Yes, on Tuesday a national election for the Knesset, Israel's parliament, was held. The election made headline news. And, yes, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Bibi as he is called by friend and foe alike, will form the next government.
Israel is a rich and vibrant democracy — but it is not a democracy like the United States. Israel is a parliamentary democracy more like Canada and the United Kingdom. In Israel, no single candidate runs for prime minister and no Israeli casts their vote for a candidate.
Israelis vote for parties and the leader of the party with the most realistic chance of forming a coalition of over half the Knesset, or sixty plus one, of the one hundred and twenty seats is asked to form a government. When that task is accomplished, that party leader becomes prime minister.
This election was watched closely by Americans. And it was filled with drama, intrigue, and a deluge of misinformation. Understandably — and just as incorrectly, U.S. citizens insisted on referring to the election as an election for prime minister. It makes for a much more dramatic backdrop when candidates battle it out than when whole parties vie for position.
There was no name on any Israeli voting ballot. Actually, there is not even a roster of names of Israeli voting ballots. In Israel, the ballots resemble thin, almost tissue paper like, monopoly money. Each party has a designated color and symbol. The symbol is either a group of Hebrew letters or a single Hebrew letter representing a party. Voters carefully pick up one, single, thin piece of paper and put it in an envelope. That is how they choose their party.
That's the background, now for the brass tacks.
I must be absolutely certain that this is absolutely clear: There was never any doubt that Bibi Netanyahu would form the next Israeli government. Never. No doubt. Anyone who predicted otherwise was either ignorant of how Israeli politics works or a party hack.
Even if Benny Gantz, the man pitted as Netanyahu's contender, the former head of Israel's Defense Forces and leader of the Blue & White Party had gained a clear plurality over Bibi and his Likud party, his party could never have formed a coalition of sixty to govern.
It was mathematically impossible.
Haaretz, the left wing Israeli newspaper, ran an editorial terrorizing its readers by writing that if Netanyahu were to win, Israelis would be voting in a fascist. I call it irresponsible journalism. Bibi Netanyahu is not a fascist. Bibi Netanyahu is right of center. And so is — and this is why the outcome was always inevitable — the majority of Israel.
Here is the math tally for the Center Left: Remember, a party needs sixty seats to govern, sixty plus one for a plurality. Blue & White got 35 seats. Labor got 6. Meretz got 4. Those are the big three parties representing the Israeli left. They are the only parties that can ideologically join with Blue & White. That brings the total to only 45 — not 55 (which still is not enough) as so many people are claiming.
So where does the 55 number come from? From two Arab groups of parties that received a total of 10 seats. To grab on to that possibility is to wish upon a star. No Arab party would join a coalition and no Israeli party would govern with Arab parties in their coalition.
In a few weeks' time the Likud coalition, with Netanyahu as prime minister, will form a coalition of 65 seats, maybe even 69 seats. Even had Blue & White trounced Likud, the Likud party would have still received 35 seats on its own and the requisite number of seats from other right wing parties would have put them — not the Gantz party — over the top. And when Gantz failed in forming a strong and large enough coalition, Netanyahu would be asked to pick up the mantle and form a government.
It happened to Netanyahu and Likud once before, in February of 2009. Bibi was asked to form a coalition — some say cobble together a coalition, and create a government when his party did not win a plurality and was the party with the second largest number of votes.
At the time Tzipi Livni, the leader of the Kadima party (and a former high ranking Likud member), won the plurality with one more seat than the Likud and Bibi. Israel's then-President Shimon Peres passed over Livni and asked Bbi to form the government. It was a no brainer and everyone knew it. There was no way that Kadima and Livni, a moderate break-off from Likud, could create a governing coalition.
The election is over and the votes have been counted. Now Israel's current President Rivlin will meet with the heads of all 12 parties that won Knesset seats. He will ask them who they think can create a stable coalition and whether they would join that government. The question is rhetorical.
President Reuven Rivlin will ask Benjamin Bibi Netanyahu to form a coalition. Bibi will have 28 days to create his government. If he needs a little more time he can request another 14 days. If he does not succeed the president will ask someone else to form a government.
But that is not going to happen.
When historians write about Israel's prime ministers, two names will stand out. David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, and Bibi Netanyahu, Israel's longest seated prime minister.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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