Hundreds of members of the media from around the world started coming this week
to cover Tuesday’s Israeli election.
Based on what has been reported so
far, the foreign press parachuting in will seek interviews with Bayit Yehudi
leader Naftali Bennett, and attempt to portray the election in general and the
success of Bennett and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu specifically as an
indication that Israel is moving rightward.
But a true analysis of the
race indicates that such shallow impressions are far from true.
all, Bennett’s achievement in building Bayit Yehudi from three seats to the 13
predicted in Friday’s Smith Research/Jerusalem Post poll came because he
succeeded in attracting votes from the Center and many young, first-time
The new Bayit Yehudi supporters do not back the party because of
its hawkish stance on the Palestinians and the fate of Judea and Samaria.
Bennett, who received good advice from his strategist, makes a point of avoiding
talking about the Palestinians, who were never an issue in this election, or the
settlements, which only became an issue when Netanyahu tried to use
pronouncements about the West Bank to take votes away from Bennett.
new Bennett backers support Bayit Yehudi because its leader is a charismatic,
young hi-tech millionaire, who served in the elite Sayeret Matkal General
Reconaissance Unit, speaks Hebrew slang, and knows how to relate to Israelis
from many different backgrounds.
The things seen as the most consensus
issues in the United States are motherhood and apple pie. In Israel, motherhood
is championed and apple pie is too often pareve and tasteless, but the
equivalent consensus concepts are hi-tech and Sayeret Matkal.
Netanyahu is expected to win the race by a landslide, his Likud Beytenu has
dramatically fallen in the polls. The Right bloc has remained around the same 65
seats it won in the last election, not gaining any support at all from the
divided Center- Left.
There was a war in Gaza during the election
campaign, which inevitably creates a rally-around-the-flag effect of patriotism
that could have moved Israelis rightward.
Before that, there were
thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians and four years of Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refusing to come to the negotiating table.
That also could have understandably made Israelis more hawkish, but polls
indicate that it hasn’t.
So the way the foreign media should be summing
up the election so far is that Israel has apparently not gone Right, against all
But the true test of which direction Israel will take is the
coalition that Netanyahu is expected to form. Unlike last time when he formed a
coalition with one Center-Left party and four parties on the Right, Netanyahu is
expected to form a government with two Center-Left parties this time: most
likely Yesh Atid and Kadima.
The outgoing coalition has five seats from
The next one is expected to have 15.
If that happens,
the foreign press will have to parachute back to Israel to report on how Israel
did not end up moving rightward and why their reports before were so wrong.