So, here’s my quick take on yesterday’s Elections for the 120-seat Knesset.
The unvarnished truth is that Israeli voters’ solid plurality stands for Bibi-ism, Kahane-ism, and Haredism.
Why do I say this? With nearly 90 per cent of the vote in (meaning small changes will still have a big impact), the Bibi-ist Likud got 30 seats.
The Netanyahu camp also includes: (Haredi Sephardic) Shas 9; (Knitted yarmulke) Yamina 7; (Haredi Ashkkanazim) UTJ 7; and (Hardel-ni-kim) Ben Gvir / Smotchrich 6 = 59
I can’t see how anyone with a liberal bone in their body (and I use the word liberal in the original sense) could swallow this with equanimity.
The Hardel Party of Ben Gvir / Smotchrich is the most illiberal of the Jewish parties. It combines religious, social and political fanaticism garbed in an oversized kipa shruga (knitted skull cap). The party is an amalgamation of various radical factions that Netanyahu soldered into one to ensure his broad camp lost no votes.
His camp being non-Zionist Haredim + Hardel-nikim (of Ben Gvir / Smotchrich) + Likud (long shorn of Jabotinsky values).
All held together by Netanyahu’s cult of personality, self-interest and anticipated patronage.
It comes down to Bennett (small knitted kipa) and how low he will go to become defense minister, and to get the Justice Ministry. In the hands of his number two, Ayelet Shaked, Justice would play to the mob telling them that Israel’s Supreme Court should follow the dictates of popular opinion (which like in most polities is intolerant).
And suppose by some miracle Bennett – a political Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – does the right thing and refuses Bibi. In that case, it is on to another cycle of elections. Unless he does the really right thing and hooks up with Lapid & Saar & Ganz (below).
Even with Bennett, Bibi would anyway require defectors from among his opponents’ camp or one of the Arab parties’ backing – Ra’am being a possibility.
Pundits say Bibi’s partners would not cooperate with the Arabs even to form a government. We shall see.
Bottom line: it is disheartening that so large a plurality of Israelis favor parties of intolerance.
What of the center? Lapid (who I voted for) and Ganz (who I voted for several times in the past), and Saar together garnered 31 seats. I put Saar in the center to stack the deck. He is more right-wing than Lapid or Ganz but he retains some old-school Jabotinsky values.
The left parties of Labor and Meretz pulled 12. Both slates contain anti-Zionists. Labor was invigorated by a new woke leader. Meretz got a decisive piety vote from farbrente leftists. I am glad because it means Yair Golan will be in the next Knesset.
In his own category is Lieberman with 7 seats. His Yisrael Beiteinu Party represents the know-nothing older Russian-speaking street. Reactionary. Nationalist. Secular. His number two is an anti-Vaxer. Lieberman, like Bennett and Saar, is a former Netanyahu staffer who broke with the Master years ago and now works to bring him down.
The (more than you can imagine) fragmented Arabs got 11 seats divided between Ra’am and the Joint List. Like Bennett, they can play a pivotal role in creating or blocking a new government’s formation.
Bottom line: It will take many, many, many, weeks for things to shake out. The prospect of another round in the Fall is not out of the question.