After the Israeli Elections — What Now?
By Sarah Ann Haves
Against all odds, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won his fourth election and is expected to form a center-right government by Israeli Independence Day. His Likud Party was not showing strength in election polls leading up to voting day on March 17, 2015. And, most of the exit polls that night predicted a tie between the Likud and the Zionist Union Party.
Expected to be the only one who could form a government, Netanyahu declared a victory that evening, because of a one vote lead announced by an Israeli broadcast channel. But, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog waited to concede defeat until the next day. As Israelis woke up on March 18, much of the country was surprised to discover that Likud won a major victory over the Zionist Union. This meant that Netanyahu could try and form a government coalition with his natural partners in the “national camp” rather than a unity government with his opponents. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had little choice but to invite Netanyahu to try and form the next government, which Netanyahu formally began doing in coalition talks beginning the eve of March 25.
Netanyahu has led Israel for nine years in three non-consecutive terms in power. Israelis may not like him personally, but a great majority believe in his ability to defend the state of Israel and do everything he can to assure the safety of its citizens. As Israelis went to vote, security triumphed over socio-economic issues or diplomatic concerns.
An unprecedented and relentless campaign to get Netanyahu out of office failed. U.S. President Barack Obama sent an activist group called V15 to Israel to try to unseat Netanyahu by encouraging Israelis that change was needed. It didn’t work. Foreign investors poured money into Israeli leftist non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) to campaign against the Prime Minister. That didn’t work either. There was an aggressive push for a united Arab front that would form a blocking coalition. The Joint Arab List did become the third largest party to receive votes after the Likud and Zionist Union. But, the Israeli Arabs have chosen to stay out of the government, believing that all parties in Israel are too Zionist for them. So, their influence has been diminished.
Israeli citizens voted, in mass, for the Likud Party because they believed it would work towards securing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State. A majority of the population wanted to assure the future existence of the Jewish People in their own land, and voted for the political party that would be most focused on protecting Israel’s borders. In the final days leading up to the polls, Netanyahu reiterated his support for preserving Israel’s ancient homeland, admitting that it was not the time to consider a two-state solution. This appealed to right-wing voters.
In the hearts of most Israelis is a desire to see their land remain in Jewish hands, and not be given over to a people who hate them. A great majority want to separate from the Palestinians. There is little trust because the Palestinian leadership has been unwilling to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. And, Palestinian incitement and violence against Jews continues.
While Israeli citizens do have a desire to live in peace and harmony with their Palestinian neighbors, they do not believe the answer, right now, is to withdraw from land in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Every indication is that the land will be swept up by radical Islamists who will overthrow the Palestinian leadership and take over strategic areas. It will leave Israel vulnerable and defenseless.
Netanyahu threatened that a left-wing government would succumb to world pressure and give up Israel’s land and security for a promise of peace. His threats resonated with a majority of the Israeli public.
Now that the elections are over, what does the new Israeli government face in the future?
A POLARIZED SOCIETY
A large portion of the Israeli population was looking to replace Netanyahu in this election. Their ideology has been that Israeli leaders cannot hold on to the dream of a Greater Israel (from the Euphrates River to the Great Sea), and cannot control another people (i.e., the Palestinians). Unwilling to acknowledge that the Palestinian leadership does not want peace, but instead wants to destroy Israel, these liberal Israelis remain determined to fight for their cause. They will push for a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians using their influence with foreign governments to put pressure on the Israeli leadership. Usually, the Israeli Opposition tries to refrain from interfering in Israel’s foreign policy. But, in the future, the expectation is that the political parties that have been left out of Netanyahu’s government will let their voices be heard on every diplomatic occasion involving the Palestinians. They will also look to press the government on every domestic issue involving the Israeli Arabs. Arab leaders, in particular, continue to paint Netanyahu as a racist, and make it appear that the government is not treating minorities equally in Israeli society.
WORSENING RELATIONS BETWEEN NETANYAHU AND OBAMA
While Netanyahu has received overwhelming support from Americans and the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, his relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats has greatly deteriorated. Netanyahu’s controversial speech before a Joint Session of Congress in March, and his continued opposition to Obama’s support of an Iranian nuclear deal, has resulted in decreased favor with the White House. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s backtracking on supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians has caused the Obama Administration to re-assess its Middle East foreign policy.
No matter what effort Netanyahu puts into gaining back favor with the Obama Administration, it is unlikely that there will be a warming of ties. The State Department will continue to push for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during Obama’s 20 months left in office. America’s foreign policy will continue to appease radical Islamists. And, Israel cannot guarantee that it will remain a strong strategic ally of the United States on the diplomatic front as long as Obama is in office.
There’s a likelihood that Obama will present a new U.S. peace plan, setting parameters for a two-state solution within a specific period of time, imposing a solution on Israel, while favoring the Palestinian side. This would probably be Obama’s first choice in order for the United States to remain the main powerbroker in this particular Middle East conflict.
A second choice would be that Obama simply stops providing Israel with a diplomatic umbrella at the United Nations. Analysts predict that Obama will support the recognition of a Palestinian State the next time a Palestinian resolution is brought before the UN. He may do this by not using America’s veto power at the Security Council. This will open up the door to international legitimacy of the “State of Palestine” and cause greater friction between Israel and the Palestinians. In the future, it is expected that resolutions in all agencies of the UN will favor the Palestinians and pressure Israel into concessions, as the world looks to impose a solution on the Jewish State. Until there is a change in the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, Israel stands to lose credibility on a global level.
Furthermore, Obama will look to use leverage against Netanyahu in the peace process by threatening to decrease strategic defense relations with the Jewish State. Israel’s security stems largely from its military and intelligence capabilities. Already, the U.S. has accused Israel of spying on negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 nations, and has cut Israel off from any flow of information from those talks. Obama could look to further isolate Israel in matters that are important to Israel’s international security. He could withhold arms from Israel or delay arm shipments (as was reported to have happened during last summer’s Gaza War). While the White House continues to affirm that the U.S. “has Israel’s back” when it comes to supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, those words are shallow to concerned pro-Israel supporters. The U.S. does supply Israel with weapons that give it a Qualitative Military Edge (QME) over its enemies, but this situation could change. If the Netanyahu government is unwilling to offer concessions to the Palestinians in order to get back to the peace negotiating table, Obama could cut back on military support for the Jewish State.
WORSENING RELATIONS WITH THE EU AND CERTAIN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
The EU has already said it plans to take a more active role in the Middle East peace process. This is diplomatic language for pushing Israel into conceding to the Palestinians. The EU has recommended sanctions against Israel because of its settlement building in the West Bank. In addition, the EU has accused the Israeli government of increasing tensions in Jerusalem by its construction policy in the eastern part of the city. European leaders have already threatened more boycotts on Israeli products produced over the Green Line that come from settlement communities. Israelis can expect to see a greater increase in European divestment from Israel. Diplomatic relations with the EU and UN will continue to favor the Palestinians, as western leaders try to push the “land for peace” formula, while also painting Israel as an aggressor and oppressor of Palestinian rights.
The Palestinians are planning to go to the International Criminal Court in the coming months, accusing Israel of war crimes, and hoping the court will bring IDF soldiers to trial. In addition, they plan to bring a joint Palestinian/European resolution before the UN Security Council to gain more recognition for a Palestinian State. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will try to convince the world that he has the support of all Palestinians including those living in Gaza for the establishment of his state. It will appear that the Palestinians are united, including a technical government relationship with Hamas. Abbas will use every forum in the UN to come against Israel, diplomatically, while continuing to threaten a cut off from Israel in security cooperation. He will not join Netanyahu at the peace table unless Israel freezes settlement construction, which is unlikely to happen in a formal way if a right-leaning new Israeli government is in power.
While Netanyahu can assure Israelis that his focus will continue to be a secure Israel, he cannot guarantee the same safety for Jews living in the Diaspora. Because of Israel’s increased isolation among the nations, Europeans and Americans who are not prepared to make Aliyah will be facing more danger from anti-Semitic and anti-Israel terrorist actions in western societies.
Meanwhile, the IDF has been training its soldiers for future wars. Israeli military leaders worry about a new Iranian long-range missile that extends Iran’s strike capability, along with Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon.
Islamic State is looking to take over positions held by jihadists on Syrian’s Golan Heights border with Israel. Islamic State poses a threat to the Hashemite Kingdom, as well. Israel will be watchful of any encroachment on its eastern border with Jordan.
Hamas is remaking its rockets and fortifying its tunnels in Gaza for another confrontation with Israel.
Though Egypt has had some success in cracking down on radical elements in the Sinai, the IDF is preparing for a multi-pronged terrorist attack from there that could harm citizens in the southern Israeli coastal town of Eilat.
Hezbollah forces in Lebanon are now considered an extension of the Iranian army. Hezbollah remains a proxy for Iran in Lebanon and Syria. It continues to try and carry out attacks on Israelis who are traveling overseas. Its leader Sheikh Nasrallah has threatened to storm southern Lebanese villages in an offensive against Israel, and the IDF is preparing for such a scenario this year.
There’s been a deteriorating military situation in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). An increase in terrorist attacks is expected if there is no renewal of the peace process. As the Palestinians gain diplomatic influence and power in their struggle for a state they can expect to be emboldened to raise the level of violence against Israel.
Israel’s backdoor relations
A SILVER LINING
Israel’s backdoor relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States continues to improve as the Arabs fear a future confrontation with Iran. Israel has developed an unseen alliance with these nations due to failed U.S. foreign policy in the region. Confused by what is perceived to be a new U.S. diplomatic rapprochement with Iran, these nations are looking to Israel to protect them.
As the White House, the UN, and the EU back Israel into a corner, and isolation against the Jewish State increases on a global level, Israel will be reaching out for other alliances. Those countries that are willing to be a friend to the Jewish State will share in its advanced technology, brain power, business opportunities, and intelligence gathering. New emerging leaders who show an interest in Israel may be called on to stand by the Jewish nation when it has to confront its enemies. And, those relationships will be important if Israel temporarily loses the benefits of its strategic alliance with America.
When the Middle East boils over because of greater instability, Israel’s new friends will be expected to help the nation in its struggle to survive. It will be important to hold Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hand as he steers his new government through the storms that will keep coming to this volatile region.
“By this I know that You favor me, because my enemy does not triumph over me.” Psalm 41:11
(c) 2014 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.