Israel Election Results: The Two Benjamins Are Inching Toward National Unity

The two Benjamins are exhausted. The veteran Bibi Netanyahu wears it better than newcomer Benny Gantz; he’s a born campaigner. Gantz, despite his military background, has yet to acquire a taste for blood sports. But they are both suffering from long-term election fatigue after over a year in the trenches and three quick-fire campaigns. In their speeches on Election Night, both men tried to draw a line under the results and rule out a fourth Israel election.    

Gantz’s fighting talk of “sticking to our values” and “not allowing anyone to divide us” was aimed at keeping his young party, only a year old, together. Kahol Lavan failed to win in three consecutive elections, but it is now a considerable force in politics, having won over a quarter of the electorate three times running. That is, if it can stick together.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 66

Bibi went gunning for his only real rivalHaaretz Weekly Ep. 66

>> Israel election results: Netanyahu two seats away from majority with 90 percent of votes counted

Gantz is already under attack in the party for his haphazard campaigning. His three partners in the “cockpit” – Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi – all believe they could have done a better job. Will they remain loyal to Gantz now that the dream of forming a Kahol Lavan-led government seems to have evaporated?

Netanyahu spoke of a “great victory” in his speech, repeating the words “victory” and “we won” over and over. But if there’s one thing Netanyahu knows well, it’s electoral arithmetic. He knows the exit polls predicting a right-wing bloc with 59 seats will probably not morph into 61 seats and a majority once the full results are in.

He won’t admit it, but Netanyahu hasn’t won yet. Therefore, he needs to establish the inevitability of his victory before Israelis wake up and realize that, in reality, the majority voted for parties opposed to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu needs two seats, at least, to form a government. He will try to get two lawmakers from the opposition to defect to him. But the chances of that happening are slim. His preferred partner now is Gantz. They worked together relatively harmoniously when Gantz was the army’s chief of staff. Netanyahu certainly never wants to work with Avigdor Lieberman in his government again.