More of the Same

10 April 2019


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Israelis Re-Elect Netanyahu


Benjamin Netanyahu has won re-election as Israel's Prime Minister. If he serves out even a few months of his term, he will surpass David Ben-Gurion as the country's longest-serving leader. That is, perhaps, the only way he will ever surpass Mr. Ben-Gurion. While Mr. Netanyahu's Likud bloc and the centerist opposition Blue and White Alliance will both likely wind up with 35 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the smaller parties on the right won more seats than the smaller parties on the left. The PM looks like he will be able to count on 65 votes in his future coalition.

Mr. Netanyahu is an unsavory character regardless of one's politics. Greedy, vain and manipulative are just some of the adjectives that fit. Most politicians (or other people) have unpleasant qualities. The question before the Israeli electorate was whether his personal foibles and legal problems (he faces indictment for what one can describe best as influence peddling) were so severe that his political accomplishments could not balance them out. He has built a reputation of keeping Israelis safe, and the Israeli economy is booming.

As an alternative, the Blue and White Alliance offered General Benny Gantz, who ran a very civil and patriotic campaign. In voting for Blue and White, the Israelis were promised the general would serve half the term as PM and hand over to Yair Lapid, a former finance minister and TV anchorman. One wonders if the two-for-one idea really helped. In the end, the alliance tied with Likud, and with a great economy, that is an achievement.

In a two-party system, things might have turned out differently. Israel has never been a two-party state. Utilizing a party-list voting system with any party achieving 3.25% of the vote winning a seat, no fewer than 11 parties will take seats in the Knesset. Several others fell short. This is closer to the historic norm than an aberration. Fringe voters and fringe candidates have incentive to create and re-create parties, to split from others and otherwise keep the political institutions in a frothy mixture. Religious voters elect religious MKs who extract benefits for the religious communities from the bigger parties they support.

It will take some time to decide which small party gets what cabinet portfolio, but "King Bibi" will head the government. The implications for the nation are clear. He is facing trial for malfeasance, and he is in a position to vote himself immunity. The kind of corruption that exists in all societies will receive official approval, undermining the legitimacy of the government.

Just before the election, Mr. Netanyahu announced that he was prepared to annex the settlements in the West Bank. This would be illegal under international law, but the move would cement his support on the right. It would also change the facts on the ground in the area. One believes it would be the end of the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Among the Arab-Israelis, there is a clear disengagement from the political process. Nationwide, voter turnout was around 70%. Among the Arab population, turnout barely broke 50%, and among the younger Arabs, boycotting Israeli elections has become fashionable. The Arab vote usually goes to the Hadash-Ta'al Alliance, which is secular, and Ra'am Balad, an Islamic party. Combined they appear to have won 11 seats. It does not help that the right wing parties sent "observers" to the polling places in Arab districts; the Ku Klux Klan used to do the same in districts where black Americans voted.

When all is said and done, it appears that the electorate has decided to support more of the same. That's hardly grounds for optimism.

© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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