Israeli Election 2022: With Most Votes Counted, Netanyahu on Path of Comeback Helped by Right-Wing Allies
With almost 90 percent of the vote counted in Israel’s 2022 elections, the comeback of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu leading one of the most right-wing coalition governments in the country’s history appears almost certain.
Already claiming victory, Netanyahu, 73, Israel’s longest-serving leader, spoke about winning “a huge vote of confidence from the people of Israel.”
“We are on the brink of a very big victory,” Netanyahu told cheering supporters as election results came in overnight.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the vote count show Netanyahu’s Likud party winning 32 seats, which together with his right-wing allies would give his bloc 65 seats easily clearing the 61-seat majority needed to form a governing coalition in Israel’s 120-member parliament. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party takes second place with 24 parliamentary seats allotting the center-left bloc 50 mandates.
The Religious Zionism Party, an alliance of smaller far-right parties made up of Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism, the Otzma Yehudit party led by Jewish ultra-nationalist Itamar Ben Gvir and the anti-LGBT Noam Party won 14 seats, representing the third largest party in Israeli politics poised to be Netanyahu’s kingmaker to regain power.
As some analysts weigh in on the incoming results of Israel’s fifth election in less than four years, they resonate on one thing that the phenomena of the 2022 election is the political rise of Ben Gvir and the growth of the extreme right party, Religious Zionism emerging as the third largest in Israeli politics.
“If you look at the results you see that in the past the Likud had enjoyed better victories,” said Aviv Bushinsky, a political analyst and a former Netanyahu adviser during a briefing organized by Media Central. “So the monster phenomena that led to the change in this election is the rise of Ben Gvir.”
For Gayil Talshir, a political analyst at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the main takeaway from the elections is the rise of an extreme right in Israel.
“It has never been the case that such a powerful extreme right party was a dominant part of the parliament,” Talshir said. “This is a fixture of Israeli politics from now on.”
“It is not going to go away – it is going to stay with Israel for longer even after Netanyahu departs from Israeli politics,” she cautioned.
Bushinsky attributed Ben Gvir’s clear message during the election campaign, the lack of internal security and a feeling that Israelis were losing their national pride as the main reasons for his growth in popularity. Many Israelis felt that the current government failed in dealing with the uprising and uptick in violence in the West Bank and other settlements, and that it is “too soft” on the Palestinians, Bushinsky elaborated.
“He [Ben Gvir] really touched this nerve,” Bushinsky said. “Ben Gvir out of the entire political parties had a clear message and you can argue about whether it is right or can be executed but people from the Center and even from the Left suddenly saw Ben Gvir as their ideal or their Messiah.”
Talshir pointed out that the campaigns from the right-wing parties led by Ben Gvir and Smotrich focused on Israel as a Jewish state and not as a Jewish and democratic one and they portrayed the current government of a coalition of change as being a threat to Israel being a Jewish state.
Early on Wednesday, Lapid cautioned against drawing premature conclusions about the election results until the final votes had been counted.
“A million Israeli citizens went to the ballot box and said, I can be both Jewish and Israeli, I can be both nationalist and liberal and I can be secular connected to the Bible and tradition, and I can be religious with knowledge of Math and English,” Lapid told his supporters. “Every Israeli citizen – religious or secular, leftist or rightist, Jewish or Arab, straight or LGBTQ+ – should know that we will continue to fight for Israel to be a Jewish, democratic, liberal and progressive state.”
Voter turnout at Tuesday’s election reached 71.3 percent, the highest since 2015, as Israelis hoped to break years of political impasse.
Bushinsky believes that the Left’s campaign of undermining right-wing supporters using a patronizing approach drove the turnout.
“The center-left’s approach was to undermine the right-wingers as people that adhere automatically to their leaders [Netanyahu] and don’t think independently calling them names like “bibistim” and describing them as fascists who reflect the dark age of society,” Bushinsky said. The kind of paternalistic approach felt by the other half of the society resulted in the huge turnout to the ballots from the right-wingers.”