Israel’s left-wing and pro-right Arab parties are licking their wounds in the wake of this week’s elections. At the end of the count on Thursday, the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right partners had won with a comfortable majority.
Last summer, a broad coalition succeeded in their mutual desire to oust Likud leader Netanyahu from office. He is currently on trial for corruption.
The “government of change”, made up of right-wing, left-wing and centrist parties and led by Naphtali Bennett and Yair Lapid, had made history because it included an independent Arab party for the first time. The ambitious experiment, however, was hampered from the start by infighting.
After losing its narrow majority, the Lapid/Bennett government collapsed just after celebrating its first anniversary, triggering Israel’s fifth election in less than four years.
When exit polls predicted a convincing victory for the right-wing camp on Tuesday night, thanks to hardline religious Zionists more than doubling their number of Knesset seats, Israel’s small left wing tried to remain optimistic . But as Netanyahu’s bloc extended its lead, those hopes faded and the mood turned to despair.
“The third largest party in the Knesset is racist, Kahanist, [referring to a banned rightwing terrorist group], a violent party that does not want me or my children here,” Issawi Frej, the country’s second Muslim minister, wrote on Twitter. “It’s no longer a slippery slope. It is the abyss itself.
Members of the outgoing coalition have already started trading blame for their poor performance this week. Polls ahead of the election consistently suggested it would be a close call yet again, with both blocs on around 60 seats. Yet despite winning 49.95% of the total vote, the anti-Netanyahu camp will only hold 50 of the 120 seats in parliament.
Small parties’ refusals to merge despite polls showing they risked missing the electoral threshold, and a last-minute split in the Joint (Arab) List, are just two of the reasons why votes for the government camp did not go through. not translated into seats. The formation of coalitions is necessary to govern in Israel’s fragmented political spectrum: a more united strategy, or even tiny shifts in voter turnout, could have yielded a completely different outcome.
Tamar Hermann, senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), said the government, led first by the right-wing Bennett and then by the centrist Lapid, had also alienated voters who were fed up with political instability. during his chaotic 18 months. in the office.
“It was clear that public opinion was not with the government. Sixty percent of this country identifies as right-wing, and that goes up to 70 percent among young people,” she said, citing an IDI study. “They [the government] pride displayed before this election. But the writing was on the wall.