Celebrations at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
What a remarkable turn of events. After months of unprecedented media attacks and unflattering polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from Tuesday’s elections with a victory as resounding as it was incontestable.
You could almost hear the man in the White House yell in exasperation from across the ocean as the results came in throughout the night and the Likud’s lead continued to grow.
US President Barack Obama’s certain dismay at the outcome was exceeded perhaps only by that of the leftwing media, which could barely contain its shock at the realization that Israel’s voters have minds of their own and refuse to march to their monotonous drumbeat.
Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who endured unparalleled assaults on her character and reputation, are the clear winners of this electoral slugfest, defying the odds to lay claim to an unambiguous and decisive electoral triumph. All the hatred and vitriol directed their way, all the slander and sarcasm that was heaped upon them simply boomeranged, resulting in greater sympathy for the Netanyahus rather than less. In their obsession to drive Netanyahu from office, the critics and cynics overplayed their hand, pushing still more voters to side with the premier.
The Likud’s success at the polls owed much to the brilliant campaign strategy that was implemented in the final week preceding the vote. Overseen by former journalist Nir Hefetz, the campaign effectively utilized Netanyahu’s time and talents, maintained solid message discipline, and sparked a strong turnout among the party’s traditional voters.
After weeks of sustained criticism, the campaign achieved its objectives far beyond most observers’ wildest expectations, and Hefetz deserves a great deal of credit for masterminding the positive outcome.
But the biggest winner of all, the true champion of these elections, was neither a candidate nor even a party on the ballot. It was, quite simply, the Land of Israel. The fact is that the surge of support for the Likud and Netanyahu in the final days leading up to the polls coincided with his renewed emphasis on preserving the integrity of our ancient homeland.
Netanyahu delivered a powerful speech at the rightwing pre-election rally in Tel Aviv earlier this week, spoke out against the establishment of a Palestinian state and reaffirmed his commitment to expanded Jewish housing construction in eastern Jerusalem. By reaffirming his fidelity to the Land of Israel, Netanyahu won over many right-wing voters who might otherwise have cast their ballots for other parties.
Standing strong for the land of our forefathers, and refusing to countenance additional withdrawals, has once again proven itself to be a winning platform in Israel’s elections. Though they are loath to admit it, the Left was, is and will remain a minority, albeit a noisy and troublesome one.
Take for example Meretz, which has been the cheerleader of compromise and capitulation throughout the years. The party barely squeaked past the minimum electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset, and its leader, Zehava Gal-On, resigned in despair.
The tale of Labor, which ran under the “Zionist Union” moniker, is not much different. Despite the millions of dollars that were reportedly funneled in from abroad to help its campaign, and a slavish media that served as its propaganda arm, the party came in a distant second and will now have to lick its wounds in the opposition.
If all goes well, Netanyahu will form a solid right-wing and religious coalition in the coming weeks with a healthy 66- or 67-seat majority in the Knesset.
The prime minister has received a clear mandate from the people of Israel to build and strengthen Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem, and it behooves him to move quickly on this front. A good first step would be for the new government to adopt the July 2012 Levy Report, which was authored by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy.
The report concluded that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is fully legal under international law and that the Jewish state has every right to build Jewish communities in the area. It also spelled out guidelines as to how to do so. Adoption of the report and its findings would send a clear and firm message to the world that the age of retreat is over and the era of renewed building and settlement is at hand. In addition, freeing up construction throughout the territories by issuing tenders for thousands of new homes would greatly impact the supply and price of available housing, thereby helping to address one of the public’s greatest economic and social concerns.
Netanyahu now has four more years to bolster and strengthen the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, tackle the Iranian nuclear threat and bring down the cost of living at home. Of course, it won’t be easy. He faces a hostile administration in Washington, growing anti-Israel sentiment in Europe as well as Palestinian rejectionism in Gaza and Ramallah. But the Left has been soundly defeated, and the people of Israel have spoken loudly and clearly: they want to see this land grow, flourish and prosper. And they have given Netanyahu the authority to do just that.
So let’s fill the hills of Samaria and the cities of Judea with Jews and give the people what they want. After all, that is what democracy is about.