Elections in Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Many analysts called this election a referendum on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after his nine nonconsecutive years as premier.
If that is the case, no matter whether Netanyahu or Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog forms the next government, Netanyahu won. Many, many people want him to remain the prime minister.
“Anyone but Bibi” was the theme of the past three months’ campaign on the Left.
“It’s us or him,” Zionist Union’s ads said over and over again, a specific reference to Netanyahu, while Likud went with “It’s us or them,” a more Right-or- Left choice, probably as a way to not elevate Herzog to Netanyahu’s level in campaign messaging.
“Bibi. You failed. Go home,” another Zionist Union slogan read.
Still, Netanyahu consistently polled in first place over the course of the election season, far ahead of Herzog and his Zionist Union deputy, Tzipi Livni, when polls asked who is the best fit for prime minister.
In Tuesday night’s exit polls, the Likud was in a dead heat with the Zionist Union, but Netanyahu’s party managed to increase its Knesset seats by an additional nine or 10. That’s a lot of people who wanted Bibi as prime minister.
Bayit Yehudi supporters wanted a Bibi victory so badly that they fled Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s party in droves to try to ensure Netanyahu would stay prime minister.
It’s also safe to assume that anyone who voted for Bayit Yehudi backed Netanyahu, since Bennett promised to recommend the Likud leader to the president.
Ychad, whose fate in relation to the electoral threshold was unclear at press time, made the same promise.
Shas also realized “Anyone but Bibi” was not picking up steam, and party chairman Arye Deri promised he would recommend Netanyahu to the president. And in the final days before the election, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman kept repeating that he is a member of the “nationalist camp,” code for: “It’s safe to vote for me, if you support Netanyahu.” Not that it seems to have helped him much.
That’s not necessarily a majority for Netanyahu, but the exit polls showed he got clearer support than Herzog did, when you put together the results for the Zionist Union and Meretz, the only party that promised to recommend Herzog. There is definitely a big bloc of people who said no to “Anyone but Bibi.”
Whether Netanyahu forms the next coalition and remains prime minister or not, one thing is patently clear: “Anyone but Bibi” turned out to be a fallacy.