For me, as a passionate Zionist, Tuesday’s election in Israel resulted in the most joyous Election Night since Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide victory. The following are the winners and losers, as I see it:
THE BIG WINNER: PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN ‘BIBI” NETANYAHU
I have met Bibi Netanyahu up close and personal in a small group setting three times, and I can say without reservation that he can be a most unpleasant individual. None of this, however, detracts from his greatness as a leader, probably the greatest democratically elected leader in the free world today. He is a figure of Churchillian courage and eloquence. In spite of all the efforts of the Obama administration to undermine his reelection campaign, he and the Likud Party emerged with a landslide triumph over the left-of-center Zionist Union party and a stronger ruling coalition than before, now consisting of six parties. His reelection is a tribute to his firm resistance to Arab terrorism and the existential threat posed by Iran. To Bibi, I say “Yasher Koach” – may your strength remain firm.
THE BIG LOSER: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Obama shamelessly and continuously throughout his administration showed disrespect to Netanyahu, the democratically elected prime minister of Israel. He tried to coerce Bibi into embracing two policies that would have undermined the security and safety of the Jewish State: 1) appeasement of a Palestinian Authority leadership that refuses to recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish State; and 2) support for an American deal with Iran that would have facilitated the ability of this anti-Semitic fundamentalist Islamic totalitarian state to attain the status of nuclear weapon capability. When these attempts against Netanyahu failed, Obama tried to undermine Bibi’s reelection campaign through his support of an American left wing nongovernmental organization, OneVoice.
OneVoice received from the Obama State Department taxpayer funded grants of $350,000. This organization allegedly then forwarded the money to its subsidiary in Israel called Victory 15 (V15), which is committed to ousting Netanyahu due to his being an obstacle to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, brokered by the Obama administration. V15 is itself guided by top operatives of Obama’s White House, with Jeremy Bird, who was Obama’s deputy national campaign director in 2008 and national field director in 2012, arriving in Israel to direct the group.
Obama is highly unpopular in Israel, and the V15 effort was an abject failure. As a result of the repudiation of Obama by the Israeli electorate, he is now a lame duck regarding issues affecting the Jewish State, and there is a bipartisan Senate probe into the Obama administration’s funding of OneVoice. In January, 2017, America will inaugurate a new President, and Bibi will work closely with that new administration to repair the damage done to the America-Israel alliance during the Obama years.
OTHER WINNERS AND LOSERS:
WINNER: ORTHODOX JEWS
Both Orthodox Jewish parties, the Modern Orthodox Bayit Yehudi party and the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) United Torah Judaism party will be invited to be participants in the Netanyahu government. Full disclosure: I am an Orthodox Jew myself, and to my fellow Orthodox Jews in Israel, I say “Mazal Tov!”
WINNER: NAFTALI BENNETT
Remember his name. He will someday become the Prime Minister of Israel. As the leader of the Bayit Yehudi party, he is a key member of Bibi’s new governing coalition, and he has a very good chance of becoming the Defense Minister or Foreign Minister. This would make him the highest ranking Orthodox Jewish official in the history of the State of Israel.
WINNER: JOHN BOEHNER
The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who invited Bibi to address the Congress on Iran earlier this month, now is a major beneficiary of his identification with the reelected Prime Minister of Israel. This should solidify his leadership of the House and also be of significant value to Republican Congressional candidates in the 2016 elections.
WINNER: BOB MENENDEZ
I would hardly describe myself as a friend of Bob Menendez. I have had numerous battles with him during my political/governmental career.
Moreover, I am a close friend of Joe Kyrillos, whom Bob defeated in the New Jersey U.S. Senate campaign of 2012. I will always feel that Joe would have been an outstanding U.S. Senator had he prevailed in that race.
There can be no doubt, however, as to Bob’s sincere friendship with World Jewry and his unwavering support for the safety and security of the State of Israel. In supporting Bibi during his recent Washington visit and in opposing the horrendously bad deal of concessions offered by the Obama administration to Iran, Bob has been a true profile in courage. He has been firm in his positions, despite the efforts of the Obama administration to personally and politically destroy him.
So in the wake of Bibi’s victory, Bob Menendez can hold his head high.
WINNERS: EGYPT, JORDAN, AND SAUDI ARABIA
The rulers of these three Sunni Arab states regard Iran as a mortal existential threat in the same fashion as does Bibi Netanyahu. Today, they are rejoicing in his victory.
The pollsters in Israel, as they often do, uniformly failed to accurately forecast this election outcome. There is a reason for this, however. Many Israelis are originally residents of the former Soviet Union or of oppressive anti-Jewish Arab states and therefore have a natural reluctance to reveal to inquiring strangers their political views.
LOSER: THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Gray Lady has for years been engaged in a vituperative campaign of denunciation of Bibi Netanyahu and Likud. Two of their columnists, Roger Cohen and Tom Friedman seem to take fiendish delight in their demonization of him.
The Times, however, is being true to its historical antecedents in their continuing condemnation of Netanyahu. The Ochs-Sulzberger family members, who have controlled the Times for five generations since 1896, were originally assimilationist “Our Crowd” Jews for whom Zionism, a movement of Jewish pride, was foreign. When you read the Times today and take note of its Middle East coverage, which is highly biased against Israel, you realize that nothing has changed.
Haaretz is Israel’s oldest daily newspaper. It styles itself as left-liberal, but its tendency is definitely on the far left. To Haaretz, Bibi Netanyahu is the Great Satan. If you read the Haaretz issue the day after the election on line, you would have thought that the paper was covering a national day of mourning.
On Sunday morning, Chemi Shalev, the U.S. editor and correspondent of Haaretz, appeared on the Steve Kornacki show on MSNBC, chortling at the prospect of Bibi Netanyahu’s defeat. If you read his column about Bibi the day after the election (link follows), you would think he was writing about Robert Durst rather than Bibi Netanyahu.
LOSER: THE ISRAELI LABOR PARTY
The Israeli Labor Party was one of the two major components of the Zionist Union Party, which finished second to Likud in this election. Labor was the ruling party during the first three decades in Israel since the inception of the Jewish State in 1948. During that time period, it had a populist appeal, due to its socialist ideology.
Today, that socialism is gone, and so is Labor’s former populist appeal. The party, under the leadership of Isaac “Buji” Herzog is nothing more than an ineffectual political entity on the Left, whose only constituency of any note is the Ashkenazi bourgeoisie.
LOSER: J STREET
J Street styles itself as the home for “pro- Israel, pro-peace Americans.” The organization has actually attracted the support of some left wing Democratic members of Congress. Its real mission, however, has been the promotion of the Obama policies on Israel and the Middle East, a central component of which has been the political destruction of Bibi Netanyahu.
J Street actually had a petition circulated against Bibi’s recent speech to the Congress. Bibi now has won, and J Street has been reduced to political irrelevance.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush, and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.