Tepid Vote for Netanyahu in Israel Is Seen as Rebuke

Yair LapidA weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged Wednesday from Israel’s national election likely to serve a third term, after voters on Tuesday gave surprising second place to new centrist party founded by television celebrity who emphasized kitchen-table issues like a class size and apartment prices. For Mr. Netanyahu, who entered the race an overwhelming favorite with no obvious challenger, the outcome was a humbling rebuke as his ticket lost seats in the new Parliament. Over all, his conservative team came in first, but it was the center, led by the political novice Yair Lapid, 49, that emerged newly invigorated, suggesting at the very least Israel’s rightward tilt may be stalled. Lapid, a telegenic celebrity whose father made a splash with his own short-lived centrist party a decade ago, ran a campaign that resonated with middle class. His signature issue is a call to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into army and work force. Perhaps as important, he also avoided antagonizing right, having not emphasized traditional issues of the left, like the peace process. Like a large majority of Israeli public, he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is skeptical of the Palestinian leadership’s willingness to negotiate seriously; he has called for return to peace talks but has not made it a priority. Sensing his message of strength was not penetrating, Mr. Netanyahu posted a panicky message on Facebook before polls closed, saying, “The Likud government is in danger, go vote for us for sake of the country’s future.” Tuesday ended with Mr. Netanyahu reaching out again, this time to Mr. Lapid, Israel’s newest kingmaker, offering to work with him as part of the “broadest coalition possible.” Israel’s political hierarchy is only partly determined during an election. Next stage, when the factions try to build a majority coalition, decides who will govern, how they will govern and for how long. While Mr. Lapid has signaled a willingness to work with Mr. Netanyahu, the ultimate coalition may bring together parties with such different ideologies and agendas that result is paralysis. Still, for the center, it was a time of celebration. “The citizens of Israel today said no to politics of fear and hatred,” Mr. Lapid told upscale crowd of supporters who had welcomed him with drums, dancing, popping Champagne corks. “They said no to possibility that we might splinter off into sectors, groups and tribes, narrow interest groups. They said no to extremists, and they said no to antidemocratic behavior.” With 99% of ballots counted by Wednesday morning, the traditional blocs were evenly divided, with 60 Parliament seats for right-wing and religious parties, and 60 for center, left and Arab-dominated factions (…..)

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/israel-votes-in-election-likely-to-retain-netanyahu.html


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12 Responses to Tepid Vote for Netanyahu in Israel Is Seen as Rebuke

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: IF the GOP candidate Mitt Romney were inaugurated US pres yesterday, another term for right wing Benjamin Netanyahu would be a big deal. By this time, oil prices would be rising steadily and financial markets under stress. The diplomatic community would be preparing for another Middle East war being waged by the US on behalf of Israel, this time against Iran. The reelection of Barack Obama –and his vision for the US put forward in his inaugural address — makes the election of Netanyahu a non event. Obama has decided not to attack Iran unless irrefutable atomic weapons manufacturing is proved. At the same time, Israel cannot attack Iran without approval and military support of the US. Oil prices remain stable due to market operators perception of steady flow of oil coming from the Strait of Hormuz. The reelection of Obama and another term for Netanyahu yield three important conclusions. First, the Israeli Prime Minister lost big time his (wrong) bet on Romney and his public humiliation of Obama on the Iranian and Palestinian questions. Politically speaking, Netanyahu punched well above his weight and lost. Second, without a strong political and military clout offered by a US administration (absent in a second Obama term), the election of a right wing Prime Minister in Israel is irrelevant for world affairs. Third, the isolation of Israel will continue to deepen among the world community as long as the Palestine territorial question is not resolved.


  2. JW: Show us just one place which proves Netanyahu backed Mitt Romney. Cite one credible media source. This nonsense is yet another example of an assumption that is repeated so many times, it becomes an established fact because no one makes the effort to check it out. Another example: Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth. Wrong. As far as Israel’s isolation, as Golda Meir once said: “Better a bad press, than a good epitaph.” Maybe you missed it in Florianopolis, Brazil, but also cite for us one instance where the Palestinians actually negotiated in good faith and actually agreed to something offered to them to make peace — anything. Not in 1947, not in 1948, not in 1967, not in 2000, not in 2003, not in 2008. Not even when Netanyahu — yes, Netanyahu — offered a 10-month moratorium on any settlement building in exchange for Abbas returning to the peace negotiating table. Instead, Abbas rope-a-doped until the ninth month, then demanded an extension with nothing in return. As for Hamas, well I’m guessing even in Florianopolis, Brazil you know where their minds are at. Or do you?


  3. MC from Staten Island,NY: A more important occurrence for me is ending our $3 billion aid to Israel. Maybe we should give that aid to other countries who are more appreciative.


  4. jb: JW, “Netanyahu openly supported Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the US presidential administration. Romney is a longtime personal friend of the Israeli PM. Netanyahu welcomed Romney to Israel during a campaign visit to the country, and also appeared in Republican campaign ads.” http://rt.com/news/obama-netanyahu-gamble-relations-216/ “Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been friends for more than 35 years. The men first met while working as corporate business advisers at the Boston Consulting Group during the Israeli prime minister’s years living in the U.S…; The two stood side-by-side during Romney’s visit to Israel on July 29, as Netanyahu called again for the threat of more serious, perhaps military intervention in Iran.” – ABC News report. And there is a LOT more online.


  5. JerryV: MC from Staen Island (and others). You keep on raising the issue of the approximately $3 billion in aid that we give Israel. But we have a close and reciprocal military relationship with them and get almost all of our money back. We use a good deal of technology developed by Israel (drone technology, computer science, aircraft technology are examples). Furthermore, Israel has tested a great deal of our military equipment under combat conditions, thereby saving a great deal of US money. Over the 10-year period (2000-2009) we sent Israel $32.3 billion (more than 80% of this was for cooperative military work). What I don’t understand is why all of you Jew haters (yes, you “recommenders” out there) repeatedly mention ONLY aid to Israel? During this same period 7 major Arab States or entities received over $136 billion (including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Palestine Territories, Iraq, Afghanistan). That is correct – many times more than we send to Israel. So please explain why so many of you hypocrites think its okay to send money to the Arabs and not to Israel? Is it because you hate Jews or hate America? MC – You say, “Maybe we should give that aid to other countries who are more appreciative.” The record shows that we are sending much, much more money to Arab countries. So, MC, kindly explain to us what you mean when you say these countries are much more appreciative. What have they done for us?


  6. JW: Sorry JB. Romney was welcomed by Israel in the same manner and extent that candidate Obama was in the 2004 election. It not Israel’s fault that Obama hasn’t made a trip to Israel since then. Now; you wrote “Netanyahu openly supported Republican candidate Mitt Romney…” As I challenged Brazil Uziel: Prove it. Cite one credible media source. You won’t be able to. In fact, on CBS Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer even tried to goad Netanyahu into making an endorsement of a presidential candidate, and Netanyahu pointedly refused. This is an unchallenged wife’s tale the Israel-hate crowd loves and repeats it so often it has become an inviolable “fact.” A perfect example of a famous Josef Goebbels dictum: “If you repeat a lie long enough…”


  7. There’s nothing a writer likes less than admitting an error. And there’s no error more troublesome than the fresh one — the one readers remember. Last week, I wrote on this blog under the headline “Bibi Forever” that no opposition party in Israel’s Jan. 22 election “could unsettle King Bibi.” But final election results showed that the centrists gained ground and that the vote for Netanyahu was “tepid.” Thus, my editors asked that this week I discuss my last post “head on” and explain “what you got right, what you got wrong, why you think you did, what surprised you and what not.” I’ll begin by confessing to the one thing I definitely got wrong: I did not anticipate that the centrist party Yesh Atid, apparently Israel’s new kingmaker, would come away with 20 seats in the Knesset. Then again, the last polls before election day projected it would win just 8 to 12 seats. I had no way of knowing otherwise; no one else did either. My friend Aluf Benn, editor in chief of Haaretz, came closest to recognizing Yesh Atid’s popularity, but even he underestimated it, arguing that the party had more or less maintained “its strength from the beginning of the campaign to the end.”

    I got the numbers wrong, O.K., but did I get the argument wrong? Well, I was shortsighted about this: I didn’t foresee how strong a message Israeli voters would send to Netanyahu. And the message went: Yes, we’d like you to remain as prime minister, but we want you to form a more moderate coalition.

    Still, the basic point of my article last week — the “Bibi forever” part — firmly stands. And that’s because by simply winning this election, Netanyahu clearly and decisively met his most important goal: getting another term at the helm. Yes, his party has gotten weaker, as has his traditional bloc of rightist religious parties (even though it retains a slight majority). But this isn’t necessarily bad for Netanyahu. Now that he has to hew closer to the center, it’ll be easier for him to resist the more radical members of his coalition who want lure him rightward (since if they did, the coalition might crumble). As I was detailing last week, one can’t beat something with nothing, and Netanyahu couldn’t be beat by rivals who are inexperienced or unable to articulate an agenda that contrasts with his on the most serious issues facing Israel. It is true, as many have noted, approvingly or disapprovingly, that Israeli voters cast their ballots this time based on domestic issues — another trend I had not anticipated. Yet this does not disprove my central thesis from last week; rather, it derives from it. Israelis voted on domestic issues not because they no longer care about security issues like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They did because, having assumed Netanyahu would remain prime minister and his security policies would stay more or less unchanged, they felt free to vote on other matters. And so, as I wrote last week, Bibi it shall be again — perhaps even a better Bibi, now that he has new partners.


  8. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Benjamin Netanyahu is THE most astute Israeli politician since the country came into existence after WWII. He takes full advantage of the so called special relation with the US. Two major achievements occurred during his tenure. First, Israel became the first developing country ever to get richer, developed and prosperous under the aegis of the US. A per capita income of US$ 31,000 position Israel among the selected group of developed countries; Second, Netanyahu was a genius strategist in dealing with Bush-Cheney and the war on terror. The Iraq war was Bibi’s big achievement since it destroyed Israel’s most powerful enemy in the Middle East. Iran is still a work in progress. In sum, Netanyahu is the perfect leader that reflects Israel’s population aspiration in the last 20 years. The most powerful economically-military country in the Middle East.


  9. Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Thursday condemned a strike by Israeli warplanes near the Syrian capital, Damascus, saying they rejected foreign intervention in the country’s civil war and offering support in varying degrees for its leader. Iran, Mr. Assad’s closest regional backer, warned of “grave consequences” after the attack. American officials said they believed that the target of the attack on Wednesday was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In a statement, the Syrian military denied that a convoy had been struck. It said the attack had hit a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs that was used to improve Syria’s defenses, and called the attack “a flagrant breach of Syrian sovereignty and airspace.” The reactions from Iran, Russia, Lebanon and the Shiite militant Hezbollah group highlighted the regional and diplomatic stakes of the war in Syria. According to the Fars news agency, Hoseyn Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, said: “Israel’s attack on the suburbs of Damascus will lead to grave consequences for Tel Aviv.” He did not detail what he meant. But he said Israel should not have confidence in its antimissile defense system “because this system proved to be useless during” last December’s conflict in Gaza, when Palestinians fired rockets that reached the outskirts of Tel Aviv (…..)


  10. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Netanyahu is achieving his main military strategic goal a.i., destabilize and/or destroy Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. The question is always the next day. Who is coming next? Victory only by military force is like fighting deadly infectious diseases. The next germ strain is more powerful than the previous one.


  11. Jonathan: Yes, because Syria, Libya, Egypt… are such stable countries without those mean old Israeli’s bombing military convoys. If it weren’t for Israel, those 60,000 Syrians would still be alive. People do you read what you write?


  12. Abarafi: Did Netanyahu cause the Arab Spring? Get real, Uziel. Israel doesn’t have to destabilize its neighbors, they are very good at doing it to themselves.



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