With a desperate lurch to appease the far-right of the Israeli electorate in the final days before national elections in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was able to declare a re-election victory for his Likud Party early Wednesday morning despite a nail-biting campaign and a recent surge by the more moderate Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog.
According to final results, Likud took 30 seats in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), while Zionist Union came in second with 24 seats. The Joint Arab List, a newly-formed coalition of Israeli-Arab parties, came in third and won 14 seats. The Jerusalum Post reported on the seats won by other parties in descending order: Yesh Atid (11); Kulanu (10); Bayit Yehudi (8); Shas (7); United Torah Judaism (6); Yisrael Beytenu (6); and Meretz (4).
“Against all odds: a great victory for Likud,” Netanyahu declared to supporters in Tel Aviv, shortly after Herzog conceded.
Netanyahu said he would swiftly form a new ruling government by joining forces with other far-right parties, including the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi) led by Naftali Bennett.
Head of the Arab Joint List, Ayman Odeh, described his party’s third-place finish “a historic day” for Arab citizens in Israel. “Today we are giving our answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us,” said Odeh. That silver-lining, however, seemed overwhelmed by Netanyahu’s re-election, quite markedly built on the back of the nation’s far-right forces.
In the days ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu was seen widely as “desperate,” lurching rightward from his previous positions as he disavowed the idea of ever allowing a Palestinian state, foreswearing the two-state solution, claiming the right to continue to build on Palestinian lands, fear-mongering over the potential voter turnout of Israel’s Arab citizens, and denigrating all of his opponents as a threat to Israel’s existence.
As the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont reports from Jerusalem:
Palestinian rights activists in the U.S. responded to Likud’s victory by mourning just how responsive the Israeli electorate appeared to be to Netanyahu’s fear-mongering and racist-tinged politics. “Between the two leading parties, there was little choice for those who want to see a just peace and equality for all Israelis and Palestinians,” said Naomi Dann, media coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace, in a statement on Wednesday. “Should either party form the next government, either separately or in unity, the occupation and military rule over Palestinians will continue. The vote for Netanyahu was a vote of approval for his racism and war-mongering.”
Gideon Levy, the prominent Israeli journalist, also lamented in his column how Netanyahu’s victory shows “how truly broken” Israeli society has become.
“If after six years of nothing, if after six years of sowing fear and anxiety, hatred and despair, this is the nation’s choice, then it is very ill indeed,” Levy opined.
Though Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, had yet to officially respond to Netanyahu’s re-election as of Wednesday morning, Haaretz reports that senior PA officials said Netanyahu’s recent statements prove the Palestinians have “no partner in Israel” when it comes to a peaceful settlement.
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