In one of the closest elections in their nation’s history, Israeli voters chose to continue with the status quo by re-electing incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in the highly anticipated March 17 election.
With 99 percent of all votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats to 24 for his opposition, the Zionist Union party led by Isaac Herzog. Despite the lead, Netanyahu must form a coalition with members of other parties. This shouldn't prove to be a problem, however, now that the election results have been revealed.
The contested race was mainly seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s reign as Prime Minister. In past elections, most Israelis have voted based on the candidate’s foreign policy credentials and plans for the future. This time was different, as Israelis are facing much higher costs of living than ever before and have remained skeptical about Netanyahu’s handling of the economy.
Netanyahu will now have to answer to his critics, who will have even more questions and demands for him, some likely based on his comments during the campaign. For example, Netanyahu removed his support for the creation of a Palestinian state when asked just days before votes were cast, although he previously supported the measure. Moreover, on the day of the election, he warned Israelis that Israeli Arabs were voting in large numbers in an effort to remove him as Prime Minister and encouraged non-Arab Israelis to go out and vote, reports the New York Times.
Netanyahu’s re-election comes at a time when the Obama administration and the Prime Minister have not been on the same page about much concerning their views on foreign policy, specifically Iran. While President Barack Obama and Netanyahu have never seen eye-to-eye, their relationship became much worse on March 3, when Netanyahu spoke in front of the U.S. Congress, railing against the Obama administration for accepting and negotiating any deals with Iran. Netanyahu’s visit was also orchestrated by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, without the approval of the Obama administration.
“As far as I’m concerned, Netanyahu burned his bridges with the American government and a broad swath of the American people,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Democrat who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It is to me, frankly, a really sordid approach to diplomacy and friendship and alliance. I hope that behavior is not rewarded today.”
Other politicians voiced their support for Netanyahu’s win, one being Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). In a statement, the Senator said: “His electoral success is all the more impressive given the powerful forces that tried to undermine him, including, sadly, the full weight of the Obama political team. American officials should not be undermining the elected leaders of our closest allies,” referring to Jeremy Bird, an Obama campaign strategist who assisted the Zionist Union party in hopes of defeating Netanyahu.
Photo Credit: Prime Minister of Israel/Flickr, reuters.com