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Image: Reuters/N. Elias

A dramatic turn in Israeli elections

Bettina Marx / db
March 18, 2015

After an expected change in leadership in Israel failed, the country's current prime minister is likely the next one, too. That's not good news for Israel or the Mideast, says DW's Bettina Marx.


Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded. With a terrific final rush in the election campaign, the Israeli Prime Minister managed to alter the course, and secure his Likud party an impressive election victory.

Literally at the last minute, he managed to win the voters from the right-wing political spectrum. He didn't simply close the gap that opinion polls had been predicting this past week, and he didn't simply draw level with challenger Isaac Herzog, as predicted by Israel's three TV broadcasters in election day surveys. Around midnight, Herzog and former Foreign Minister Zipi Livni celebrated their supposed election victory, announcing the formation of a new government. But then, the tide began to turn and in the course of the night, it became increasingly clear that Netanyahu had even managed to gain a distinct advantage, thus living up to his nickname, "the magician."

Panicked finish

The Prime Minister, whose election campaign finish in the wake of unfavorable opinion polls was almost panicked, didn't shy away from dirty tricks and violating electoral laws. On election day, he held a news conference warning that "the Arabs" were headed for the polling stations in droves in order to prevent him from winning. Such appearances are not allowed on election day, so the news conference was not broadcast, but his message quickly reached the public and may have contributed to many voters' change of heart - and a vote for Likud. For many Israeli Jews, it is simply inconceivable that Palestinians who hold an Israeli passport might shape politics in the "Jewish state."

In fact, voter turnout among Israel's Palestinian minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the population and 14 percent of the country's voters, was surprisingly high.

Bettina Marx
Unfortunately, "the magician" did it again, says DW's Bettina MarxImage: DW/S. Eichberg

As a result, the Joint List, a grouping of largely Arab parties, won 14 seats, making it the third-largest party in the Knesset. That's a remarkable showing, but it won't change the fact that Israel is steeped in a deep-seated ultra-nationalist ideology that won't grant the same rights to its Palestinian minority nor to the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

No two-state solution

The outcome of the election has entrenched Israel's path to international isolation.

The electorate voted for the continuation of the current course, a course that leads nowhere and that has no answers for the urgent, existential questions of Israel and the region. Ahead of the election, Netanyahu said he would do everything in his power to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.

It's a clear call, a rebuff of the international community, and it may have contributed to his surprise victory. The Likud leader doesn't explain how he sees the future, but then again, the voters didn't ask.

The majority of Israelis appears to be prepared and willing to continue to rule over another people and to deny the Palestinians in the occupied territories the right to self-determination. In other words, even after almost 50 years, an end to the occupation is not in sight.

The outcome of the Israeli election is not good news for democracy in Israel and the future of the people in the region.

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