Why Bibi Netanyahu won in Israel

The Israeli election results stunned the left.

"Benjamin Netanyahu's win in Israel's latest election has drawn a muted response from the U.S. as policymakers wrestle with the implications for foreign policy in the Middle East," wrote Fox News in its story lede.

"In the days leading up to the election, politicians from the left were pleading with voters to please, please help save their parties.  In Israel, this has become known as a gevalt campaign — Yiddish for 'Help!'" wrote the New Yorker in its nut graf.

They were dazed in the 1977, 1981, 1996, and 2015 elections, and now in 2022.  They demonized Netanyahu, smeared Likud-supporters as "dark forces" and the "poison camp," and warned that a Likud victory would be a disaster. 

However, a clear majority of Israeli voters, known as the nationalist camp led by Likud, is confident and proud of our faith, homeland, and state after close to 4,000 years of Jewish history.  Suffering abuse, they chose to take a stand.

The left has sidelined the Zionist dream, alienated itself from the Land of Israel ethos, marginalized the traditions of our people, and challenged the sacred solidity of the family.  They did this while strutting about and morally posturing in favor of a Palestinian state on the borders of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion airport.  How stupid can you be?

The left lost the election not only because the cost-of-living index soared, normative government conduct went awry, and the Biden administration–brokered gas deal with Hezb'allah was a shameful act of capitulation.

Under the premiership of Israel's current leftist leaders, Naftali Bennett and Itamar* Lapid, the Arabs went wild — extremists among them declared open season on the Jews!  As in New York and Los Angeles, there have been antisemitic attacks on Jews in Israel.  These criminal, violent, and terroristic attacks are not just antisemitic; they specifically target the state of the Jews.  Whether we know it or not, we are in the midst of a war here in Israel, and the Israeli state under the left's leadership lost its grip on the security of its citizens.

The Arab war against the Jews included acts of arson, theft, extortion racketeering ("protection"), harassment, and murder.  Its arsenal included knives, rocks, guns, and cars; its driving force is Islamism and Palestinian nationalism; its goal has been to spread fear among Jews and catalyze their flight from the country.  The Jews are now victims, based on attacks ranging from those on Akko in the north to Beersheba in the south.  Arab bullets have cut down Israeli soldiers and civilians.  Arab arrogance and bellicosity have been seen everywhere.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who is an outsider to the drama of Israel's momentous renaissance, deplored the result of this election in a post-election opinion piece titled "The Israel We Knew Is Gone."

Here are his panicked first three paragraphs:

Imagine you woke up after the 2024 U.S. presidential election and found that Donald Trump had been re-elected and chose Rudy Giuliani for attorney general, Michael Flynn for defense secretary, Steve Bannon for commerce secretary, evangelical leader James Dobson for education secretary, Proud Boys former leader Enrique Tarrio for homeland security head and Marjorie Taylor Greene for the White House spokeswoman.

"Impossible," you would say. Well, think again.

As I've noted before, Israeli political trends are often a harbinger of wider trends in Western democracies — Off Broadway to our Broadway. I hoped that the national unity government that came to power in Israel in June 2021 might also be a harbinger of more bipartisanship here. Alas, that government has now collapsed and is being replaced by the most far-far-right coalition in Israel's history. Lord save us if this is a harbinger of what's coming our way.

He could also moan that the Sweden and Italy we know are gone, after rightist conservative parties recently swept the left from power, but he hasn't quite said that.  On Israel, Friedman is full of nonsense.  Netanyahu's future Cabinet is not "a nightmare," and Israel is not entering a "dark tunnel," as Friedman put it.  The Israelis voted to punish a failed government that was unable to assure personal security throughout the country.  They did the normal thing that citizens do in a democracy: they threw out the scoundrels.

Because fantasies of co-existence, equality, and harmony befuddle the liberal left, the right must come to the rescue.

In Israel, the right looks reality in the eye.  It is in touch with the past and armed with an integral identity.  It is guided by interests and not ideals.  It recognizes that force may be necessary in place of words.  Ronald Reagan used the phrase "peace through strength" against the Soviet Union, and it worked.

This mentality catapulted Netanyahu back to power, and it wasn't surprising.  With fear lurking everywhere, Netanyahu aroused hope in many Israelis, while his coalition partner, Itamar Ben-Gvir, running on the Religious Zionist ticket, may be the man of the hour.  They have both become symbols and a voice at this critical moment in history.

Dr. Mordechai Nisan is the author of The Crack-Up of the Israeli Left (Mantua Books, 2019).

Image: Amos Ben Gershom, Israeli Government Press Office via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

*Correction: Due to an editing error, Itamar Ben-Gvir's first name was misstated.

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