Shock and awe: The election results are in
Hebrew media review

Shock and awe: The election results are in

The press is reeling from the rise of Lapid and the fall of Netanyahu

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Yair Lapid and Benjamin Netanyahu (composite of two campaign photos)
Yair Lapid and Benjamin Netanyahu (composite of two campaign photos)

The results are in, the ballots are counted, and the outcome is fascinating. All that’s left for the Israeli media is to digest what proved to be a five-course meal of electoral delicacies. Unfortunately, print media didn’t stay awake long enough for the final results, and so they make do with the exit polls — which proved fairly accurate.

The front pages, of course, are dominated entirely by the elections results and the top headlines are virtually identical in reporting the Cinderella success story of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party’s rise to 19 seats and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu alliance’s tumble from 42 seats to 31.

Yedioth Ahronoth shows an exultant Lapid and a glaring Netanyahu with the headline: “Israel wanted change: A blow to Netanyahu, a leap for Lapid.” Maariv reports the results as “A weakened right, a blow to Netanyahu, the big winner: Yair Lapid.” Haaretz calls the near-parity of the center-left and right-wing blocs a “Dramatic achievement for Yair Lapid, disappointment in the Likud.” Even Israel Hayom, the paper widely considered a mouthpiece for the Netanyahu regime, cannot avoid the reality: “Lapid’s surprise, Likud’s disappointment.”

Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Nahum Barnea calls the elections outcome Netanyahu’s “failure in six lessons” or “the father of all failures” on the front page. The real winner of the elections was the social justice protests of summer 2011, who bided their time and waited for the elections, then voted en masse for change with Lapid, Labor, Meretz and Jewish Home. As for the next government, he says, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman prefers to join with Lapid, Jewish Home, and possibly Tzipi Livni, while Netanyahu would prefer a coalition with his “natural partners” in Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Jewish Home.

“Netanyahu must decide; he cannot have it both ways,” Barnea writes.

Haaretz is ecstatic in its report of Netanyahu’s fall from imperviousness. Its editorial says Netanyahu is a “man of the past” who “has failed in politics, in foreign policy and in socioeconomic policy.”

His drop in seats happened, it explains, “because the Israeli public felt that his government had not understood the deeper significance of the protests of the summer of 2011.”

Yossi Verter writes that King Bibi’s Likud-Beytenu list “suffered a hard, searing smack. He personally received a resounding slap in the face from rightist voters.” He predicts Netanyahu will still form a government and keep his crown, but “under more difficult circumstances” now that there’s a new regent in town: “King Yair.”

“Lapid’s victory is a modern political success, network politics, reality show politics,” he writes. “He’s undoubtedly a nice, well-meaning guy. But his experience begins and ends with presenting television shows and writing scripts and newspaper columns.” Verter says Lapid might find himself in over his head should he win a ministerial position.

His rise to 19-seat glory came thanks to vacuuming up undecided voters who fell between Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich and Netanyahu (precisely as Lapid predicted, it should be noted), Verter writes.

Israel Hayom’s Matti Tuchfeld had the wind taken out of his sail. A day ago he wrote, “The next prime minister will be Benjamin Netanyahu. Throughout the whole campaign this was the working assumption of everyone,” and predicted that Netanyahu would form a coalition with Shas, the Jewish Home, United Torah Judaism, Kadima and Lapid.

After the elections, his bitterness is palpable. “The Likud-Beytenu campaign against Naftali Bennett worked. For the benefit of Yair Lapid,” he writes, tears soaking his keyboard.

“Nonetheless, after the sobs and lamentations of the night before subside, the political map doesn’t leave room for doubt: Benjamin Netanyahu is the chosen prime minister,” he says.

The likelihood of Netanyahu forming a government without the ultra-Orthodox parties is slim to none, he argues. Instead, Netanyahu and Lapid will form the backbone of the next government and Lapid will likely demand a senior ministerial position for himself, and possibly his senior partners. The crux of the coalition, though, will be universal draft.

Maariv writes that no number of urgent, last minute text messages by Netanyahu to Likud supporters could save his party from disgrace at the polls yesterday. “The nation said its piece and toppled Likud-Yisrael Betytenu together with the elaborate strategy the prime minister built,” it writes.

“Netanyahu asked to be a strong prime minister and turned into the weakest prime minister in the country’s history. He will be held captive by his friends in Likud, the national-religious rabbis of [Jewish Home], also by [Shas leaders] Aryeh Deri, Eli Yishai, [and United Torah Judaism leaders] Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni,” it says.

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