Image from BAZ RATNER / REUTERS
Netanhayu has won the Israeli election this year however not many of his party or his voters will see it as a victory. Netanhayu’s party, Likud Beitenu lost 11 of their 42 seats, some of which were gained by the ultraorthodox and moderate centrists. This means Netanyahu will have to scramble to form a coalition for a parliamentary majority, flirting with both the more moderate centrist party Yesh Atid and the ultra orthodox Jewish Home party. In many ways the Israeli elections this year have been devoid of content leading it to be referred to as a “Seinfeld election”; although this has not dampened voters, which rose to around 66%.
Israel has major issues such as government corruption and the ever-present question of Palestine. However like many OECD countries it also has a looming 10 billion deficits and eroding middle class. Israel has a Gini coefficient of 0.37 which is slightly less than the USA at 0.38. In the words of the great James Carville “it’s the economy, stupid.” One of the reasons that may have led to Netanhayu meager victory could be that his election campaign was based on the vague term of “Strength”. This was evident in late 2012 in the hawkish and warmongering stance Netanyahu had towards Palestine which resulted in skirmishes and bombing of Gaza city. Only through some diplomacy with Egypt taking its traditional role did the violence quiet down. Iran is Netanyahu other bugbear, the strained relationship between Iran and the rest of the world has certainly not been helped by threats from Israel about the possibility of air strikes nor by Israel’s murky relationship with Azerbaijan. Although during the USA presidential campaign nothing but full support from President Obama for Israel attacks on Gaza City was shown, yet as soon as the USA elections were won Obama was quick to distance himself from Netanyahu and was reported have said “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are”. These issues are deepening Israel’s isolation from the rest OECD community.
If the centrists do join Netanyahu, how much of a difference they will make remains to be seen. The Yesh Atid very much veers to the right when compared to Western countries. Their view about Palestine is more in agreement with Netanyahu, than for example the Labour Party. Major contentious domestic issues between the moderate Yesh Atid and ultra-orthodox Jewish Home, such as, the special treatment of the growing number of ultra-orthodox receive is resented by many Israelis. If the Yesh Atid does have any visible affect it will be on the domestic issues not Israel’s foreign policy. Major foreign policy changes in regard to Palestine will probably not change especially when considering that Arab Israelis party has been reduced to two seats in Knesset even though arabs make up 20 percent of the population.
Netanyahu has won another term in office but he will be playing much more the role of a power broker between the orthodox extremist and centrist party than as a head of state.