Why Bibi?

This is inevitably directed to non Israelis. Those of us living in Israel know why Bibi won. The following selection may help understand what happened.

First, a key quote from a fine, if somewhat sharp edged, piece by Haviv Rettig Gur at the Times of Israel, pointing out why the turnout for Bibi was so high:

“Why did turnout rise so dramatically? Simple: the majority of the Israeli electorate continues to distrust the left’s judgment. It is a trust deficit rooted in a more general distrust of Palestinian intentions, of the Obama White House and other touchstones of left-wing policy. In hindsight, it may be one of the bitter ironies of this campaign that Labor’s own slogan, “It’s us or him,” may have done as much to guarantee Netanyahu victory as anything Netanyahu may have done.”

Read it all, here.

Blogger Treppenwitz‘s analysis includes this:

“Israelis don’t like to be told what to do (and what not to do). From traffic laws to the laws of physics, Israelis delight in finding creative work arounds… largely (IMHO) so they can say say, “You’re not the boss of me!”.

So, predictably, the carefully orchestrated smear campaign from the left-leaning Israeli media… the well planned snub campaign by the Obama adminstration… the relentless blamestorming on the part of nearly every Israeli politician who would stand to gain by Netanyahu’s defeat… all had the opposite of the desired effect.

In fact, it is my firm conviction that many of the people who voted for the Likud (and by extension, Netanyahu), might not have done so had they not been incessantly scolded for the ‘sin’ of having tolerated this monster for so long. And many others, who in a less charged atmosphere might not have even voted; having opted to go shopping or hiking on the election day holiday, took a sudden interest in what they were reading in the press, and decided to find out for themselves.”

Read it all, here.

Jonathan S Tobin‘s contribution at Commentary, concludes as follows:

“Even some of Israel’s friends in the United States may be asking themselves how is it possible for the Jewish state’s voters to give a majority to parties that are unlikely to agree to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. The answer is that unlike most Americans, Israel’s voters have been paying attention to the history of the conflict over the past 20 years and know that Herzog was no more likely to create a Palestinian state than Netanyahu. Nor is it fair to brand Netanyahu, who did not denigrate the right of Arabs to vote, a racist. There is no comparison between the efforts of minorities to vote in Western democracies or the United States and the desire of the Arab parties to destroy Israel. That’s because the Palestinian leadership, split between Hamas and Fatah, has consistently refused peace offers that would have given them independence. Most Israelis would like a two-state solution to happen but they know that under the current circumstances any withdrawal from the West Bank might duplicate the disastrous retreat from Gaza in 2005. Though Western journalists mocked Netanyahu’s comments about wanting to prevent a “Hamasistan” in the West Bank, the voters in Israel largely agreed.

That doesn’t make them racist or extreme. It means they are, like most Americans, realists. They may not like Netanyahu but today’s results demonstrates that there is little support for a government that would make the sort of concessions to the Palestinians that President Obama would like. They rightly believe that even if Israel did make more concessions it would only lead to more violence, not peace. Israel’s foreign critics and friends need to understand that in the end, it was those convictions have, for all intents and purposes, re-elected Netanyahu.”

Read it all, here.

Finally, my own perspective.

I’ve already said I did not want Bibi to win. I don’t think he has handled the situation with the Palestinians (or the Americans) well. He has not done enough to confront the socio-economic issues that the less well off face, daily. I don’t think he is corrupt, but he doesn’t do enough to clean up politics. And, I fear he is going to undo the sharing of the burden and give the cowardly, parasitical haredim a free ride.

However, much of the bile and venom directed towards him, whether toned down in sneering editorials or opinion pieces at the Guardian, the Economist, or the New York Times, or given full vent elsewhere, is flat out wrong. Much of it is an ancient hate, redecorated; there are many out there who hate Bibi precisely because he has been so good at protecting the people of Israel and fighting for them. Bibi does not play the game the way others want him to. (Bibi sometimes overdoes it, for sure.)

And it appears to me that many Israelis do not see an alternative to fight their corner. (I might see Bennett or Lapid as being well able, but I am definitely in the minority!) So, if your country is constantly under attack, who are you going to want to be your representative? A unity government doesn’t do it in such circumstances.

Here’s a hint for Obama. As much as Bibi sometimes get it wrong, you have got it wrong much worse, and much more often. While Bibi is partly to Blame, you Obama have been the one spreading fuel on the flames. Instead, you should have reined in Kerry and Indyk, and worked to get Bibi onside. It could have been done, but you blew it. Your compromise is seen as weakness. In this part of the world, that’s fatal.

[As an aside, I regret that I have difficulty in seeing much of what Obama does and says towards and about Bibi and Israel as other than immature, petty, and irresponsible. But maybe that’s just me. I wonder if Bibi will be invited to Obama’s retiral party…]

So, Bibi won because there was no credible alternative.

If the Left are to win next time around, or have any prospect of getting Bibi out, they have to promote a meaningful alternative. Probably someone younger, slicker, and sharper.

Alternatively, they have to hope that Israel is not still seen as fighting a hostile outside world.

Hmmm. If I was on the left, I’d be looking for that young alternative!