Lapid who? US media report on Israeli elections

Popular blogger and frequent Israel critic Andrew Sullivan writes post titled “Obama 1; Netanyahu 0.”

January 24, 2013 02:00
1 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama 370 (R). (photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)


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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.

The mispronunciations 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 expectations.

The dominant theme, however, was how the outcome left Netanyahu diminished both domestically and potentially internationally.

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.

Popular blogger and frequent Israel critic Andrew Sullivan wrote a post titled “Obama 1; Netanyahu 0.”

“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.”

Several other American commentators have also highlighted Obama’s recent criticism of Netanyahu and assessed that had a role in the premier’s poor showing.

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.

Many 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.

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