Three ways Netanyahu actually lost last week’s Israeli election

March 23, 2015
A Likud party campaign poster depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lies on the ground in Jerusalem

A Likud party campaign poster depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lies on the ground in Jerusalem, March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Today Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured backing from the required parliament members to form the next governing coalition. It was an undeniable victory for Bibi, after a nail-biter run up to last week’s legislative election. But Netanyahu’s triumph belies many shifts in Israel’s politics and society that could undermine his future.

For starters, it would be foolhardy to see Netanyahu’s victory as a victory for conservatives, en masse. Netanyahu’s party, the Likud, grew mainly by diminishing its allies on the right, Jewish Home and Yisrael Beiteinu, which saw their seat numbers drop to eight and six, respectively.

And the left didn’t quite lose. The Zionist Union ran a campaign focusing on economic stagnation and the lack of homes for the young and the poor. It worked: the Union got 24 seats, up sharply from the 15 Labor had held before.

In a piece written just before the election, Paul Krugman wrote that “according to Luxembourg Income Study data, the share of Israel’s population living on less than half the country’s median income — a widely accepted definition of relative poverty — more than doubled, to 20.5 percent from 10.2 percent, between 1992 and 2010.” The gap between the ultra rich and the middle class, in a country that had been sternly egalitarian well within living memory, has reached U.S. levels. The left hammered this lesson in — and it worked well.

Support for Netanyahu was spotty among the parliament’s — Knesset’s — center as well. He secured backing from the Kulanu party. But Yesh Atid denied Bibi its support. Yes, Yesh Atid is diminished but still, at 11 seats, it’s substantial in Israeli political terms — there are only 120 seats in the Knesset. The party’s upper-middle class electorate may be restive that Netanyahu is increasingly marginalized by world opinion — a marginalization that prompted the American-Palestinian commentator Yousef Munayyer to write that he was relieved by Netanyahu’s victory, since it would now bring more international pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians.

Naomi Chazan, a former deputy speaker of the Knesset, then a representative for the leftist party Meretz, offered a withering critique: “Jews outside of Israel had look[ed] to the country and supported it. Now, liberal Jews may say: what’s the point of supporting if the government has cast aside a two-state solution?”

As Netanyahu assembles his governing coalition, he faces several challenges: A revived left; a large part of his population dissatisfied with their economic lot; a U.S. president so distant that he could not bring himself to congratulate Netanyahu on his victory on the night; an impatient world community; increasing violence on his borders; and no deal yet to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. This is a different Israel.

4 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

If you do not want a two state solution, implement a one state solution, and grant the Palestinians the right to vote in Israeli elections!

Posted by DennisMyers | Report as abusive

It is ultimately the fault of the electorate for splintering its vote so much. The article is correct in that the majority of American Jews – over 60% – show no allegiance to Israel and support Obama – even voting for him twice. Indeed many American Jews are key members of his government. I also agree that Netanyahu’s victory is a Pyrrhic one, at great cost to the State of Israel. Israel is quickly reducing itself to just one friend – a strange bedfellow indeed- India…

Posted by Bludde | Report as abusive

Next Round; UN 1 Israel 0

Posted by Amwatching2c | Report as abusive

President Netanyahu, where are the much needed living improvements for those ” Israeli Citizens ” which happen to be Beduins that have been
existing and living in the country for centuries !?

Posted by Erzherzog | Report as abusive