Likud led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a win at the parliamentary election. According to his estimates, the new ruling coalition will have 67 seats in the 120-seat parliament. It may not be a sweeping victory, but Netanyahu won enough seats to make him stay in office.
Even before the final results were known, Netanyahu declared victory and pledged to form a new government quickly. 'Against all odds, we achieved a great victory for the Likud,' Netanyahu told supporters at election night headquarters. 'I am proud of the people of Israel, who in the moment of truth knew how to distinguish between what is important and what is peripheral, and to insist on what is important.' He emphasized that the victory was achieved against all the odds. Indeed every third voter remained undecided before the election. Swing voters could have voted differently to make the election result a big surprise. Actually it was kind of a vote of confidence in Netanyahu, or, to be exact, a vote of support for his tough stand on security issues.
The victory means the fourth term for him and this is the first time he was opposed by the United States. The mutual aversion between Israeli Prime Minister and US President has gone far enough to make Obama send a team of spin doctors to hinder the Netanyahu’s coming to power. The White House has not forgotten that Bibi did his best to make Obama a one-term president. Netanyahu supports Republican lawmakers who opposed the planned agreement with Tehran on its nuclear program. It’s not an occasion that before the vote the opposition to Likud promised to normalize the relations with the United States and revive the Israel-Palestine negotiation process. These two issues were in focus of the election race. Netanyahu’s opponents told 5, 8 million Israeli voters that economic difficulties were explained by the fact that the Prime Minister gave too much attention to security in comparison with social and economic issues. No matter how strained the personal relations between Netanyahu and Obama could be, the US-Israel alliance will stay intact. Addressing the US Congress in March, Netanyahu started his speech with the words of gratitude for the support of Israel by Republicans and Democrats. According to him, the bilateral relationship is above politics. After he pronounced these words the speech was interrupted by ovations. President Obama said he agreed with it. Nobody in the United States questions the friendship with Israel or offers to exchange it for cooperation with Iran. Washington wants much more than just putting an end to Iran’s nuclear program. The compromise offered by Obama will lead to lifting the anti-Iran sanctions leaving the United States with no instruments to counter the Iran’s regional leadership.
Netanyahu does not mention the main thing when talking about Iran. At the time of Obama’s presidency US political elite changed the views on the importance of Israel for the United States. Israel and Saudi Arabia, the leading US regional allies, defend the order of things that does not meet American interests anymore. Netanyahu refuses to take into consideration the fact that the United States cannot and does not want to go to war with Iran. Washington will have to find an agreement with Tehran. That’s what Obama is trying to achieve.
Palestine remains to be a problem. Netanyahu prefers to get around it, but it has the same importance for regional stability as the peaceful settlement of the Iran nuclear issue. The leadership of Palestinian autonomy has already said that the results of parliamentary election in Israel have buried the possibility of peaceful resolution of problems between the Palestinian National Authority and Israeli government. Palestinians don’t trust Netanyahu. His preference for the use of force over diplomacy is well known. Egypt had stated its position on Palestine before the Israeli election. Bader Abdul Ati, the official spokesman of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said Cairo expects the new Israeli government to renew the talks with Palestinians. He said that the renewal of peace talks will put an end to occupation and conflict on the basis of creating two states for two peoples to guarantee the establishment of independent and sovereign Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 with Jerusalem as the capital.
Palestinians account for approximately 20% of Israeli population and around 14 % of voters. The turnout among them was very high to make the United Arab List (an Israeli political party represented and supported by Israeli Arabs) get 14 seats and become the third largest fraction in the new parliament. It will be hard for Netanyahu to ignore the will of every fifth voter and intimidate the people with the alleged Iranian nuclear threat. His bellicosity may not be welcomed. As normally practiced in Israel, it was a snap election. Nobody can guarantee the Netanyahu’s term will last four years. Changes may happen pretty soon.