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Yair Lapid poster-Banu Leshanot ,"we came to Change things" "There is a Future"
photo by Rhonda Spivak


A Prime Minister not as strong as his election signs suggested
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Ori Zehngut, center says his school would have given Lapid 50% of the seats in their mock election.
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Bayit Hayehudi activist with Poster of Naftali Bennett on his back.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
ELECTION REPORT FROM ISRAEL: NETANYAHU'S DECLINE AND LAPID'S RISE

Rhonda Spivak, January 23, 2013, updated January 24

Netanya, Israel-As the final vote comes in here, it is clear that as Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Prime Minister, he will be running a very different government than he has been, and one where he will be far more constrained to pursue right of centre policies. In fact, he will be far more captive to his coalition partners--from wherever they are drawn--right, centre, left of centre. I will not guess at who will be in the coalition--it is very complicated and not yet clear, although it appears as if he will try to form a government with Yair Lapid's centre party, Yesh Atid, (There is a Future) that has 19 Knesset seats. It's not yet clear to me who else will be  part of that coalition between Likud Beitenu and Yesh Atid, but  Natfali Bennett's Jewish home is a possibility.

Netanyahu, it appears, can't just rely on the religious parties and more right wing parties to form  a narrow government as he did last time.  He must co-opt  Yair  Lapid's Yesh Atid party. He could technically go for a narrow right ultra-orthodox coalition and try to  co-opt Shaul Mofaz's Kadima party that has two seats (giving the coalition 62 seats), but that is unlikely and  well be a short lived coalition.(The only reason I can think of Mofaz being willing to join is that he ultimately may be willing to re-join his former Likud party, rather than have no one notice him at all). 

In reality, Netanyahu has gotten through this election by the hair of his chinny chin chin. Going into the election Likud and Israel Beinenu had 42 seats, and now Likud-Beitenu emerges with only 31 seats, a significant drop.  He will be the Prime Minister ( likely), but behind his back, and not even behind his back, Israelis will be saying he is a Prime Minister with no clothes.  And who knows what the shelf life of any government he forms will be ? Technically Lapid's Yesh Atid party has just as many seats as Likud has--19. (Likud has 19 and Israel Beitenu has 12 to comprise Likud Beitenu's 31). What's clear is that Yair Lapid's party has a lot of leverage in making it difficult for Netanyahu to form a functioning coalition without him.

Lapid has just been on television here to say essentially that he does not see himself forming a government and will not try to form a "block that stops" Netanyahu from forming a government, by joining with the left-wing and Arab parties against Netanyahu. The common thread of a new government in which Lapid is a central partner will be finding a way to "share the burden" equally by making the ultra-orthodox do military service and enter into the working world, rather than receiving  extensive government handouts. If that is the agenda, it is difficult for me to see how the ultra-orthodox Shas party, which badly wants to be in the coalition, could  join.

In essence the results of the election show that the Likud was unable to capture the hearts of the voters of the centre who went on mass to Yair Lapid.

The Netanyahu Decline:

At 8:04, two hours before the polls closed here on election day , Jan 22, 2013, Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a rather desperate call on his Facebook wall:

“Likud rule is in danger,” he wrote, and repeated his call to his supporters to drop everything and go vote for the Likud-Beytenu list.  “It’s very important for guaranteeing the future of the state of Israel.”

I was not surprised when I heard about Netanyahu's facebook wall, after having come back from speaking with the young activists from the parties and people who had just voted at two polling stations in Netanya (a city where the right wing is more prominent usually).

There was one Sephardic Likud voter from Netanya, who overheard me talking to the young people, who came up and said, that something was going on--"I have a big family in the North, and they have always voted Likud, and this year none of them did."

I replied, "Yes, but that is just one family."

He replied, "But I am a bus driver and all day I heard people on my bus talking about how they were going to vote. There could be a turn over here--the Centre-left could possibly win."

Most of the students he spoke to didn't think it was possible, but the bus driver was very confident and said, "I'm telling you, there could be a Mahapach (a turn -over) here."

The results confirm what has long been the case in the State of Israel since its creation--the bus drivers (and cab drivers) are often the best sources of information. They have their finger on the pulse of the country.

The Rise of Lapid:

One of the Labour party young people at a Netanya polling station, Ori Zehngut, told me that at his school in Tel Mond, near Netanya, "We had a mock vote and Lapid won 50% of the seats. If it was left up to voters 18-20, Yair Lapid would be Prime Minister."

That's when it struck me just how

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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