Israelis really wanted fairer social deal and fresh faces in charge
Newcomer: Naftali Bennett
The morning after the elections, Israelis were calling each other trying to find out whether they should be happy or upset with the results. Many voters wavered until the last moment and many others walked out of the ballot feeling that they had made a mistake.
Anyway, that is behind us, and a first look at the results gives room for hope. The decline of Likud Beiteinu means that the current conduct of the Israeli government, both in the peace arena and in the socio-economic sphere, cannot continue.
The Israelis wanted a change, and they said it loud and clear by removing almost half of the current Members of Knesset and introducing totally new faces, many of them young and talented women.
The surprise of the election — Yair Lapid’s 19-seat party Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) — indicates that those who had lamented the demise of the social unrest were mistaken. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis who had taken to the streets in 2011 eventually found their political voice.
With all due respect to Iran and the Palestinians, making a decent living is no less important.
Moreover, people have just had enough of the traditional state of affairs whereby the strictly Orthodox do not do military service or have jobs. Mr Lapid spoke for them, and they gave him their votes. He will not dare let them down.
So we should expect a government of Likud-Beiteinu and Yesh Atid (together: 50 seats), which will be augmented with more parties in order to establish a stable coalition.
Which parties exactly? That depends on the balance between socio-economic issues and the peace process. If the focus is on the former, then Labour and even Habayit Hayehudi can join. If the latter prevails, then Labour and Tzipi Livni will qualify. Israel will be better off in either direction.
The problem is that, for all the undeniable importance of social issues, security and the Palestinian question are still the Israeli priorities.
Any government will soon be challenged by a world that has become impatient with the settlements, and Mr Netanyahu’s new government partners will push for talks with the Palestinians.
It is hard to believe that he is capable of the same turnaround Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert made in the past.
The same goes for Iran. Mr Netanyahu made a vow not to allow a nuclear Iran, even if Israel has to deal with it itself. His new partners might insist that this is not only an Israeli problem, and that the US should take the lead.
Whatever happens, best of luck to the new government. Do not be surprised if it falls in the coming two years. By then, Israeli voters will probably have made another attempt to make their politicians respond to their real needs.