Netanyahu Poised For Re-election As Prime Minister After Likud Victory In Israel Elections
Benjamin Netanyahu won the Israel election this week when, after a long and dramatic campaign, his Likud party defeated the Zionist Union in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Netanyahu Claims Victory In Israel Elections
The election was tentatively called late Tuesday nigh and early Wednesday morning after 99.5% of the ballots were counted. According to reports, the Likud Party won 29 or 30 of the 120 seats in Parliament, while the Zionist Union alliance trailed with 24. The Likud victory comes as surprise to many, with recent polls almost guaranteeing a loss for Netanyahu.
The Zionist Union, and its leader Isaac Herzog, had pushed hard against Netanyahu, accusing him of focusing more on international relations than the socio-economic issues facing the Israeli population.
Herzog also campaigned on a platform that promised increased peace talks with Palestine and Iran, which no doubt influenced Netanyahu’s last minute decision to campaign for the far right by focusing on Israeli security. Following his controversial speech at the U.S. Congress, in which he pleaded with the U.S. to not enter into any kind of agreement with Iran, Netanyahu publicly declared that, as long as he was Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish state would not acknowledge a Palestinian state, a reversal from his previous position.
Netanyahu Accused Of Racist Politics
Representatives of the Likud party also reportedly used anti-Arab language leading up to the election, which had many condemning Netanyahu for “racist” tactics.
In a video posted to his official Facebook page, Netanyahu reportedly warns his supporters against the leftist parties’ plans to increase Arab-Israeli voter turn out (Israel is about 20% Arab). “The right regime is in danger. We have an urgent wake-up call. Bring your friends, bring your family, vote for Likud,” Netanyahu said.
Following the election, Palestinian chief negotiator with Israel, Saeb Erakat, released a statement condemning Netanyahu’s campaign. “The results of the Israeli elections show the success of a campaign platform based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people,” said Erakat.
Netanyahu To Establish New Conservative Government
In light of his party’s victory, Netanyahu has released a statement announcing his intentions to create a new government as soon as possible. “The citizens of Israel rightfully expect that we will act quickly and responsibly to establish a leadership that will work for them in areas of defense, the economy and society just as we promised in this campaign – and just like we will now set ourselves towards doing,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
According to his statement, Netanyahu will be building a coalition with Naftali Bennett, a member of the pro-settlement Jewish Home, Moshe Kahlon of a center-right party, Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteniu, a strong nationalist party, and leaders of Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. The conservative coalition could result in Netenyahu holding a majority in Kinsset with 67 seats supporting him in Parliament. That said, Netanyahu has not officially been re-elected Prime Minister, but it appears all but certain.
Netanyahu Rejects Two-State Solution
Netanyahu’s new conservative government will likely have very strong effects on international politics. For example, Netanyahu’s abandonment of the two-state solution will no doubt put another strain on Israel’s relationship with the U.S., not to mention Palestine and the surrounding Arab countries.
“It has been the longstanding police of the United States that a two-state solution is the best way to address this conflict,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday. Earnest added that, in light of Netanyahu’s election, the US will be forced to “re-evaluate our approach” to the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The White House stressed that the election would not change their allied relationship with Israel, but government officials are encouraging Netanyahu to rethink his new position.
“Despite campaign rhetoric, Israel must pursue a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians. This is the only way to ensure Israel remains a secure, Jewish, democratic state,” wrote Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) in a statement.