It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The polls were clear. Benjamin Netanyahu and his party should have lost in a walk. Sources were telling Israeli media outlets just two weeks ago that it was not only possible but likely that the prime minister’s Likud party would win only 18 seats in the Knesset. This was supposed to be a landslide, and it was… for Likud.
Ed already composed a great post acknowledging the scope of the upset Netanyahu’s party pulled off last night, and the challenges ahead for him as he cobbles together a governing coalition. But the tasks ahead of Netanyahu are nothing compared to the trial faced by those on the left as they come to terms with the death of their dreams for Israel’s future.
“Deep Wounds and Lingering Questions After Israel’s Bitter Race,” read a headline from The New York Times. And, no, it’s not an editorial.
The Times noted the myriad ways in which Netanyahu frustrated the President of the United States, although the paper made no note of the fact that this condition was likely mutual. It quoted liberal after liberal who eagerly sought to rob Netanyahu of his victory by condemning the scorched earth methods he used to overcome a massive gap in the polls. In the end, The Times appeared to ask if this historic victory is even worth it.
The campaign for the Parliament was divisive, exposing the fault lines in Israeli society, between the religious and the secular, the left and the right. It exposed a fatigue with a man who is seeking to serve a fourth term as prime minister and a fear over Israel’s place in the international community. Much was driven by the tenor of the campaigns, which became personal and bitter.
None more so than Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign.
Many Israelis called it the “gevalt campaign,” using a Yiddish expression for alarm. In the final days of a closely fought election race, Mr. Netanyahu threw all political and diplomatic niceties to the wind.
By appealing to such base instincts, maybe Netanyahu lost last night, after all. You know? In a karmic sense.
In a last minute appeal to Israeli voters, Netanyahu cast aspersions on those who would advocate for the creation of a Palestinian state given the existing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. Netanyahu’s comments set the left’s hair on fire:
“Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks to the radical Islam against Israel,” he said. “This is the true reality that was created here in the last few years.”
Netanyahu went on to say that any opponents on the left who might argue otherwise are “sticking their head in the sand, time and time again.”
It’s not at all clear that Netanyahu said he would never support the creation of a Palestinian state under any circumstances while he serves as prime minister, but that’s what CNN heard. “No Palestinian state on my watch,” read the network’s headline. The anti-Netanyahu left, accepting this comment as a final confirmation of what they already knew in their hearts to be true, determined that Netanyahu is no American partner in peace. As such, he and his people should be punished for their insolence.
Netanyahu doubled down on anti-Arab demagoguery, continued occupation & renounced two states. He was handily rewarded by the electorate.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 18, 2015
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) March 17, 2015
It is the left’s best hope that the results of Israel’s latest election should mean the country’s complete international isolation.
“Without any commitment to a two-state solution and Netanyahu’s boast that he will continue building in occupied east Jerusalem, an already existing frustration with Israel is likely to increase,” The Guardian’s Peter Baumont said, in reference to Israel’s undivided capital city of nearly a half-century. “That may in turn see increased pressure – not least from Europe – for moves towards sanctions against Israel.”
Prior to the election, the left-leaning press in the West was not merely hopeful that Netanyahu would lose, but beside themselves with apocalyptic visions for the future if he did not. “For the sake of world peace,” the hideously self-important editorial board at the New Jersey Star-Ledger averred, “and to put an obnoxious man in his place, our fervent hope is that he loses his election so this relationship can get back on track.”
But they were not alone. Just prior to the elections, Beinart penned an open letter to the Israeli people in which he warned that they risked losing the American public if they returned Netanyahu to office for a fourth term.
“Over the past six years, and especially the past six weeks, Bibi has placed himself on the wrong side of the tectonic shifts that will shape American politics for decades to come,” he wrote. “Reelect him if you want. But understand that in so doing, you’re placing Israel on the wrong side of those shifts too.”
Beinart can see that Israel’s relationship with America is at risk because everyone he knows thinks that the Netanyahu government is alienating the Democrats in control of the White House (who themselves are increasingly politically isolated). But has he ever considered that the opposite might also be true? Millions of dollars and inordinate outside pressure had been brought to bear against Netanyahu’s government. Though it was a story relegated to the conservative blogs in America, the fact that partially State Department-funded Democratic campaign operatives descended on Israel in the mission to oust Netanyahu was apparently a story of great significance in Israel.
Spoke to cousin in Israel tonight who was very anti-Bibi and depressed about results. He said Dem money in election was huge story there.
— Karol Markowicz (@karol) March 18, 2015
What if it was the administration’s decision to meddle in Israel’s sovereignty rather than Netanyahu’s address to Congress that really backfired? What if this administration is losing the Israeli public, and with that their influence over a Middle Eastern ally that might believe it is in their best national interest to spark a regional war rather than let Iran acquire a fissionable device? What if it is the Obama administration that has put regional and global security in danger in order to massage the president’s wounded ego?
Beinart, The New York Times, The Guardian, Rep. Schiff, and any of the other liberals bereft over the stark limits of their influence never bothered to ask these questions.