Benjamin Netanyahu is truly a magician. Just this past Friday, most polls indicated that his Likud party would likely receive around 21 seats in the Israeli Knesset, four seats less than Yitzhak (Bougie) Herzog’s Zionist Camp (Labor Party’s new name). Revelations of corruption at the Prime Minister’s residence followed by a damning comptroller report about the real estate crisis, alongside industrial downsizing, union strikes, predictions of a weakening economy, a diplomatic stalemate, and increasing international isolation all seemed to indicate that Netanyahu was on his way out. But just when it seemed that the Zionist camp would replace the nationalist camp, the crafty campaigner began pulling rabbits out of his hat.
As if his decision to alienate the Obama Administration over the Iran negotiations was not enough, Netanyahu began pandering to the right by notifying the world that Palestinians were destined to remain stateless since he no longer believed in the creation of another Arab state alongside Israel. He presented the Likud party as the victims of a leftist media conspiracy aimed at ousting the right-wing government, while conveniently ignoring that his ally Sheldon Adelson owned Yisrael Hayom, Israel’s most widely circulated paper. He entreated his voters to return “home” promising to address their economic needs. And on Election Day itself, he frightened the Jews by declaring that Israel’s Palestinian citizens were rushing to the polls in droves, thus presenting Palestinians who cast votes for their own representatives as an existential threat.
Pandering and fear mongering together with hatred for Arabs and the left are the ingredients of Netanyahu’s secret potion, and it now appears that many voters were indeed seduced. Within a matter of a few days Netanyahu garnered almost ten additional seats for his party, cannibalizing two of his extreme right allies: Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinuand Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi. Owing to his magic, the Likud did much better than expected, and together with the ultra-Orthodox parties and a new party recently formed by a former Likud minister, Kulanu (All of US), an extreme right wing bloc with 67 out of 120 seats will almost certainly be created (and this even before the soldier’s votes have been calculated, which are usually right of center).