As we went to press on Tuesday night there were no definitive results that would indicate whether Prime Minister Netanyahu or Gen. Benny Gantz would have the stronger call on the most seats in forming a governing coalition. The first exit polls showed that Likud and the Blue and White party each had 32 seats, with Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc having an edge of 56 seats over 54 seats for center-left-Arab bloc led by Gantz. The Knesset has 120 seats, meaning 61 votes are needed for a majority.
But there is something very perplexing about the election. Pre-election polls all predicted a very tight race. And this has so far proven to be accurate. Yet the Gantz election platform is virtually the same as Netanyahu’s, which is effectively a vote of confidence in the latter. Why then would so many want to turn Netanyahu out of office?
Several commentators have pointed to Netanyahu’s alleged ethical challenges as the core of the disaffection. Yet it is precisely Netanyahu’s personal relationship with President Donald Trump that undoubtedly played a significant role in the several startling developments since Trump’s election.
We have in mind the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation there of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv. And then there were the American recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan, the closing of the PLO “Consulate” in Washington, the strict enforcement of restrictions on aid to the Palestinians over their violations of American law, and more than tilting toward Israel on the issues of retention of the Jewish areas in the West Bank and the overall notion of a two-state solution.
These all were on Israel’s longtime wish list but came to fruition on both the President’s and Prime Minister’s watch. Of course Israelis must make their own choice. But from where we sit, the choice of Netanyahu over Gantz should have been a no-brainer.