Much virtual ink has already been spilled in the less than 24 hours since the results were announced. Here are a seven thoughts that came up in the Blum household.
1. Stepping on each other’s toes already? Why did Bibi and Yair choose to speak to the media at exactly the same time last night? Yair Lapid took to the stage to give his big victory speech for his party Yesh Atid and seconds later, Netanyahu was doing the same thing. Was it, as one pundit said, because Lapid is a political novice and should have ceded the timeslot to Bibi when he realized there was a conflict? Or was Bibi already starting the power games, showing the Yesh Atid leader who’s really the king here?
2. The coalition starts now. If, as everyone seems to think, Bibi – who it is pretty clear will be tasked with forming the next government – wants to put together a broad coalition with at least some of the “center left” parties in the government, then why is he starting his coalition discussions with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party which, those same analyses believe, may very well be left out of the coalition in the end?
3. English-speakers rule. If a very narrow coalition of Likud, Bayit HaYehudi and Yesh Atid were to be formed, that would mean that the three main party leaders would also be fluent English speakers. Bibi grew up partly in the U.S., Bayit HaYehudi head Naftali Bennett spoke English at home with his immigrant parents, and Yair Lapid honed his English as a journalist, writer and actor, some of that time in New York. This new English-speaker’s “old boy’s club” might mean no entry to Shelly Yacimovitch of Labor not just because of her gender but since she is still taking English lessons to improve her nearly non-existence proficiency with the language.
4. Midnight snack. We went to bed wondering if in the morning there would be a surprise along the lines of the 1996 election, when at midnight it appeared Shimon Peres would be the next prime minister of Israel and in the morning we woke up to find Netanyahu in the role. There were a couple of small jolts this time around: Kadima, which every exit poll wrote off as dead, snuck in with two seats (with the help of a vote sharing agreement with the now defunct Am Shalem party, apparently). And Labor, which its party faithful hoped would equal or even exceed Lapid’s Yesh Atid when all the votes were counted, instead sunk another two seats.
5. Vote for the cheese. This election upends 64 years of conventional wisdom that Israelis always vote according to security issues and that the social justice protests of the summer of 2011 had long been subsumed by missiles from Hamas and nuclear weapons in Iran. In fact, Israelis said loud and clear that if you can’t afford cottage cheese and housing, what’s left to defend?
6. Dueling Anglos. Two Anglo candidates swapped seats, so to speak. In the run-up to the elections, with Bayit HaYehudi on the ascendency, it looked like Jeremy Gimpel, at number 14 on the party’s list, would make it into the Knesset. Instead, Rabbi Dov Lipman, at number 17 on Yesh Atid’s list, got elected instead. Lipman, who is a Zionist, moderate ultra-Orthodox rabbi (try saying that three times fast) who made aliyah less than a decade ago, had already been charged with managing Yesh Atid’s priority plank of equalizing the service burden and drafting the haredim. Now he’ll be able to do it with an official office in Jerusalem.
7. Blowing up gains? A question remains about Gimpel: was his party’s fall from a predicted 14+ seats to only 11 in the final tally at all due to the viral video of his widely publicized “joke” about blowing up the Dome of the Rock? If you look at the numbers, it appears that Likud and Bayit HaYehudi dropped a combined total of five seats from pre-election predictions. That’s about how many Yesh Atid gained. Causation or just correlation?
What were the biggest take-away’s you had from the election? Feel free to them to the comments at the end of this post.