On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shunned by the President of the United States and buffeted by an Israeli left willing to pull out all the stops to oust him, pulled off a shocking electoral upset. According to all three exit polls done by the major Israeli news channels, Netanyahu’s Likud Party either tied or beat the Zionist Union party, a coalition of Labor, led by Israel Herzog, and Hatnuah, led by Tzipi Livni.
More importantly, the various right-wing parties held a slight edge over the left-wing and Arab parties in Knesset, giving Netanyahu the best shot of forming an electoral coalition. According to the Jerusalem Post, “The two main possible coalitions are a national unity government of 77 or 78 seats or a right-wing government with 63-66.” Netanyahu tweeted, “Against all odds, a great victory for Likud. A major victory for the people of Israel!”
The Zionist Union refuses to concede defeat, however, stating that the “right-wing bloc has shrunk” and that “everything is open until the final results are in when we will know which parties crossed the electoral threshold. All the spin is premature.”
Prior to the election, polls showed Netanyahu trailing substantially against the Zionist Union. In the last two days of the election, however, events shifted swiftly, with Livni announcing that she would no longer implement a rotating prime ministership with Herzog if the Zionist Union emerged victorious. Netanyahu rightly called it a “panic” move.
Then, just before election day, Netanyahu wooed his base, and wooed it hard: he announced that there would be no Palestinian state, a key element of the Likud platform, and cut a video stating that “the right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.” The left-wing American and Israeli media quickly labeled this race-baiting and suggested that Netanyahu was attempting to panic right-wingers into voting; in reality, the Arab population of Israel votes overwhelmingly for the Joint List of Arab parties that is replete with anti-Semitic members who stand against the existence of the Jewish State.
The media dismay at Netanyahu’s victory cannot be overstated: CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC are heartbroken at his victory over President Obama’s chosen candidate, Herzog.