Israelis Head to the Polls: 3 Facts to Know

Israeli voters--Jewish, Arab, and otherwise--have begun voting in that country's parliamentary elections. The 19th Knesset will almost certainly return Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power at the head of a coalition government led by his Likud Party, though the precise composition of that coalition remains unclear.

As the results come in on Tuesday, there are three facts to bear in mind that the U.S. media may overlook.

One is that the challenge posed by President Barack Obama is critical to the election--and Obama's "side" is likely to lose. As Barry Rubin of PJ Media observes, describing one of Netanyahu's left-wing rivals:

[Former Prime Minister Tzipi] Livni's ad has several shots of Obama, and one of her standing with expected Secretary of State John Kerry. They seem to argue that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas really wants peace, but Netanyahu blocked it. Perhaps this ad was designed by left-liberal American Jewish political consultants. It won’t go over well.

Part of Netanyahu's appeal is that he is willing to stand up to pressure from Obama. A report last week by American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that Obama thinks "Israel doesn't know what its best interests are" helped Netanyahu rally his supporters around the response that "we'll do what's best for Israel."

The second fact to remember is that Netanyahu's win is not a sign that Israel has become "far-right." As Lee Smith pointed out last week: "Israelis aren't right-wing radicals. They've just abandoned a delusion"--namely, the delusion that Palestinians want peace. Roughly two-thirds of Israelis support a two-state solution--and roughly two-thirds of Israelis are convinced it will not happen. Israel tried the path of compromise in the Oslo peace process of the 1990s; the Palestinians' response was the second intifada and a barrage of rockets.

The third fact to remember is that there is more to Israeli politics than the conflict with the Palestinians or the threat of a nuclear Iran. In other words: sometimes an election is just an election, where bread-and-butter matter. The Israeli economy is not in the best shape, but has avoided the worst of the tumult of the past few years, and Netanyahu's opponents have apparently failed to convince voters they would do a better job.


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