So far so good for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu! I understand that his victory is not official but it looks good.
My friend Barry Casselman (The Prairie Editor) has an explanation of how these multi-party elections work in Israel:
“The votes are still being counted in Israel, but it appears
that Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has defied
the odds, pundits and polls to stage a historic last-minute
Exit polls which are sometimes inaccurate, show Netanyahu’s
party, Likud, with a slight lead over the leftist Zionist coalition
led by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. Actual vote counting,
with 67% tallied, show Likud leading its major party opponent
by about 4.8%, but it is unknown where the uncounted 33% are
from, and the totals might be much closer when all votes are
counted. Mr. Herzog’s party was, based on final pre-election
polls, expected to gain four more seats than Likud.
No political party has ever won a majority of the 120 seats in
the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. In order to control the
government and name the prime minster, a party leader must
form a coalition from the numerous small parties represented
in the Knesset.
Netanyahu, with a dramatic last-minute promise not to allow a
Palestinian state while he was prime minister, apparently was
able to draw votes from other conservative and nationalist
parties. Mr. Herzog, at the last-minute, said the leader of the
party with which his party formed a pre-election coalition
would not serve as prime minister in rotation if they won.
Some analysts said this hurt, rather than helped, Mr. Herzog’s
prospects to form the next Israeli government.
Wednesday morning the final results will be in, and both Mr.
Netanyahu and Mr. Herzog will attempt to assemble a majority
of 61 or more members of parliament. The actual naming of
the prime minister is by the elected president of Israel after
rceiving the official result on Thursday. The person he chooses
then has 30 days to form a government. If he or she cannot, the leader
of the party which came in second then has the opportunity to
form a government. If no one can do so, the Israeli president would
then call a new election.”
Again, it’s not final but Bibi looks very good.
Of course, the real question is this: What role did the speech before Congress have in this result today? Or what about President Obama’s overt effort to interfere with the Israeli election?
My guess is that the speech had a bigger impact in the US than Israel. At the same time, I do believe that President Obama’s role to derail the Prime Minister backfired.
First, President Obama is extremely unpopular in Israel. I would venture to say that he is the least popular US president since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.
Second, most Israelis have their eyes open about the threat from Iran. They understand the threat better than any of us. They live with it everyday.
Third, this election was supposed to be about domestic issues but President Obama made it a referendum on the Prime Minister’s criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.
In the end, President Obama’s move backfired. It looks very likely that he will have Benjamin Netanyahu around for a while.
Moral of the story: President Obama’s endorsements are not worth much these days, unless you are running in a heavily Democrat district with no competitive contest.
Just ask Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel! President Obama is strongly supporting the incumbent mayor but the polls are neck and neck. The mayor is in a tight fight with an under funded Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a local politician who may pull off a huge upset in a couple of weeks.
As we posted before, President Obama misplayed the Prime Minister’s speech. He should have welcomed him to he US and listen to his concerns about the deal. Bibi’s trip to the US was a wonderful opportunity for Mr Obama to make his case about the deal and to persuade a strong ally that he had their back.
Instead, he was disrespectful and probably turned off any Israelis to bring about today’s result.