More losers than winners

More losers than winners

A defiant Benjamin Netanyahu, told his supporters Wednesday that he ought to form the next government of Israel because given the victories of right-wing parties, he has the best chance to succeed.
He may very well be correct, but let’s not get carried away here.
Make no mistake, Tuesday’s national election in Israel was a huge disappointment for Netanyahu and his Likud Party. For most of the three-week campaign, necessarily shortened by the fighting in Gaza, “Bibi,” as his supporters call him, was presumed to be the front-runner and likely winner of the race.
All that changed as a higher-than-expected turnout of Israeli voters delivered one of the most surprising results in the country’s political history.
Result: Bibi may be best positioned to form a government, but he has no clear mandate to take the country in a new
direction, which is what he truly wanted. On balance, you have to call Netanyahu a loser in this election.
So is Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Political observers were crowning him the new kingmaker in Israel prior to the election, considering his party a surging political force in Israel, riding a tidal wave of new conservative opinion among the voters.
Some tidal wave. Yisrael Beiteinu inched, not surged, from 11 seats to 14 in the Knesset. Mazel tov to Avigdor on his gains, but they hardly signify the groundswell of new support he was counting on.
Another loser is Moshe Feiglin, the far-right anti-Arab Likud member whose faction was marginalized by Netanyahu during the primary. With Lieberman on the scene, right-wing Israelis have a choice now that will obviously cost Feiglin support within his power base.
Labor Party leader Ehud Barak is the big loser. His party dropped from 18 to 13 seats and will go into opposition. The loss will probably cost Barak his job as party leader in the next primary.
And yes, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni is a loser, too. Despite her impressive come-from-behind win over Netanyahu, she only holds a razor thin lead in Knesset seats and still faces the same hurdles to forming a government as she did late last year when she tried, and failed, to do so.
So what do all these losers tell us? Israeli politics is murkier than ever, it will be all but impossible to take the country in a new direction, and the peace process will suffer, as will Israelis and those Palestinians who want peace. Elections like these are hardly worth celebrating.