Much has been written about how the media misreported the Israeli elections and I want to briefly dispel two particular misconceptions.
1) The majority of Israelis did not vote against Benjamin Netanyahu. Polls indicate quite clearly that a majority of Israelis wanted to see Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Many voters, though, were opposed to the newly created alliance between his Likud Party and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beyiteinu Party.
Former Likud voters, meanwhile, felt uncomfortable with the Likud parliamentary list, considering it too right-wing. Moreover, as voters were led to believe that Netanyahu’s victory was assured, many of his supporters turned to other parties, either to the left or to the right of Likud.
2) The alternatives still have a long way to go. The outstanding achievement of second place Yesh Atid, the party of former journalist Yair Lapid, has led many observers to see it as a reflection of an anti-Netanyahu wave. This is a simplistic conclusion.
Lapid managed to appeal both to left-off-centre and right-off-centre voters. Many former Likud voters cast their votes for his party, wishing it to enter a future coalition government headed by Netanyahu.
This should be seen as votes of protest, but not against Netanyahu. It was a vote of protest against his party, and many of the perceived social ills of Israeli society, which have been festering since well before Netanyahu became prime minister four years ago.
Nevertheless, the final result is a serious blow to the Likud-Israel Beyiteinu alliance. Netanyahu will still form a new government, but he is politically wounded. Healing them will take time.
Still, there are positive ways to look at this for Netanyahu. He may be able to form a large centre-right coalition. Paradoxically, this might afford him more room to manoeuvre than he had previously.
Dr. Yoav J. Tenembaum is a lecturer at the graduate Diplomacy Program (Political Science Department), Tel Aviv University, Israel. He holds a doctorate in Modern History from Oxford University and a master’s degree in International Relations from Cambridge University.