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Conservative Lessons for 2016 from Israel Elections 2015

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Yesh Atid leader Lapid and his wife Lihi walk past Likud election campaign posters as they walk to a polling station in Tel Aviv

The Israeli elections look confusing and almost indescribably complicated to most Americans but conservatives eager to put an end to the Obama era can still learn some important lessons from the results.

First, those results from Israel will remain opaque and indecisive for days, even for weeks, after the ballots are actually counted on Tuesday. With at least ten parties likely to win seats in Israel’s 120 seat parliament, and with no party given a real chance to win more than 26 seats in Knesset, the question isn’t which candidate for prime minister “wins” but which one is most likely to put together a viable coalition.

As Republicans look at the situation in Jerusalem, it seems hard to explain why Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t coasting to his fourth term, as he clearly expected he would when he called these “snap” elections in December. After all, the final polls all showed that on crucial national security issues the electorate  shares the center-right outlook of Bibi and his allies far more than it does the center-left, “share the land” approach of his chief competitor. What’s more, two of the leading public opinion surveys asked a question of voters that they don’t get to answer on their ballots: aside from the party you prefer, which candidate would you choose as prime minister? In both polls, Netanyahu showed a decisive lead of ten points – leaving many outside observers seriously perplexed about the simultaneous lead for the Zionist Alliance party of Bibi’s chief rival, Itzhak (“Bougie”) Hertzog.

If Israelis agree with Netanyahu’s right wing stands, and clear pluralities would prefer him as Prime Minister, how did the party of the center left standard bearer, Bougie, manage to move into the apparent lead in terms of the number of parliamentary seats it’s likely to win?

The most direct answer to that complicated question is that compared to the internal squabbling of Israel’s right, the Left-Center did a much better job in unifying its interests and subordinating egos and ambitions to the good of the movement. The “Zionist Alliance” is actually a tenuous combination of Israel’s traditionally Socialist Labour Party and the Hatnua faction associated with Tzippi Livni, whose family has been prominent in right wing Likud circles for more than a half century.

By contrast, the right has indulged in a near Hobbesian internal war of personalities and policies that currently shows as many as seven different parties crossing the electoral threshold to win seats in Knesset. Some of these right-leaning parties are led by close associates and former Cabinet ministers previously linked to Netanyahu.

Conventional wisdom suggests that with these various right wing parties likely to enjoy a combined advantage when the Knesset finally takes shape they will eventually manage to get together, form what the Prime Minister calls a “natural coalition” and return Bibi to lead the government. But it’s worth noting that in an election that shouldn’t even be close, there’s still a widespread expectation that the leading party of the left-center will draw more overall seats in parliament than the leading party of the right center.

Why? In part, because many Israelis, like most Americans, may actually long for a less divided, less partisan, more cooperative approach to governance. When Hertzog and Livni assembled their “Zionist Alliance” they promised to share the four year term as Prime Minister – each taking two years. On election eve, Livni went further and indicated that she would personally step aside from her two year claim if it would help her side negotiate a successful coalition. In other words, those voters who long for less polarization and bitterness might well look at the badly divided right, and compare it to the newly united (and perhaps temporarily united) center-left, and lean temperamentally toward the more soft-spoken (Yitzhak Herzog is notorious for his reedy, high-pitched voice) and compromising team.

The message to American conservatives ought to be obvious. Every major poll in the USA shows a strong desire from every segment of the electorate for more cooperation and less confrontation in Washington. The bitter and seemingly perpetual polarization between the resurgent GOP and an arrogantly isolated president has brought public disillusionment with both sides.

With Republicans facing a much greater chance of a fiercely contested and seemingly interminable struggle for the presidential nomination than their Hillary-besotted Democratic counterparts, the GOP stands a good chance of cementing its image as the party of squabbling, division, and out-of-control egos.

That vision won’t help the American right in 2016. And there’s good reason to believe that it’s done some serious damage to the Israeli right in 2015—as developments of the next few days will surely make clear.

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Comments (8)

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  1. James Mannor  •  Mar 26, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I strongly believe that politicians, as well as their administrative appointees, of whichever political party, who violate the laws of the United States, and the laws set forth in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, must be prosecuted criminally. Today that is not done as it is considered to be just “business as usual”. But it is not. When we allow criminals to rule our government you will soon have a dictatorship in which the criminals work, not for the good of the citizen, but for the good of the criminal organization, whichever name you wish to apply to them, and which is nearly the case in this country today. It is not only normal, but important that legislators are allowed to differ in their opinions, but they all must follow the laws of our country. Honesty and honor in our government, which we do not have today, would be a great step in furthering cooperation in our government bodies and agencies. But it is up to us, the citizens of this country, to demand that our elected representatives and their appointees conduct themselves and their business in an honest and honorable manner.

    • Mickey  •  Mar 26, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      James I agree with you. Just wish a lot more did also

  2. Elizabeth  •  Mar 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    With enemies on every side Israel and America must not compromise with evil; a great faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the only way to protect the future of both countries. If liberals, leftists are in charge our countries will have no protection or security from those who want to destroy us.

  3. jeaniep  •  Mar 26, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Sounds to me as if Michael Medved wants more of the same. We’ve had enough already! It’s time to shake things up and get honesty, integrity, and common sense back in charge. We’ve suffered long enough.

    • Tommy Howe  •  Mar 26, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Michael Medved doesn’t seem to grasp the extremely dangerous situation we find ourselves today with so many anti-American organizations growing among us while our “leaders” are either blind or afraid to do their job of protecting us from enemies from “within and without”. Whatever happened to the prosecution of those who organize to overthrow our government? We do not need passivity…we need warriors!

  4. Hugh Maginnis  •  Mar 26, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Remember that Michael Medved is pro open borders too. I just decided not to buy any of his history lessons.

  5. Jim Bird  •  Mar 27, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I agree with all comments here. When did lawlessness and abuse of power become the norm in America? Voters in New York, California have there votes nullified (because of no voter ID requirements) several times by illegals traveling in buses from precinct to precinct every Election Day? This is paid for by our tax dollars by George Soros/Obama funded/ACORN type organizations who ONLY work for one Party. The GOP are cowards.
    The world is at war, Iran will be nuclear in months and America has zero relations with any country in the world, except terrorists ones, Is Obama stupid or smart? What difference does it make, he hates this country for whatever delusional reasons are bouncing around in his head. And, of course, normal everyday working people who used to have jobs and vote can do nothing to stop it. Why? It’s too complicated right? Let’s talk some more, start a conversation, ok? I’m sure I’ll be audited again by the IRS for these comments. What has happened to this country since Regan? Here’s a clue – it is really f—ing simple and therefore nothing will be done about it.

  6. Sean Flynn  •  Jun 4, 2015 at 9:06 am

    How does Benjamin Netanyahu get viewed as “conservative” by the American political right?

    He presides over a government which offers national healthcare to all Israelis, subsidized by taxes.

    He presides over a government which has legalized abortion (funded by the government), which is not even a controversy.

    He presides over a government which offers generous unemployment benefits, for LIFE, to ultra-orthodox male population which makes the study of the Torah it’s life “work” (and they’re also fighting to regain their exemption from conscription).

    He presides over a government which has a minimum wage law higher than Spain or Greece.

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