Why Israel Reelected Netanyahu

Foreign observers of the Israeli elections have failed to realize that almost all Israelis, more than 25 years after the disaster of Oslo, know that the so-called ‘two-state solution’ would be Israel’s ‘final solution’. They do not see in Netanyahu as a perfect leader but they vote for him because no other recent Israeli leader has been able to create so many victories for Israel.

PM Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting (Credit: Amit Shabi)

While President Donald Trump was among the first to congratulate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on winning the Israeli elections, as did Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, among others, the large and most powerful countries of the European Union, France, UK and Germany held back.

Perhaps they were waiting for the next Israeli government to be formed first. Perhaps it was just hard for them to congratulate someone with whom they so intensely disagree on Middle East policy. These three countries, after all, dictate policy in the EU, an organization whose foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, recently participated in the meeting of the Arab league, where she declared, “The first point, the first top issue on our respective agenda: Israel and Palestine. We need to continue to work together very closely, because we share the same sense of priority, the same sense of urgency, the same concerns and the same objectives: to get back to meaningful negotiations towards the two-state solution, which is the only viable, realistic solution”. She also strongly reassured the Arab League, “And you know that you can count on the European Union on the Palestinian issue. We share exactly the same views and it is vital in this moment that we work together on this”.

In the United States, several Democrats lamented Netanyahu’s re-election, with some declaring that his re-election ‘dims the prospects of peace in the Middle East’ while some presidential Democratic hopefuls, among them Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, had already insulted Israelis days before the elections by calling Netanyahu ‘racist’:

“The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet,” O’Rourke said, “And that relationship, if it is to be successful … must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist.”

American Jewish groups also displayed their alarm at the democratic choice of Israelis. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the  Union for Reform Judaism, stated, “We are especially concerned by the statements made by Prime Minister Netanyahu on the eve of the election calling for annexation of the West Bank Jewish settlements, a unilateral move that would make a two-state solution impossible and render the Jewish democratic State untenable”. Nine American Jewish groups then proceeded to beg the US president to stop Netanyahu from fulfilling his pledge of annexation.

All these statements of ‘concern’ for the two-state solution and the democratic nature of Israel reveal an abyss of ignorance on the part of the speakers about realities on the ground in Israel, especially about how most Israelis think. Israel overwhelmingly voted for the Likud, which received its best election since 2003 with 36 mandates. Even the battered and hard tested city of Sderot, which borders Gaza and has therefore endured the most rocket attacks on Israel since it evacuated Gaza, overwhelmingly voted for Netanyahu with 43.5 % of the votes going to Likud.

However, the second largest party, Blue and White, led by former chief of staff Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, while not running on much of a platform other than ‘no more Bibi’, never tried to attract voters by advocating abstract notions of ‘peace’ and the two-state solution. In a meeting with European envoys he notably did not endorse the two-state solution. Even the political newcomer realized that such rhetoric falls flat on Israeli ears. The only parties who still advocate a two-state solution experienced their worst elections ever: Labor won six mandates, its worst result in 71 years, and the far left Meretz with its four mandates was nearly destroyed in the elections.

Many foreign observers of the Israeli elections have failed to realize that almost all Israelis, more than 25 years after the disaster of Oslo, which cost thousands of Israeli lives and the rise of the terrorist regime of the Palestinian Authority, nearly 15 years after the evacuation of Gaza and the subsequent rise of the terrorist regime of Hamas, know that the so-called ‘two-state solution’ would be Israel’s ‘final solution’. It would constitute the fulfillment of the long-held Arab dream to throw the Jews in the sea and anyone who lives here knows that.

Israelis do not see in Netanyahu the perfect leader and there is much that they criticize about him – such as the failure to effectively deal with the missiles from Gaza—but they vote for him because no other recent Israeli leader has been able to create so many victories for Israel. It is hard for Israelis to imagine a different Israeli prime minister who would have stood up to former President Barack Hussein Obama, defy world opinion and implore the American Congress to reject the Iran deal. It is hard for Israelis to imagine another prime minister standing up to Russian demands to cease Israeli military activity in Syria. It is also hard for Israelis to conceive of an Israeli prime minister, who would have been able to foster the kind of special personal relationship that Netanyahu has with US president Donald Trump. A relationship that has made Netanyahu the first prime minister to transform Israeli military victories into political ones, as manifested in the US’s recognition of Jerusalem and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Viewed from Israel, the decisions of President Donald Trump to stand with Israel against Iran, reinstate sanctions against the mullah regime and, most recently, designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization are closely linked to the existence of that special relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump.

Israeli voters have seen and appreciated all this. That is why they voted for Netanyahu.

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Judith Bergman is a columnist and political analyst and a fellow with the Gatestone Institute.

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