It was a fitting end to the wild and wooly elections in Israel, as Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party scored big victories yesterday. Despite woefully inaccurate exit polling data indicating Netanyahu would suffer defeat by rival Isaac Herzog, the incumbent Prime Minister held on, pulling out all of the stops to secure victory. Noteworthy incidents on the campaign trail, including a controversial address to the U.S. Congress and a videotaped endorsement by American celebrity Chuck Norris, kept Netanyahu in the public eye during the final crucial weeks heading into the elections in Israel.
But along his path to victory, Netanyahu’s emotionally charged campaign rhetoric and ideological posturing seems to have upset some of his constituents and geopolitical allies. Of particular concern to many is Netanyahu’s apparent abandonment of a two-state solution to the Palestinian question. According to the Washington Post, Netanyahu seemingly reversed his longstanding support for a two-state solution during an interview with online news site on the eve of the elections in Israel.
“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” he said in the video interview. “Anyone who ignores this is sticking his head in the sand. The left does this time and time again … We are realistic and understand.”
The Washington Post added that when he was directly asked if he specifically rejected the establishment of a Palestinian statement, Netanyahu answered, “Yes.”
The abrupt about-face by Netanyahu followed other controversial comments in which the Prime Minister appealed to nationalist sentiments to improve voter turnout by his supporters. According to Politico, Netanyahu publicly appealed to his supporters to bring friends and family to the polls as a countermeasure against increased voter turnout by Arab Israelis.
“The right-wing government is in danger,” Netanyahu said in a video in posted on his Facebook page. “Get out to vote, bring your friends and family, vote Likud in order to close the gap between us and ‘Labor.’ ”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu also made allegations of foreign interference in the elections in Israel, claiming that Arab parties in Israel were receiving financial assistance that aided their campaign to unseat the Likud Party. A spokesperson for a unified Israeli Arab party condemned the remarks as racist.
As the dust settles, Netanyahu may have to reign in his rhetoric to calm feelings of resentment on the part of his electorate and his allies, both at home and abroad. The Wall Street Journal reports that Arab Israelis constitutes the country’s largest minority, comprising around 20 percent of the country’s eight million residents. In the midst of heightened tensions due to the rise of ISIS and ongoing concerns regarding Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology, the politics of intrigue that manifested in the midst of elections in Israel appear to have yielded new feelings of discontent and alienation to an already tumultuous region.
[Photo by Sebastian Scheiner-Pool/Getty Images]