious further encroaching on their personal lives in terms of family law and ordinances affecting public services, especially the laws of the Sabbath impacting transportation.
Internationally, Israel under Netenyahu’s premiership will continue to gravitate towards other nationalistic administrations such as that in Brazil, those emerging in Eastern Europe and of course the Trump administration. There has even been talk in the US of signing a mutual defense treaty with Israel. By contrast Likud’s victory has further alienated Israel from the North Western EU countries. Some publications in Germany and France have gone to such lengths as to compare Netenyahu to Hitler in his attitude towards the Palestinians. Overt anti-semitic caricatures have also surfaced. Netenyahu will dismiss this criticism as characteristic of the old world order of globalist neoliberalism and that the future in fact lies with the populist movements that manifested themselves with such events as the election of Trump and Brexit.
Netenyahu will now pursue a more aggressive policy towards Iran and its proxy Hizbollah, which is active in Syria and Lebanon. Bibi has long lobbied Washington to take a more aggressive stance towards Iranian belligerence in the region. His efforts paid off just before the election when the Trump administration decided to reclassify the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. This action isolated a major wing of Iran’s military and will embolden Netenyahu to take further assertive steps to contain the Iranian threat. These may range from increased surgical strikes targeting Iranian assets in Syria and the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbollah along the Syrian-Lebanese border right the way up to a direct assault upon Nuclear facilities in Iran proper. Such activities would garner the support of some Sunni nations in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (although they won’t publicly admit it) as they too have a common foe in Iran’s quest for Shia hegemony.