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April 17, 2019 1:18 pm

The Message of the Israeli Election

avatar by Martin Oliner

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Opinion

Confetti falls as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara stand on stage after Netanyahu spoke following the announcement of exit polls in Israel’s parliamentary election at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Two days before Israelis went to the polls last Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke cast his ballot in the Israeli election. He declared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a racist against Arabs, and said he did not believe Netanyahu “represents the true will of the Israeli people” or the “best interests” of the relationship between the US and Israel.

The people of Israel then decided on their own what their true will is, and what their best interests are.

The overwhelming majority decided that they wanted Netanyahu to remain prime minister, and the Center-Right to remain in power. This undoubtedly upset O’Rourke and others, who believe that being a friend of Israel requires lecturing Israelis and telling them what they ought to believe. Once upon a time, that might have worked. Israelis used to be more intimidated by the international community.

When Bill Clinton tried to dictate the terms of a Middle East peace agreement, most Israelis went along with it, and gave him a chance. When he fought with Netanyahu, polls found that Israelis believed the leader of the free world must be right. But during the Obama administration, when there were disputes with Netanyahu, polls found that Israelis repeatedly took their prime minister’s side. This election showed that Israelis aren’t willing to go back to the way it used to be.

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Blue and White heads Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post in interviews that they hoped Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin weren’t interfering in the election on Netanyahu’s behalf, and that other world leaders desperately wanted Netanyahu to go. But who are these world leaders? And why didn’t they want Netanyahu to stay in power? Israelis evidently knew their motives enough to decide to disregard them.

Israelis chose to say no to the likes of the European Union, United Nations, and Beto, and instead side with their true friends like Trump. They no longer feel pressured to make concessions that could harm their security and result in them losing control over land promised to the Jewish people, and won in a war of defense. They appreciate what Trump has done in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy there, leaving the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, slightly changing the anti-Israel atmosphere at the UN, and many other gifts to the Jewish state.

They also felt gratitude to Putin, who assisted in the long-awaited return of the body of missing in action soldier Zecharia Baumel after 37 years for a proper burial in Israel. Rewarding Trump and Putin for treating them well is only natural. So is ignoring the world leaders who did not really have Israel’s best interests at heart.

Next Friday night, Jews in Israel and around the world will recall at their Passover seder that in each and every generation, there have been world leaders who rose up to try to destroy our people. Sometimes it has been blatantly obvious, like in the Holocaust and the story of Purim. At other times, that attempt to harm the Jewish people was more subtle, even cloaked in claims of friendship. This election has proved that the Jewish people in Israel are ready to tell the world that they no longer want to get to the point where God has to save us.

Israelis’ will is to continue to succeed and thrive and determine their best interests on their own. Sending that message to the world on Election Day should be celebrated, as the Jewish festival of freedom approaches.

The author is the co-president of the Religious Zionists of America and chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and serves as a committee member of the Jewish Agency. martinoliner@gmail.com

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