After five election cycles, the Israeli public and the Middle East may finally get what they most needed: a stable Israeli government. A mixture of failure on the part of Israel’s left-wing coalition and political shrewdness from right-wing politicians is managing to return Netanyahu to power, likely with a more stable mandate than he managed to have in years. Partisanship aside, this is a very good development in an increasingly changing international political situation that needs stable and confident decision-makers. The Israeli public made itself clear no matter what grievances those on the left might have.
One can not be sure that this is going to be the end of Israel’s most dramatic political season, but it definitely shows Israelis are ready for a break from elections. Returning to power for an unprecedented third time, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu seems poised to form a right-wing government with a larger mandate than was possible for years. If successful, Netanyahu could ensure the electoral stability that the country desperately needs and allow Israel’s government to deal with some of the most challenging issues facing the country, cost of living, increasing Palestinian violence, a changing geopolitical scene, and the Iranian nuclear program.
In voting Netanyahu back, Israeli voters made it clear that they are less willing to tolerate the recent wave of Arab violence than Israel’s left-wing government. In the past few weeks, Israel has witnessed one of the largest terror waves in years, and despite the IDF response in the West Bank, Israel’s left-wing politicians did not seem to take the issue as seriously as they should. Moreover, Israel’s left-wing government advanced a progressive political agenda that did not just alienate much of Israel’s conservative voters but created what seemed to be a domestic challenge to Israel’s Jewish identity and social fabric. This is not dissimilar from what progressive and liberal elites in Western democracies seem to be doing to their nations. Yet, given that Israel is, by the end of the day, a Middle Eastern country, voters inevitably made their will clear. The intensification of left-wing hysteria will likely strengthen Israel’s right-wing voters’ resolve, whom they did not elect a left-wing “caretaker” government to begin with.
No changes in strategic relations are expected regarding Israel’s relationship with the United States or with Abraham Accords’ countries. If anything, Netanyahu, who represented Israel in engineering Abraham Accords, is likely to achieve more progress in Israel’s regional integration. Moreover, Israel’s special relationship with the United States proved to be immune to such political changes, at least for the time being, and with the coming up midterm elections, a Republican return to the US Congress could be the beginning of a period of more stable and closer Israeli American relations. And just as a reminder, the international left’s NGOs and human rights organizations do not need an excuse to continue their war against the State of Israel. The presence of an Israeli left-wing government never altered the anti-Israel bias in international institutions or Western progressive political movements. And while it is understandable that diaspora Jewish communities are concerned about their position from Western liberal political movements and institutions, blaming Israeli voters for international hostility toward Israel is both ludicrous and unfounded and amounts to scapegoating Israel for the rise of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the Western left.
Given the nature of Israel’s political system, one can confidently say there are no smooth rides in Israeli politics. Netanyahu will still have to balance and juggle the different interests of the members of his coalition and his own commitments to the Israeli public, a difficult task that only a shrewd statesman of the caliber of Netanyahu could fulfill. While those with liberal secular sensibilities have every right to be alarmed about the rise of Religious Zionism and Otzmah Yehudit, knowing that Netanyahu is savvy enough to know the lines Israeli political life must not cross should be comforting. The Israeli public wanted unapologetic Zionism, and so it voted. The hysteric demonization of the right-wing public is neither in Israel’s national interest nor in the interest of a healthy political life.
After forming his government, Netanyahu must start formulating a long-term policy agenda aiming to deal with the day’s most pressing economic and security issues. Increasing uncertainty about the future of the world’s energy market and its complication in the post-COVID economic recovery necessitates ever-greater economic cooperation with Israel’s Arab neighbors and new ways to advance Israel’s economic interests. The current situation in Iran, both in terms of mass protests and the conspicuous lack of an American strategy to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, gives Israel a rare window of opportunity to work at undermining the Iranian regime without fearing American constraints. It is unclear for how long such a window of opportunity will remain open, but Israel must not miss it. In the Arab world, Israel is faced with a rising assertive bloc of Arab power that seeks to exist American guardianship and assert its own economic and security independence. Saudi Arabia is seeking to create a new economic model that once and for all ends Arab dependence on the West and opens the path to reorganizing the region’s political and economic structure. Washington seems to be both unaware of the level of determination Arabs have acquired and increasingly hostile to the newfound Saudi confidence. Netanyahu will have to navigate such a geopolitical map, which will only grow more complex. If the Arab Gulf succeeds in fulfilling its vision of creating a new economic future for the region, this, and not just relations with the West, most certainly will be the ticket to Israel’s future. All such moving parts are already moving during an international crisis of the confrontation between Russia and the West in Ukraine, leaving Israel in an unenviable position of maintaining its Western alliances and its operative relationship with Russia.
Netanyahu has an unenviably difficult task ahead, and the Israeli voters likely knew that before casting their votes. Whether economically, domestically, internationally, or managing relations with the Palestinians, Israel’s success makes its current situation more complex than ever. Israeli left-wing politicians, as well as American commentators, who are mourning Israeli democracy, would do well to stop whining and ask themselves why so many Israeli voters trust Netanyahu more than others.
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