DesPardes + PKonweb

End of Netanyahu Era: Arabs in Israel Gain New Voice

DESPARDES NEWS ANALYSIS– Bibi (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) is on the brink — and results are still deadlocked as of Tuesday.

Netanyahu has fallen short of majority and a coalition appears to be the way forward without him heading the government. With his defeat, at least three new facts have emerged: Election turnout was high– 69.4% –meaning Israelis wanted to vote for a change– and Arabs votes collectively gained new voice.

Also, the gamble Avigdor Lieberman took appears to be paying off– he’s becoming the kingmaker.

The former Defense Minister heads the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which is projected to capture nine seats– the set of wild cards for a coalition government in days and weeks ahead.

Scenario: The Likud-led bloc (supporting Bibi) is poised to control 55 of parliament’s 120 seats, with 56 going to a center-left alliance, numbers falling short of a majority government of 61 lawmakers. Therefore, Lieberman’s nine seats could make the difference as to who forms the coalition government.

However, the cliffhanger potentially leaves Israel’s domestic canvas a tad different– and possibly short of domestic capital needed for annexation plans, some observers say– notwithstanding Jared Kushner’s grand $65 billion Middle East (economic) plan preceding a peace plan.

Other things notwithstanding, the defeat for the longest-serving Israeli leader could lead to his prosecution for corruption. Winning could have been the only way for Bibi to avoid it.

Looming over Netanyahu are potential charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced in February that he intended to indict Netanyahu on the charges which stem from three separate cases in which he allegedly agreed to political favors in exchange for gifts, in one case, or, in the other two, favorable media coverage.

Had he emerged the victor from Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu could have made Israeli history by becoming the first sitting prime minister to stand trial.

Bibi was already weakened by the inability to put together an administration after an inconclusive election in April. Eventually, it led to a second poll in less than six months.

The latest contest produced a virtual tie between his right-wing bloc and a center-left grouping that would be led by former military chief Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu, 69, appeared fatigued and hoarse in a 3am election night speech to party faithful earlier on Wednesday in which he said he intended to form a “Zionist government”, without Arab parties that could lend support to Gantz.

Lieberman has been pushing for a unity government comprised of the biggest parties. He had declined to back Netanyahu’s bid to form a narrow right-wing and religious coalition after Bibi’s April election win, bringing about Tuesday’s unprecedented repeat vote.

Lieberman’s party was the wild card in the latest polls– now stands to be the kingmaker.