US Can Learn Much from Netanyahu Win
Israel's ex-premier and leader of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters at campaign headquarters in Jerusalem early on Nov. 2, 2022, following the end of voting for national elections. (Menahem KahanaAFP via Getty Images)
Economic concerns drove Israeli voters to the ballot box.
Did Benjamin Netanyahu's victory somehow herald a win for conservatives at the midterm, in the U.S.?
Netanyahu, whatever his political opponents say, has proven himself a competent manager deeply committed to Israel. His reelection has come at a critical time, both in Israel and globally. "Bibi" — the experienced statesman, decorated soldier, and ultimate political survivor — understands the strategies needed to take advantage of opportunities.
"Israel Election: Preliminary Results Show Netanyahu Poised to Return to Power," FOX News reported very recently.
"Benjamin Netanyahu might very well be the winner this time around," Ruth Marks Eglash wrote for FOX in a tone of surprise. "His bloc of right-wing, religious parties is slated to draw up to 62 seats, the number of mandates needed to form a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament."
As of Wednesday afternoon, with 80% of the votes counted, Netanyahu’s conservative coalition was poised to take at least a 65-seat majority.
"Unless final tally of votes sees Meretz and Balad reaching minimum threshold," began the Israeli news site, Y Net News, on Weds. Nov. 2: "right-wing and religious bloc in clear majority to form a stable government and end the political stalemate of the past election cycles."
But Netanyahu was not to be thwarted. Yair Lapid has since officially conceded the race to new Prime Minister: Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu.
What the return of Mr. Netanyahu will mean for Israel, the Mideast, and even the shifting fortunes of U.S. political parties are subjects upon which media pundits have indulged — both feverishly and speculatively.
Reactions from the U.S. political left were a predictable mix of hysterical hyperbole and abject terror. Was this in reaction to Democrats' suspecting a rout on Nov. 8, one which did materialize, but perhaps not as completely as expected?
"The Israel We Knew Is Gone," lamented Thomas Friedman dramatically for The New York Times on Nov. 4, 2022:
"Imagine you woke up after the 2024 U.S. presidential election and found that Donald Trump had been re-elected and chose Rudy Giuliani for attorney general, Michael Flynn for defense secretary, Proud Boys former leader Enrique Tarrio for homeland security head and Marjorie Taylor Greene for the White House spokeswoman," Friedman postulated.
The seasoned, left columnist added, "Israeli political trends are often a harbinger of wider trends in Western democracies."
Friedman actually begged, "Lord save us if this is a harbinger of what’s coming our way."
Friedman’s attitude is far from uncommon in the current media climate, though Israel’s democracy endured Netanyahu’s stewardship before, survived quite well, and likely will again. In June 2021 when Netanyahu was ousted, U.S. media mandarins were singing the same tune.
"The Defeat of Benjamin Netanyahu," crowed The New Yorker triumphantly on June 13, 2021, noting, "Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister has dragged the country ever rightward, abandoning the peace process and imperiling its very democracy."
The theme that conservative politicians are, "imperiling democracy" is fast becoming an unending refrain, perhaps too easily tuned out by weary "sky-is-falling" rhetoric.
Israel’s Knesset, like the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, is almost evenly divided. With the country so delicately balanced along partisan lines, the Israeli government hasn’t been able to coalesce long enough for effective governance.
Over the past four years, Israeli voters have slogged through five contentious elections as no group has been able to garner enough support from among the others to achieve a strong enough voting majority.
The previous majority coalition led by Yair Lapid triumphantly replaced Netanyahu in June 2021. At that time, Netanyahu was the longest-serving Israeli prime minister in history.
By June 2022 the movement was over: Lapid’s coalition collapsed under the weight of internecine disputes and infighting. The Knesset dissolved, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stepped down, Yair Lapid became interim PM, and Israel wearily began the election process anew.
"As I warned, the irresponsibility of some Knesset members in the coalition led to the inevitable result," tweeted Justice Minister Gideon Saar furiously.
"The goal in the upcoming elections is clear: preventing Netanyahu from returning to power and enslaving the state to his personal interests."
In response to the failure of Lapid’s government in June, Netanyahu vowed that the Likud party would win in October and, "restore the national pride to the citizens of Israel, reduce taxes and expand peace agreements as it did before."
"This is an evening of great news for the many Israeli citizens," Netanyahu consoled. "After a resolute fight from the opposition in the Knesset and much suffering of the Israeli public, it’s clear to everyone that the most failing government in the history of the country has finished its journey."
"The government that relied on supporters of terrorism, that forfeited the safety of its citizens, that raised the cost of living to previously unseen record highs, that took unnecessary taxes — that government is going home," Netanyahu vowed.
"My friends and I will establish a nationalist government led by Likud,"Netanyahu promised on June 20, 2022.
Last week, Netanyahu fulfilled that promise.
The world’s only Jewish state is beset with major challenges and opportunities on all sides.
To successfully navigate the coming years, Israel’s prime minister will need to be decisive, hard-working, and innovative. Following multiple government spending bonanzas, a little fiscal conservatism wouldn’t hurt either.
Inflation, exorbitant fuel costs, higher prices at the grocery store, and other economic hardships are certain this election cycle — in the U.S. as in Israel.
Conservatives in the U.S. might recognize a good many of the concerns that sent Israelis to the ballot box to vote once more for Benjamin Netanyahu last week.
The same concerns are being voiced by American voters.
Democrats in the U.S. haven’t been listening to these voter concerns well enough. Trying to shift the campaign battlefield in their favor. Democrats made it seem as if they don’t know, or don’t care, about the economic concerns weighing down average working-class voters
Progressives in Israel made the same error, paving the way for Bibi’s comeback.
Democrats who allow themselves to devolve into disarray are inviting Republicans to pounce — still.