With 97 percent of the vote counted, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-of-center Likud party has sustained a razor-thin win, defeating Benny Gantz’s left-leaning Blue and White party, receiving 37 seats to Gantz’s 36, but the victory is actually much greater than it appears.
The new right-wing party coalition has a total of 65 seats. The Leftist coalition has 55, giving Rightists a clear majority in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). The remaining votes, still to be counted, are from the military, which tends to lean right and could conceivably add an additional 4-5 seats to the new Right coalition, firming up a solidly conservative coalition under Netanyahu’s leadership.
What does this victory mean for Netanyahu’s controversial campaign promises, such as Israeli claiming sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. the West Bank)? Former Shiloh Mayor David Rubin has some of the answers.
Question: If the vote was so close between Netanyahu and Gantz, why are you describing it as a big victory for Netanyahu?
Answer: Yes, the vote between the two major parties was razor-thin, in Israel we don’t have a two-party system. We have so many political parties that no single person ever wins. When we consider the right-leaning smaller parties, the results on Tuesday show that Israel clearly voted for a strong right-wing coalition led by Netanyahu.
Question: How is the governing coalition of Israel formed?
Answer: The leader of the party that gets the most votes is usually given the first chance to negotiate with the other parties to form a governable coalition. Success also depends on the political breakdown. The more numerous right-wing parties are all expected to express their preference for Netanyahu. Therefore, he will have several weeks to negotiate coalition agreements with those parties, and therefore, he has an excellent chance of forming a workable new coalition.
Question: How will Netanyahu’s promises such as Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. The West Bank) be affected by his victory?
Answer: Those proposed policies will be strengthened because most of the parties to the right of Netanyahu consider Judea and Samaria to be an integral part of the historical Land of Israel.
Question: Will a right-wing government help or hurt US-Israel relations?
Answer: It will absolutely help to strengthen the relationship. President Trump is a great friend of Israel and has great respect for Israel when it acts proudly and decisively. Without the support of the U.S. president, the outcome might have been a leftist government including a suicidal so-called Two State Solution. The Israel-US relationship has improved exponentially since the difficult days of Obama.
Question: Will this rightward shift hurt the Trump administration’s efforts to shore up its anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East?
Answer: Not at all. In Middle East politics there is always a public face and a private face. Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt may have publicly condemned the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, but in private, they want stability in the Middle East and an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and massive support for terrorism. Often the most important policy issues are set in motion with a wink and a nod since certain positions affirmed publicly can be a deal knell for leaders and nations.
Question: Your new book, “Trump and the Jews”, addresses the USA-Israel relationship in the age of Trump and many of the issues that we’ve been discussing. Do you have one quick example of something in the book that either proved ‘prophetic’ or is about to happen?
Answer: I predicted that there would be a sharp increase in anti-Semitic anti-Israel rhetoric in the Democratic Party, although I’m certainly not happy about it. Oh, also, I predicted a razor-thin vote resulting in a victory for a coalition led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. My book can be found at www.Amazon.com. Just type in “Trump and the Jews”.
David Rubin, former mayor of Shiloh Israel, is the author of the new book, “Trump and the Jews”. Rubin is the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his then three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack. He can be found at www.DavidRubinIsrael.com or at www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org.