Israelis held a third national election in one year on Monday March 2, the day before Super Tuesday in the United States.
As often happens, pundits and prognosticators missed the mark.
Voter fatigue, predicted by many, proved untrue.
For the liberal media, both in Israel and globally, dreams of a change in government were dashed. For sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history, the third time — finally, proved to be a charm.
As election results came in it became clear that Netanyahu had trounced his opponents.
There is still a coalition government that needs to be cobbled together, banded together, formed — and, promises to be fulfilled and ministerial positions to be doled out.
But, with a guaranteed 35 or 36 parliamentary seats for his own Likud party, it appears that Netanyahu has a better chance of forming a majority government today, after this third election, than he or any opponent had in the previous two go-rounds this year.
Here are several takeaways from this election, knowledge we have gleaned from the Israelis who came to vote, stood behind the privacy screen, selected a thin piece of paper that best represented their conscience and their hopes for their future, their childrens’ future and the future of their country and placed that piece of paper into an envelope and then dropped it into the blue ballot box placed before them:
1.) Rather than exhibiting voter fatigue during their third election in the course of one year, Israelis were energized with more people voting in this election than in any election since 1999. They were excited about going out to vote. In the end, they chose the person with the most political experience.
2.) Predictions about Netanyahu being punished by voters and about voters being unable to overlook the legal issues he is entangled in, proved false. Three indictments and a trial that starts only two weeks after the election did not deter or stymie his voters. As election results proved, more voters came out to vote for Netanyahu this time, despite the indictments, than they had in the past
3.) Labor and Gesher have truly imploaded. Labor, Israel’s founding political party, is now barely breathing. Labor was once the most powerful party in Israel. Today, together, Labor and the other left-leaning Gesher party have shrunk to 6 seats out of the total 120 Knesset seats. They failed so miserably that many leftist Israelis bolted from the party which had 10 seats in the last election, and this time, voted for the Joint Arab List. These voters abandoned a traditional Zionist party for an anti-Zionist Arab party.
4.) After leaching voters from Labor, the Joint Arab List is now, as they claim to be, the authentic voice of the left in Israeli politics. Steadily increasing with each election they are about to receive 14 or 15 Parliamentary seats. They are indisputably the third largest political party in Israel. Their power continues to grow and increase. This is a spectacular example of the power and the democracy of Israel.
5.) Israelis have long believed that, because there are 120 seats in the Knesset, 61 was the magic number for coalition building, yet governments have been built and functioned with as small a coalition as 53 seats. A coalition of 61, or even of 59, is very difficult to keep together and is not a stable government. It works for a short time, but Israeli governments do not last.
6.) Israelis feared that going to a third election in a year would be seen by the world as a sign of the weakening of Israeli democracy. They feared that the Jewish State would be labeled a banana republic. Instead we see that the election was a sign of a very stable electorate. As another, unfortunate, sign of the times Israel provided 13 polling stations for quarantined coronavirus citizens, enabling almost every Israeli desirous of voting the ability to vote. It was a legal holiday, no school and no work.
The election is over.
There was a definite winner.
The ability to form a government is almost guaranteed.
Now we just one more takeaway:
7.) Since Israel’s founding in 1948, there has not been a single Israeli government that has ever survived its entire four year term.
Will this government, which has so far broken so many rules and upended so many traditions be different? Only time will tell. I’m expecting a successful Knesset no-confidence vote, a common occurrence in Israeli political life, in roughly 16 months.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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