By MICHAEL FREUND, JPOST—
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement Tuesday night that new elections will be held early next year set off a predictable flurry of political activity. With the balloting set to be held in just three or four months, Knesset hopefuls face the daunting prospect of trying to get their message out to the general public in an unusually condensed time-frame.
But for all the clamor and clatter that we will surely be subjected to during the upcoming campaign, it will be difficult to escape the gnawing feeling that not very much will change the morning after the votes are counted.
After all, Netanyahu does not face any serious competition in the race for the premiership and is all but certain to return to the Prime Minister’s Office for a third term. And recent polls indicate that the parties comprising the current coalition will come back to parliament largely intact.
Indeed, much of the drama, however fleeting it might be, will take place largely among the irrelevant opposition, where Kadima is likely to splinter into pieces just as a meteor burns up when it returns to earth.
Yair Lapid, Tzipi Livni and perhaps even Ehud Olmert may try to build a center-left grouping to attract the Kadima disaffected, but ultimately this will hardly matter much over the next four years.
So just what, then, is there to get excited about? Should this election elicit little more than a collective yawn? Absolutely not! In fact, Israel is about to turn a new page, one that will be remembered as a political and national milestone for generations to come. Put simply, Netanyahu is about to make history by cementing the position of Israel’s Right as the leading political force in the country.
Over the past four years, he shattered the myth that the Left is the only responsible clique capable of wielding the reins of power. By successfully navigating the global economic crisis and deftly handling an increasingly hostile world, the prime minister has brought a steadiness and maturity to the administration of the affairs of state that several of his predecessors were sadly lacking. Consequently, he has instilled the public with a sense of confidence in the ability of a decidedly right-wing coalition to manage our national affairs.
This is no small feat, particularly in light of the hostile Israeli mainstream media, which seems to feel that the levers of power belong solely in the hands of their ideological comrades on the Left.
Remember how they used to paint the government as a band of extremists and religious zealots who could not be trusted to run a mini-market, let alone the country? Those empty smears have largely disappeared, for the simple reason that they do not resonate with an electorate that knows otherwise.
With the failure of the peace process and the demise of the delusion of a “two-state” solution to the Palestinian conflict, the Left is in decline and disarray.
Their dream of dividing the land of Israel has been shattered, and their belief in the false messiah of the Palestinian Authority has crashed hard on the rocks of reality. The Left is a spent political force whose only means of hijacking headlines nowadays is to protest the price of cucumbers and cottage cheese.
But breakfast is not a political platform, and that is why voters have abandoned it in droves.
As a result, the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jewish votes in the 2013 election will go to centrists (or leftists posing as centrists) and to the Right.
Netanyahu, then, has presided over a seismic political shift, deflating the significance of Israel’s Left even as he has bolstered the long-term fortunes of the Right. Sure, the man has his flaws and has made his share of mistakes, and a number of his policies have disappointed people on ideological and practical grounds. But he has fundamentally transformed the image of Israel’s Right, burnished its reputation and asserted its legitimacy.
A stronger Right means a prouder Israel, a nation that will put its interests first and not kowtow slavishly to the demands of its foes. It signifies a confidence and poise, an assertiveness and self-assurance that Israel sorely needs as it confronts myriad threats both at home and abroad.
For this reason alone, Netanyahu deserves another four years in power. No wonder, then, that the Israeli electorate is about to give him just that.