On Tuesday morning, with 97 percent of the vote in, it appears that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won a big re-election in a contentiously contested campaign. Now that the Israeli elections have taken place, the U.S. presidential election could prove to be a monumental shift in policy, depending on who wins in November.
This time 71 percent of the registered voters turning out to vote, which was up from 69.8 percent in September’s election despite predictions of voter apathy. This was the third election in less than a year and aimed to end the political stalemate. Over 200,000 people who didn’t vote in September turned out to vote this time, including even nearly 5,800 people who are quarantined due to the coronavirus, according to the Jerusalem Post.
However, voter turnout in Tel Aviv was way down. This was an area where Netanyahu’s opponent Bennie Gantz was out in the streets with a megaphone, begging people to get out and vote.
Netanyahu won 59 seats in the election, which is down by one from the 60 predicted in the initial exit polls. The new prediction leaves him two seats short of holding the majority in the Knesset.
The only votes remaining to be cast are those of IDF soldiers and absentee ballots, however, the military tends to lean to the right, which may swing another seat to Netanyahu’s Likud Party. But, if the party doesn’t obtain the 61st seat, then Netanyahu will be forced once again to form a coalition government. If it comes to this, though, he is expected to succeed in forming one this time, contrary to December 2018, when he was heading a “caretaker government.”
However, Israeli voters have spoken and they trust his government more than Gantz’s even though the Prime Minister is facing a corruption trial in just two weeks. Netanyahu is expected to appear in a Jerusalem court on March 17 to face charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three major cases.
In his victory party in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu told the cheering crowd, that this victory was sweeter than the first due to its difficulty: “We stood in front of strong forces. They told us we are going to lose, that it was the end of the Netanyahu era,” he said. “We turned lemons into lemonade.”
With the Trump Peace Plan, he got the support he wanted from the current U.S. administration. And he will probably move forward with his plan to build settlements east of Jerusalem. The plan would almost completely encircle Palestinian areas in the holy, but very divided, city.
Netanyahu back in April, said he would annex all current settlements, and in September he promised to go even further, stating that Israel would claim sovereignty over a third of the entire West Bank.
Hamas, the ruling Palestinian party, rejected the Trump Peace Plan before it was even published, as leaning far toward Israel. But how far will the United States continue to back Netanyahu and Israel in the future?
If Trump is re-elected, little would change. The Democratic front-runner (for now) is Bernie Sanders but former Vice President Joe Biden is gaining support.
Sanders, himself a Jew and who lived for a short while in Israel during the 60s, has said that he wouldn’t attend the March 1-3 AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) policy conference, because it “provides a platform for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights,” and called Netanyahu a “reactionary racist.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, speaking at the AIPAC convention in Washington, lashed back at the senator and said, “We don’t want Sanders at AIPAC. We don’t want him in Israel. Anyone who calls our prime minister a ‘racist’ is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both.” Sanders responded with “I am pro-Israel. I am pro-Palestinian,” Sanders said. “I want to bring people together to finally achieve peace in that region.”
Many Democrats who support Sanders feel that he won’t be able to defeat Trump in the November elections. This is why support for Biden among the Democratic elite is growing. Trump, like Netanyahu in Israel, is either loved or hated, depending on which side of the aisle one stands.
Despite Sanders’ Jewish background, the Democrats have developed a stark anti-semitic leaning in many parts of the party in recent years. And the support that Jerusalem currently has in Washington would be sharply cut back if he’s elected.
Biden has attempted to play things right down the middle, praising the efforts of the Obama administration, and their support for Israeli security. However, he also reiterated his support for a two-state solution: “They need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza,” he said of the Palestinians. “They need to accept once and for all the reality and the right of a secure democratic and Jewish state of Israel in the Middle East.
He also said Israel needs to stop with its threats of annexation as well as the recent announcement of building thousands of settlements.
But the larger problem is the Democrats who support Israel within the party are an aging group who soon won’t be part of the landscape. Most of them, including Biden, are nearing or over 80. Biden, while proclaiming support for Israel, was the VP to Obama, arguably the most disdainful U.S. president towards Israel since its inception in 1948.
But it appears, (at least for now) that Sanders is ahead. Democrats in Congress such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are all on the extreme left wing of the party. And they have the social media savviness to change things by organizing the young voters, who have been bombarded with an anti-semitic slant at today’s universities.
It promises to be an interesting November.