Update: It’s disappointing to see qualified, sheepish support for Netanyahu from the likes of the Wall Street Journal, which today wrote: “But in the closing days Mr. Netanyahu played up that foreigners (read: President Obama) wanted him defeated, and he rejected statehood for Palestinians, reversing a position he had taken in 2009. The reversal gave the impression of opportunism, even desperation, but it also rallied conservative voters who had hinted at growing “Bibi fatigue” after his long tenure as premier.” Opportunism? On the contrary, Netanyahu finally told the truth. Concludes the Journal: “Israel’s raucous democracy is imperfect, like America’s, but it is the only reliable one in the bloody cauldron of the Middle East.”
Ha’aretz explains the discrepancy between the Israeli polls and the outcome as follows: “[Netanyahu] won this election by convincing over 200,000 voters who were planning to vote for Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, Kulanu and Yahad to change their minds in the last six days of the campaign.” Why did they switch? The answer is simple and obvious: Most of those small-party voters oppose a Palestinian state, and Netanyahu ruled out a Palestinian state on his watch a day before the election. Outside of the Eurocentric secular elite in Tel Aviv, most Israeli voters look at the chaos in the Muslim world and draw the obvious conclusion that a Palestinian State would be absorbed into the maelstrom of extremism surrounding it, and turn into an artillery platform for terrorists. Last July I argued in Tablet magazine that it’s not the settlers, but the “unsettlers” (ISIS and Iran) who have forced a one-state solution on Israel. Netanyahu went through the motions of diplomacy until Monday in order to maintain correct relations with Washington. That pushed the one-state vote out to minor parties. Once Netanyahu acknowledged the obvious, 200,000 minor party voters came back to Likud.
Netanyahu has decided, with some justification, that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. His disagreement with the Obama administration is not about the best way to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Obama administration views Iran as a positive force with benign motives: the Director of National Intelligence’s Threat Assessment speaks of “Iran’s intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” and dismisses Iran’s threat to regional stability as mere “secondary consequences” of its support for Shia communities. Iranian official propaganda quotes it with enthusiasm. And after the appointment of Robert Malley as the Middle East Coordinator for the White House–the man Obama kicked out of its 2008 campaign because of his close ties to Hamas–Netanyahu has little to lose in terms of good will.
We now read that the White House will abandon Israel to the wolves at the United Nations. The political damage to the Democrats will be extensive, but less than one might guess at first glance: the majority of American Jews will continue to choose liberal utopianism over Israeli security. Leftwing Jewish outlets like The Forward echo the cri de coeur of the Israeli left: the “Zionist dream” of socialist equality and religious harmony is dead, and Bibi is its gravedigger. That corpse has been high for some some time, but no matter. The West is choking on its own illusions and hypocrisy; Israel once again may become an Asian nation.