OPINION: Election result reflective of wider global trend in populism

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OPINION: Election result reflective of wider global trend in populism

Richard Pater, the chief executive of BICOM, based in Jerusalem, reflects on the results of the Israeli election and Netanyahu's return – with the backing of the extreme right.

Benjamin Netanyahu (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Benjamin Netanyahu (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

If the results are as projected at the time of writing, Netanyahu and his right wing bloc will have won a substantial and significant victory.  

Various factors aligned to bring us to this point.  In the lead up to the elections, Netanyahu worked diligently behind the scenes to enforce a technical bloc between Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power faction and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union, adding the homophobic Noam Party for good measure, united, they ran as the Religious Zionist Party ensuring no hard right wing votes were lost.

Similarly Netanyahu ensured the two factions that make up the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi Party United Torah Judaism; Degel Hatorah and Achdut Hatorah remain united despite animosity and internal rivalry.  On the other side of the spectrum, Lapid failed to convince Labour and Meretz, or the rival Arab parties to combine forces.

The result appears to be six seats worth of left wing votes failing to pass the threshold.

Richard Pater.

The success of the Religious Zionist Party, is particularly striking. Never have the hard right had such electoral success, and as this paper asked last week; where’s the outrage? 

Their success is attributable to a combination of factors. In part its reflective of wider global trend in populism, similar to US support for Trump or the French for Le Pen, or Meloni in Italy.

In Israel, Ben Gvir was cultivated as a contrary, charismatic and provocative media celebrity, his infamy striking a cord particularly among first time voters; both secular and religious.

He successfully tapped in and exploited Israelis fears over personal security, exacerbated by recent terror attacks.

Now it’ incumbent on Netanyahu (assuming the victory is confirmed) to build his coalition, as of last week he outlined his approach will be to first lock in his natural allies and only then look to broaden his coalition with centrist parties.

Netanyahu said he intends to keep the three most important portfolios (Finance, Defence and Foreign) inside the Likud, meaning other senior roles including Justice and Public Security (which oversees the police) could be available for his right wing partners.

However, there is likely to be an effort, led by President Herzog to encourage the emergence of a unity government. In his speech on Tuesday night Benny Gantz the leader of the National Unity Party did not explicitly rule out sitting with Netanyahu.

Instead he repeated his party’s mantra that they will put the country’s need above everything else. Perhaps Gantz could be persuaded to join a Netanyahu government if doing so would dilute the influence of the hardline Religious Zionist Party.

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