Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: 7 things to know for April 10
Israel media review

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: 7 things to know for April 10

While Netanyahu is set for record fifth term as Israeli PM, some local media outlets wonder if he emerged from turbulent elections with enough support to solve his legal problems

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he addresses Likud supporters at his party's headquarters in Tel Aviv on election night early on April 10, 2019. (Thomas COEX / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he addresses Likud supporters at his party's headquarters in Tel Aviv on election night early on April 10, 2019. (Thomas COEX / AFP)

1. Though both Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu declared electoral victory last night based on the TV exit polls, nearly all Israeli newspapers on Wednesday morning agreed the incumbent premier was headed toward a historic fifth term as Israel’s prime minister.

  • Special election editions on Wednesday were jam-packed with commentaries and analyses on everything from the ugly campaign rhetoric to the historically low Arab voter turnout to the debate surrounding the electoral threshold in Israel.
  • Though votes were not yet tallied by print time, the papers and pundits safely predicted that Netanyahu was better positioned to form a coalition than his rival. However, many were writing before the vote count had shown how straightforward Netanyahu’s coalition arithmetic would be, and not everyone agreed that he had emerged from the turbulent elections fully victorious.

2. In Yedioth Ahronoth, which is generally hostile to Netanyahu, columnist Nahum Barnea argued that while Netanyahu is poised to be reelected, he will be a weaker leader than before. “Netanyahu’s problem is that he has no alternatives, no room to maneuver. All of his potential partners are small, frustrated and hungry,” he wrote.

  • “He’ll find a way to get along with the ultra-Orthodox, but the chances that [other potential coalition partners] will grant him immunity from prosecution are very low,” he said. “And after all, that was the whole reason he called early elections.”

3. Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon also argued that the election has weakened Netanyahu, who she says did not get what he wanted, and woke up Wednesday morning the “provisional” prime minister of Israel.

  • Kadmon said that Netanyahu does not have the “anti-indictment coalition he wanted,” meaning that his next government won’t have the power to avert his criminal prosecution.
  • Netanyahu’s victory is going to be a “very short-lived,” she predicted: “In another six or seven months Netanyahu will face his fate in court, and despite his efforts to turn himself and Likud into an inseparable entity, he will be sitting in the defendant’s dock by himself.”
Head of the Blue White political party Benny Gantz speaks to supporters as the results in the Israeli general elections are announced, at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 9, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)
  • By contrast, Kadmon calls Blue and White’s campaign a “sweeping victory” and hails its near tie with Likud an “accomplishment that cannot be overstated.”

4. Meanwhile, Yedioth’s Ben Dror Yemini said that Netanyahu’s coalition will grant disproportionate power to smaller parties with fringe ideologies, and called for Gantz and Netanyahu to form a national unity government.

  • Without a broad governing coalition, Yemini warned, Israel’s political landscape will be dominated by ultra-Orthodox and pro-settler parties, who will push legislation unpopular with most Israelis.
  • “There’s a myth that non-unity governments execute the people’s will. But actually, the opposite is true,” he says. “Non-unity governments turn Israel into a country that is governed by its minorities, and power is held by groups that coerce us into doing what the majority doesn’t want.”
  • “That being said, it’s imperative that national interest take precedence over election promises and chronic hostility,” Yemini argued. “So please, grow up. Israel doesn’t need another government that is forced to bow to extortion, Israel needs a unity government.”

5. The paper’s Shlomo Pyuterkovsky levels similar criticism regarding the likely makeup of the next Knesset. He says that efforts spearheaded by Avigdor Liberman in recent years to raise the electoral threshold is having significant consequences for the incoming government.

  • “In politics, the battle at the top and the battle at the bottom are not unrelated to one another,” he writes. “If parties in the bloc fail to cross the electoral threshold, the battle at the top becomes more complicated.”
  • “Whoever forms the government will have to form a stable and functioning coalition out of a slew of smaller parties, without embittering top party members,” Pyuterkovsky wrote. “That will not be an easy task,” he added, noting that Netanyahu’s last government “set problematic standards that created a situation in which smaller partners developed a big appetite.”

6. In the left-wing Haaretz, editor in chief Aluf Benn argued that Netanyahu came out victorious in an election that was largely seen as a referendum on his leadership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses supporters as results in the Israeli general elections are announced at a Likud event in Tel Aviv, early on April 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • In order to keep his new government afloat, Benn predicts that Netanyahu will seek to get rid of the looming corruption indictments by annexing parts of the West Bank.
  • His likely coalition partners — which will include smaller, pro-settlement parties — will help Netanyahu enact legislation deigned to bury his criminal indictments, in exchange for increasing Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank.
  • The “immunity in exchange for sovereignty” approach will have to be coordinated with the White House, which is set to release its long awaited peace plan sometime after the election. But with the Palestinian Authority likely to reject any proposal from the Trump administration, Benn says Netanyahu will have an easier time justifying annexation to Washington.
  • By reelecting Netanyahu, Benn says, Israelis have chosen a one-state solution for the conflict, and the next government’s moves will rule out any possibility of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel.

7. Meanwhile, the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom called the election and declared a “night of victory” for Likud on its front page.

  • Though ballots had not yet been fully counted Wednesday morning, the daily devotes the first seven pages to what it called a “dramatic” electoral victory for the Likud.
  • Basking in the right-wing victory was columnist Haim Shine, who takes the left to task for waging election campaigns he says were characterized by “incitement and delegitimization” against Netanyahu and his allies.
  • Shine says the political left (and the media) will soon resume their preoccupation with Netanyahu’s criminal cases with a “vengeance” because their “ideological arguments have run out and the left has nothing to sell.”
  • “The preoccupation with gossip and defamation is indubitably the proof of the triumph of the right’s ideology and an expression of its grand achievements in every field for the past decade,” Shine writes.
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