At the beginning of his promising campaign to unseat PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Itzhak Herzog, newly crowned chairman of the Labor party, promised a “Ma’hapach, ” which best translates as Revolution.
The polls supported his promise: the numbers he was receiving were consistently better than Likud’s. It would have been an uphill fight, but it looked at least possible.
This morning, as the vote count is complete—Israelis still use paper ballots which they put in a sealed envelope and dump through a slot in a cardboard box—it appears that there was a revolution, indeed, as Likud shot up from 19 to 29-30 seats in the 20th Knesset.
The answer to the above sudden shift in fortunes must be, absent a deeper and more subtle analysis, that Israelis are mostly right-wingers, and that while they are concerned about their social welfare issues—as they kept telling the polsters—in the end they don’t want a left-wing government.
The polls did not lie last week. Herzog and Livni were, indeed, ahead, and that message got to all those right-wing Israelis who wanted to teach Bibi a lesson, bloody his nose a little, but still keep him on. They were going to vote for the two right-of-Likud parties, Jewish Home and Yachad (Together) who would have joined Netanyahu in a right of center coalition.
At some point, though, all these voters decided it was too risky, and opted to vote directly for Bibi, seeing that there was a real chance he would be defetaed and the Buji-Tzipi duo would be in charge for four years.
The Likud stunning rise from the ashes was done at the expense of Jewish Home, which sank from 12 to 8 seats, and Yachad, which had 4 seats and disappeared this morning. Additional seats were siphoned from Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party, which sought the role of kingmaker, but now will have to suffice with the Treaury Ministry it was promised by Netanyahu.
With 99% of the votes counted, we’ll only see 1 seat change here or there as the percentages and deals are calculated.
The Likud is either at 29 or 30 seats.
Labor/Zionist Union (Herzog / Livni): 24
Likud (Netanyahu): 29
The Joint (Arab) List: 14
Bayit Yehudi (Bennett): 8
Yesh Atid (Lapid): 11
Kulanu (Kachlon): 10
UTJ (Gafni / Litzman): 7
Shas (Deri): 7
Yisrael Beyteynu (Liberman): 6
Meretz (Gal-On): 4
Yachad (Eli Yishai): 0