The Israeli Election

israeli elections

When I was a yeshiva student, the attitude at one yeshiva I attended was, “Don’t read newspapers; they’re a waste of time.” At another yeshiva I attended, the attitude was, “Read newspapers; you’ll be informed.” Forty years later, I do read newspapers, but I sometimes feel like I’ve wasted my time.

Israel has just completed another democratic election, and the Right and religious parties won, 67 seats to 53 (the latter including 13 Arab mandates), even if the Left-leaning Israeli media did not want them to. Their victory is not really news, in the man-bites-dog sense. For 38 years, since Menachem Begin’s victory in 1977, the Right wing, supported by the religious, have dominated Israeli politics. Even in the Oslo “victory” of 1992, the Right and religious won in terms of the popular vote. Politically, as far as our relationship with our Arab neighbors goes, the fact is that fewer and fewer Israelis are seeking for us to commit suicide or dig our own graves, and religiously, the majority of Israelis are supportive, or at least not “anti.”

Netanyahu called the elections as a response to insubordination from two coalition partners, Tzipporah Livni and Yair Lapid. The polls showed he would win. The plain fact is that snap elections are a legitimate tool in parliamentary democracies. A prime minister has the right to call such elections when he thinks they will provide him with four more years in power. Netanyahu called elections, he ran, and he won.

Yet at every step of the way, the media campaigned to delegitimize and unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu. The campaign, cosponsored by the Left wing and by the media, was labeled, “Anyone but Bibi.”

When Prime Minister Netanyahu first called for elections, the Left decried the waste of money. Next they accused Netanyahu and his wife of eating too much ice cream (!) and of holding on to a thousand dollars received for bottle returns, in an episode labeled “Bottlegate” by the press. So far, no indictments have been handed down for either crime

Of course, President Obama was campaigning against Netanyahu as well, and rumors have it that U.S. tax monies went to the Israeli “V15” lobby group fighting to unseat Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was invited by John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, to address all of Congress on the Iranian issue, and he committed the awful crime of saying yes. Obama bristled, the Israeli media sensed which way the politically-correct winds were blowing, and immediately cried “Foul! Netanyahu is flaunting himself for political gain!” All he wished to do was to use his considerable persuasive talents to express an opinion for the benefit of the free world, an opinion solicited by the Speaker of the House. He went, made the speech, influenced many, and came home.

In the month before the March 17 election, the media and pollsters began predicting a Left wing victory, even a landslide. They continued talking this way until the polls closed. The morning after the elections, it turned out that the Left wing hadn’t even come close to winning, and we are left to wonder which of the following is the case: 1) Are the polls simply inaccurate and the pollsters incompetent? 2) Perhaps, on the morning of election day, a million Israelis changed their minds? Or 3) maybe the pollsters and media knew the truth but lied to encourage voters to vote Left? Would they have dared?

The process of forming a coalition and bargaining over portfolios lasted almost two months, but it has now been successfully completed. No thanks to the media, which whined and moaned throughout the process, predicting at every stage that the next step would be crowned with failure and the task of forming a government would be handed over to the Left. Just last night, the media got in the last possible complaint that they could, proclaiming that the present process had constituted “the longest government formation period in the country’s history.

Gentle reader, when it comes to forming an Israeli government or to making any other governmental decisions, for that matter, long isn’t necessarily bad, and short isn’t necessarily good. I think of the 1992 coalition of Yitzchak Rabin, formed in a week. It was a very fast, business-like week, but oh what a 20 years it has bred! An elderly, well-intentioned but weak prime minister undertaking the foreign policy of the far-left Meretz party. The result was a thousand deaths from terror.

Had the Left wing won this election, we could have expected a similar outcome. Yitzchak Herzog, head of the Zionist Union (the Labor party) is a genuinely decent human being, a mentch. For 20 years, he helped my friends the Baumel family look for their MIA son Zechariah, lost in the first Lebanon War. He denounced the Disengagement as a mistake, and refused to use the word “peace” during the election campaign, not seeing peace on the horizon. A few weeks ago, when my sister’s father-in-law, Azriel Livnat, of the pre-state Lehi (“Stern Gang”), passed away, Yitzchak Herzog attended the funeral, even though the Lehi was anathema to the Labor party.

Yet he’s too nice. If he let that failed Disengager, that fallen Og, that serial party-switcher, back-stabber, insulter, and Arik/Ark-hanger-on-er, the wretched Tzippi Livni, talk him into a rotation agreement, he has no business trying to run a political party.

He wouldn’t have lasted three days in forming a coalition. What the far-left Meretz party did to Yitzchak Rabin in 1992 in one week, they would have done to Herzog in one day.

Far better the sober, cautious, brooding, even plodding step-by-step approach of Netanyahu, the chess player, looking several plays ahead, thinking at every stage about the results, the end goal. I think there is a good chance that this new government will last for four years, will defend Israel’s existence honorably, will strengthen Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, and, as the coalition guidelines promise, will restore to the chareidim the full financial support and the security to learn Torah in peace enjoyed by the yeshivot until a year-and–a-half ago.

Today, together with many thousands of people, I attended the funeral of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, z”l, whose efforts in 1968 and the years that followed led to almost 400,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria. Forty-seven years ago, he was considered heroic, but very few people would have been willing to take their families into a bankrupt Arab hotel in the middle of Hebron for Pesach, just to make an educational point to the Jewish People. Yet, as was pointed out at his levaya, Rav Levinger created a new consensus.  

Now, every Shabbat Chayei Sarah, wealthy men from Queens pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of flying in and spending a weekend in old, two-bedroom apartments in Hebron, and there is a long waiting list of families who would like to live in Hebron permanently.

May that dream continue to grow.


Raphael Blumberg, the author of a book about Rabbi Boruch Milikowsky, has lived in Kiryat Arba, Israel for 30 years. He translates books there from Hebrew to English, and can be contacted at:

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