WASHINGTON – US media outlets around the country reported Wednesday on the
“surprise” outcome of Israel’s election, with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s Likud faring poorly and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid scoring 19 Knesset
seats to take second place.
Perhaps there was no better sign of how
unanticipated the outcome was than the difficulty American journalists had
pronouncing Lapid’s name and that of his party.
made for some Twitter chatter and other public ribbing, but highlight the more
serious fact that Lapid is a political novice who has had extremely little
exposure in the United States. Some have compared him to US President Barack
Obama after his first campaign for president – a charismatic, fresh face with
wide popular appeal, but an unknown figure who might be shouldering outsized
The dominant theme, however, was how the outcome left
Netanyahu diminished both domestically and potentially
The headline on the front page of The Wall Street
Journal was typical: “Israel Vote Weakens Premier.” The wide anticipation in the
US is that Netanyahu will be forming a more moderate coalition, which could
potentially help smooth the rocky relationship between Netanyahu and Obama – or
at least force the prime minister to be more conciliatory.
blogger and frequent Israel critic Andrew Sullivan wrote a post titled “Obama 1;
“Over the last four years, Netanyahu has won almost every
single tactical victory over the American president,” Sullivan wrote. “But
strategically, Obama now has the upper hand, especially after his recent
statement that Israel was not doing what is in its best interests did not
backfire in Israel and may even have helped undermine Netanyahu.”
other American commentators have also highlighted Obama’s recent criticism of
Netanyahu and assessed that had a role in the premier’s poor
Few, however, have equated it to interfering in the election, as
many suggested Netanyahu had done in favor of Republican candidate Mitt Romney,
when he slammed US policy on Iran during the presidential campaign.
in the US have also begun to predict that the new coalition will not last long
given the competing ideologies, personalities and weak Likud anchor. But since
they were surprised by Tuesday’s result, there’s a possibility that Israeli
politics will shock again when it comes to the next election.