Political Animal


January 22, 2013 4:59 PM Bibi’s Big Decision

By Ed Kilgore

The normally very accurate Israeli exit polls show Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu party (a combination of the old Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s hard-right Yisrael Beiteinu grouping) winning the largest number of seats in today’s election, as was universally expected. But Bibi’s party unexpectedly lost eleven seats in the Knesset, and right-wing parties generally appear likely to hold a narrow 61-59 margin overall.

While the right-wing settler party Bayit Yehudi’s leader Naftali Bennett was widely expected to be the “rising star” heralded by the results, that distinction instead goes to Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid, which picked up 19 seats to finish second. And indeed, Bibi must now choose whether to form a right-wing or a center-right governing coalition. It’s worth noting that among Atid’s demands for participating in a government is the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians and a restriction of privileges for the ultra-Orthodox.

It’s too early to predict which way Netanyahu will decide to move, or what it might mean for Israeli policies affecting the Middle East. But whatever he does, he may have to express some rare humility after a very underwhelming electoral performance.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • JR on January 22, 2013 5:39 PM:

    Makes one wonder if Israeli polling is on a par with the GOP's last year... Considering the number of times I've heard Ha'aretz and Jerusalem Times reports on NPR, stating that the Jewish people themselves are more centrist, this shouldn't be so surprising.

    Know Hope

  • c u n d gulag on January 22, 2013 6:17 PM:

    Poor Bibi, between Obama's win, and his own less than optimal election results, now he, Kristol, Krauthammer, and the rest of the Konservative Neo-klowns will have a tougher time drumming up another war in the Middle East - like with Iran.

  • jjm on January 22, 2013 6:46 PM:

    To @JR: the Jerusalem Post is owned by Murdoch.

    I'm heartened by the news that his performance was so underwhelming. The people of Israel will right their ship of state, soon I hope.

  • beb on January 22, 2013 7:42 PM:

    can't we send in the CIA to destabilize this government and usher in one more in line with US government interests?

    Just saying. With friends like Netanyahu who needs enemies.

  • rrk1 on January 22, 2013 9:23 PM:

    It should be noted that Ha'aretz is not the Jerusalem Post. Ha'aretz is owned by an old line leftist family that hasn't forgotten its roots.

    I doubt the CIA could accomplish anything in Israel as the Mossad knows more about the CIA than the CIA.

    Yahoo's cumuppence is welcome indeed. Seems Israelis, like Americans, are in a far better place than their leadership, although Obama seems to have gotten more in line with Main Street America in his inaugural address yesterday. Let's see if he follows through.

    Yahoo's isn't known for his humility, and having already said rather arrogantly he wants to run again in 2017, he has a Hobson's choice to make. Go slightly left, or hard right. His military and intelligence establishment has told him to forget an attack on Iran. Obama has probably told him that as well, at least privately. "Very interesting", as the character on Laugh In used to say. This may be amusing to watch, in a black humor way.