At The American Conservative, Barbara Bolan explains the predicament Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself in today. She writes (abridged):
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s old bag of tricks failed him in Israel’s second round of elections Tuesday. It now appears that the electorate has rejected his divisive rhetoric, attacks on the judiciary and press, imminent indictment on a raft of corruption charges, and tight embrace of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
“Everything has blown up in his face,” said Gayil Talshir, political scientist at Hebrew University, in the weeks before the election. “This is a blow to Netanyahu, who benefits from the impression that he is behind America’s policy. Trump saying he’s ready to meet Rouhani undermines this, and undermines the idea that Netanyahu is the best friend of Trump.”
Trump doesn’t like to be associated with losers. The day after the election, he told reporters that he hadn’t spoken to Netanyahu, and added, “Our relations are with the state of Israel.”
In 2015, Netanyahu warned his supporters that Arabs were being “bused in droves” to the elections. After widespread condemnation for his “racist” remarks, he apologized. Yet he tried the exact same tactic again on Tuesday, only this time it backfired: Arabs voted in unprecedented numbers, motivated in part by his talk of “annexing” the Jordan Valley. The Arab parties, known as the Joint List, placed third, which means that if Likud and Blue and White form a government, the Joint List would lead the opposition. If that happens, their leader, Aymen Odeh, will be present for security briefings and have access to intelligence. That’s significant because no Arab leader in Israel’s history ever had such access.
With 98 percent of the vote tallied, Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan, or Blue and White Party, leads with 33 out of 120 Knesset seats, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party has 31. In order to form a government, the Israeli president can choose one of the two men, who will then have to find a 61-seat majority in the Knesset. Gantz has repeatedly declared that he will not join a government with Netanyahu.
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