The exit polls are in and the results are surprising – at least for anyone who has been following international media propaganda rather than the Israeli press.
Initial results show a big drop in Likud Beitenu’s seats, a huge rise for Bayit Yehudi (aka “Jewish Home”), and excellent results for TV personality Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (“There is a Future) party and for Labour under Shelley Yachimovitch. Tzippi Livni’s party did as well as could be expected while Kadima has not crossed the threshold at all.
Here are the initial numbers per the Jerusalem Post:
Binyamin Netanyahu looked likely to squeak through with a narrow victory in Tuesday’s Knesset elections, exit polls released as soon as the ballots closed seemed to indicate. Exit polls from Channel 2, Channel 10 and Channel 1 gave his Likud Beytenu party 31 seats.
The projected 31 seats was a steep drop from the 42 seats shared by Likud and Yisrael Beytenu in the last Knesset. The surprise of the election was Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, who finished second according to the exit polls of all three Israel channels with 18-19 seats.
The Labor Party was projected to win 17 seats, Bayit Yehudi 12, Shas 11, The Tzipi Livni Party and Meretz 7seats each, and United Torah Judaism 6 seats.
Here is a chart of the expected political blocs according to Channel 10 TV (via the Times of Israel):
There is uncertainty about the right-wing Otzma LeYisrael (formerly Ichud Leumi or National Union) having crossed the threshold or not. According to some exit polls they did not manage to do so; according to others they achieved 2 seats. All will become clear in the next day or two.
Arutz Sheva reports that the Jewish-Arab party Hadash did well with 5 seats.
English Ynet brings us a detailed exit poll:
The preliminary results were as follows:
Likud -Yisrael Beiteinu: 31
Yesh Atid: 18-19
Habayit Hayehudi: 12
United Torah Judaism: 6
United Arab List-Taal: 3-4
Otzma Leyisrael: 0-2
Hebrew Ynet gives us a pretty colour-coded chart headed “Lapid takes off, the Likud plunges“with a more detailed chart within the article:
What happened to the Likud which had been flying so high and with the merger with Yisrael Beitenu was initially expected to receive 40 seats? My own feeling was that the merger was a big mistake. Many Likud members became disgruntled that they, or their candidates, were moved down the list after the primaries to make room for Yisrael Beitenu members. Others were concerned about Likud’s new political direction.
An analysis in the Jerusalem Post sheds more light on why Likud collapsed:
But when it comes to running a campaign, the man in charge is the man at the top of the totem pole: Netanyahu himself. He was the one who decided to unite Likud with Yisrael Beytenu despite the likelihood Liberman would get indicted, he determined how to spend the campaign’s bursting budget, and he chose when to attack political opponents and when to hold fire.
The results of the race, at least, according to the exit polls, indicate that Netanyahu was wrong on all counts.
The deal with Liberman made sense at first. Netanyahu, who had never won the most seats in the Knesset in any election, wanted to make sure he would this time.
After leading the combined Likud-Gesher-Tzomet list to two seats less than Labor in the 1996 race and one less than Kadima in 2009, Netanyahu did not want to give President Shimon Peres any excuse to appoint anyone else to form a coalition.
But had Netanyahu not made the deal, Yisrael Beytenu might have disintegrated following Liberman’s indictment. The deal gave Yisrael Beytenu 15 slots that appeared realistic at the time and pushed back the slots reserved for Likud candidates from districts.
Those candidates from the party’s backbenches are the Likud’s backbone. They are the branch heads and political power-brokers who know how to bring out the voters, and once the Liberman deal was signed, their motivation was gone.
Netanyahu’s attacks on Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett boomeranged as did the Likud’s on the Bayit Yehudi’s list…
Without a candidate on the Center-Left considered serious competition, Netanyahu pretended at times to be running against President Shimon Peres, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Europe, US President Barack Obama, and finally that generic, hated foe “international pressure.”
It is true that having a real, tangible adversary in an election can be helpful. Unfortunately for Netanyahu, he became his own worst enemy.
And to finish off for tonight, here’s a more detailed background from a few weeks ago (from Times of Israel) into the unexpected new star of the Israeli political scene, Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party:
The party’s platform is a centrist pick-and-choose of decidedly unsacred cows: education reform, making peace with Israel’s neighbors, the housing crisis, fighting political corruption, changing the system of government, and most importantly for its leader, fighting for a true universal draft.
Lapid is not alone in trying to claim the moderate crown; he’s in the running with the amazing shrinking Kadima, Labor, Tzipi Livni’s new Hatnua party, and at least in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dreams, parts of the Likud-Beytenu alliance.
According to Hebrew University of Jerusalem political scientist Prof. Avraham Diskin, the center is a natural political home for most voters and is the perfect place to be for a budding politician who wants to make an impact, and quickly.
“There are many centrists and there have been many studies in Israel that prove,” he said, “that the center is a good place to be.… Even [Labor party head Shelly] Yachimovich is playing the center.”
Lapid’s father Yosef, better known as Tommy, also made the leap from journalism to politics, helming the moderately successful Shinui, or Change, party, which took up the center in the Knesset for a few years before falling apart in 2006.
While this was happening, Yair Lapid was becoming one of the country’s most popular journalists, known for his fair-minded exposes on Channel 2’s Friday night newsmagazine, and his ability to expertly lasso the country’s zeitgeist in his newspaper columns, first in Maariv and then in Yedioth Ahronoth.
Lapid has generally been seen as anti-ultra-Orthodox — his father was famously so — and has thus gone to great lengths to seem welcoming to the religious community, even while making the issue of a universal draft into the IDF, which united a large majority of Israelis, a core component of his campaign.
To that end, he brought two Orthodox, albeit progressive, rabbis onto his list to try to temper anti-religious claims, making Rabbi Shai Piron, the head of Petah Tikva’s network of yeshivas and a prominent education booster and anti-rabbinate activist, his No. 2.
Also on his list, though down at No. 17, is Rabbi Dov Lipman, a Washington-area native (and Times of Israel blogger) who is entering the national fray after making a name for himself in Beit Shemesh for fighting extremist ultra-Orthodox elements in the city.
Yesh Atid’s plan calls for the ultra-Orthodox to be given five years to get jobs or join up, during which the army will create the necessary framework for the military to draft the former yeshiva students or put them in national service.
To Lipman and the party’s other boosters, who number in the thousands, Yesh Atid is about unity, bringing together the disparate factions of Israeli society to work together toward one common goal. It’s about changing the status quo and giving fresh faces a shot at fixing the country’s ills.
To critics, the party is about egotism and is seen as a manifestation of the inability of the center-left’s various personalities to join up to create a super-faction that could challenge Netanyahu. It’s a party of empty rhetoric that will make little noise in the Knesset.
It seems obvious that Lapid and a number of his cohorts will enter the halls of power. But how Yesh Atid will shape the country in the years to come, if at all, is as much a mystery as the future the party claims to be fighting for.
We will all be the wiser tomorrow or even in the days and weeks after, as the final numbers come in and the horse-trading business of coalition-building begins. Only then will the final picture of the new Israeli political echelon emerge.