ANALYSIS| Israel after the Elections, by Rafael L. Bardají

18/03/2015

The Director of International Policy of FAES Foundation, Rafael L. Bardají, has analysed the elections in Israel and which have given Netahahu his greatest victory. Even though no poll predicted he would be the winner, the Likud has surpassed the 21seats predicted, reaching 30 seats. In his opinion ‘Now, the government-forming Sudoku, so typical of the Israeli political system, will begin.’ Only this time, it will not be as complicated, as he can choose a coalition with a secular feature (65 seats, four more than the 61 required) or with a religious feature (67 seats).

"That Israel is a democracy like any other can be seen by yesterday's elections: respondents lie and pollsters get it wrong, very wrong indeed. In one of the dirtiest campaigns in Israel’s history no survey predicted Benjamin Netanyahu would be the winner of the elections. Indeed, last night's exit polls offered a scenario of technical tie between the Likud, the right, and the so-called Zionist Union, the Labour Left. But this did not happen and Netanyahu has achieved the greatest of his victories, surpassing the 21 seats predicted and reaching 30. Herzog and Livni's left remains, as expected, in 24 seats. The centre has not collapsed and the United Arab List managed to become the third party with most seats, 14.

Now, the government-forming Sudoku, so typical of the Israeli political system, always polarized and fragmented, will begin. Only this time, it will not be as complicated for Prime Minister Netanyahu. He can choose a coalition with a secular feature (65 seats, four more than the 61 required) or with a religious feature (67 seats).

In all likelihood, after his brilliant entry into the political landscape, Kahlon, leader of Kulanu, will occupy an economic–financial–portfolio. If Lapid is also in the coalition, the social policy of the new government will become more important and will give satisfaction to many Israelis who consider the cost of living is their main problem. A new wave of privatizations and a further boost to the economy, if possible, is to be expected.

On the subject of security, not many changes are expected: attentive to developments in the Iranian nuclear program, but considering that it is possible that negotiations will have to be prolonged, a holding pattern can be conceived, without dramatic decisions by Jerusalem beyond the verbal denunciation of the risks of an expanding Iran on the verge of being accepted as a nuclear power.

On the Palestinian subject, nothing new: the world will criticize the intransigence of the new government and the Palestinians will walk their unilateral path of virtual recognition, not very effective in reality. It is possible that both Hamas and Fatah feel tempted to escalate violence in the belief that a new right-wing government will not have the international support to carry out an offensive against them.

All in all, on the subject of relations with the United States, if President Obama were pragmatic, he should realize that he has to deal with a country that has renewed its confidence in the right and in Benjamin Netanyahu. And even though he may not like it personally, Israel is the best ally he has in the area. But if Obama continues as before, he will renew the pressure to make the Israeli government yield to hardly acceptable issues such as the division of Jerusalem or the return to the 1967 borders. The novelty now is that while Obama is going in a year and a half, the Israeli government has four years ahead of it".