The World-Wide Media’s Mis-characterization of Israel’s Election Results

March 19, 2015

[The following is a letter I received from a friend, Glenn L. Krinsky, a long-time progressive Zionist, who I believe accurately, corrects the media’s mis-characterization about the meaning of the 2015 Israeli election. I am posting this by permission. Glenn L. Krinsky is a law partner in Jones Day – One Firm Worldwide in the Los Angeles office. I add some reflections following Glenn’s email.]

“It's just amazing how the worldwide media, including the Israeli media, have so vastly mischaracterized the election results. 

In 2013, Bibi prostituted himself to Lieberman, and their combined Likud/Yisrael Beitenu slate won 31 seats. Naftali Bennett's then-new party, Habayit HaYehudi, won 12 seats. So Bibi/Lieberman/Bennett won 43 seats.

This year, Bibi purposely shifted to the extreme right to cannibalize votes from Lieberman and Bennett to ensure that Likud was the largest single vote-getter and would be asked to form the coalition. The strategy succeeded in the sense that Bennett went from 12 to 8 and Lieberman was marginalized down to 6. But note, this year the Bibi/Lieberman/Bennett trio got 44 seats, only one more than 2 years ago.

What happened to the center/left? In 2013,Yesh Atid won 19 seats (but sold out and went into Bibi's coalition). This year Yesh Atid got 11 (a decrease of 8). Labor went from 21 (15 for Labor plus 6 for Livni's Hatnuah party) to 24, and Meretz went from 6 to 5. So, these parties won 46 seats in 2013 and only 40 in 2015.

Where did the other six seats go? Not to the right, since we saw that they went only from 43 to 44. Instead, they went to Kahlon (the former Likud-nik who moved from the right to the center) who got 10 seats, whereas in 2013, the former Likud-nik who moved from the right to the center–Shaul Mofaz–got only 2 seats. In other words, the 'we want change but don't want Labor or Livni' vote stayed right at 21 seats (in 2013, 19 for Yesh Atid + 2 for Mofaz; in 2015, 11 for Yesh Atid + 10 for Kahlon).

The Arab parties went from 11 to 13 (because of the drawing power in 2015 of the 3 Arab parties consolidating into one joint list), and the ultra-Orthodox went from 18 to 13 (due to the split in Shas, which went from 11 to 7 seats since Yishai's half of Shas barely missed the threshold which would have given it 4 seats, which would have matched exactly Shas' 2013 results when added to Deri's half of Shas in 2015). 

So, it's clear that, with minor variations (the largest being Kahlon's showing), the 2015 results are strikingly similar to the 2013 results.

The real story in 2015 was one of 'expectations versus results.' The opinion polls showed Herzog pulling away from Bibi in the last week, and everyone was conditioned for a Zionist Union victory. Instead, Bibi went so far to the right that far right-wingers didn't feel the need to vote for Bennett or Lieberman. As set forth above, the right-wing trio merely went from 43 to 44. But Bibi took enough votes away from Bennett and Lieberman that Likud far outstripped Herzog/Livni as the largest party, which the media are characterizing as a 'resounding' or 'striking' win when it's merely a reflection of Likud moving so far to the right that it cannibalized votes from Bennett and Lieberman.”

As I indicated, I believe Glenn has interpreted the election correctly. He alludes to the final weekend of the campaign in which PM Netanyahu appealed to the worst in the Israeli character. His racist and demagogic disenfranchisement of 20% of Israeli citizenry represented by the Arab population inside the Green Line has done serious damage not only to his credibility as the Prime Minister of all Israeli citizens, but his appeal to fear and hate is unbecoming to the nation state of the Jewish people.

Further, Bibi’s rejection this last weekend of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sadly conforms to what many of us knew to be the truth even after the Prime Minister's speech in 2009 at Bar Ilan University in which he said that he supported a two-state solution.

Reports emerged following the break-down in the American sponsored Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that Tzipi Livni, who served as Israel’s chief negotiator, was constantly undermined and second-guessed by Bibi’s lawyer who sat in (on orders of the PM) on every negotiation session and made Livni’s work next to impossible. In truth, as Bibi revealed to settlers after his Bar Ilan speech, he never intended to make a deal with the Palestinians for a state of their own in west bank territories.

Now, the challenge will be for all of us who love Israel, to continue to love her and support her, even as we insist that Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state depends on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In truth, there is no other solution to this conflict, and we American ohavei m’dinat Yisrael have to join with half of Israel’s population in supporting them in advocating for an end to the conflict which will not only be in Israel's best interest internally, but internationally as well.

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