Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party was the clear winner in Tuesday’s election, a near-final tally showed early Wednesday morning, defeating the Zionist Union by a margin of some six seats.
That margin was far more decisive than TV exit polls had predicted when polling booths closed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday. All three TV polls had put Likud and Zionist Union neck-and-neck at 27 seats, albeit with Netanyahu better-placed to form a coalition.
On the basis of those TV polls, Netanyahu hailed a Likud victory, though Herzog initially refused to concede. As counting proceeded through the night, however, the Likud opened a growing margin of victory.
By 6 a.m., with some 99% of votes counted, the Central Elections Committee was indicating a dramatic victory for Netanyahu, with the Likud heading for 30 seats, compared to Zionist Union’s 24 seats.
“Against all odds we obtained a great victory for the Likud,” Netanyahu told the gathering. “Now we must form a strong and stable government that will ensure Israel’s security and welfare,” he added, in comments aimed at Kahlon.
He said he had already been in touch with all other “nationalist parties” in hopes of quickly forming a coalition — apparently ruling out a partnership with Herzog.
In a statement, Likud said Netanyahu intended to form a new government within weeks, with negotiations already underway with the pro-settler Jewish Home party led by Naftali Bennett, the centrist Kulanu party and ultra-Orthodox groups.
The critical party to get on side will be Kulanu, led by former Likud member and communications minister Moshe Kahlon, who won 10 seats, making him a kingmaker given his ability to side with either Netanyahu or the center-left opposition.
"Reality is not waiting for us," Netanyahu said. "The citizens of Israel expect us to quickly put together a leadership that will work for them regarding security, economy and society as we committed to do - and we will do so."
If he manages to pull together a workable coalition, it would give Netanyahu a fourth-term in office, putting him on track to become Israel's longest-serving prime minister, a label held by the country's founding father, David Ben-Gurion.
Netanyahu's victory is also likely to prolong the country's testy relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama, especially after his strident words on settlements and his backing away from the long-stated international goal of arriving at a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During much of the campaign, Netanyahu had focused on security issues and the threat from Iran's nuclear program, a message that appeared to gain little traction with voters.
From the Palestinian point-of-view, the results are a deep concern, raising the prospect of more settlement expansion on land they want for their own state in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as in Gaza.
If Netanyahu follows through on his pledges it would put him on a collision course with the Obama administration and the European Union, which has been weighing steps including trade measures to sanction Israel for its settlements policy.
It also raises questions about what happens on Iran, with Obama determined to pursue negotiations towards a deal on its nuclear program and Netanyahu determined to scupper any deal.
The Palestinians may quickly create problems for Netanyahu as they will formally become members of the International Criminal Court on April 1 and have said they will pursue war crimes charges against Israel over its 48-year occupation of the West Bank and last year's war in Gaza.
Pre-empting those steps, Israel has suspended the transfer of tax revenue it collects on the Palestinians' behalf, holding back around $120 million a month. That has crippled the Palestinian budget and led to deep pay cuts for state workers.
What will happen next?
Bibi will soon form a coalition government with his “natural allies:” the right wing Naftali Bennett (8 seats) and Avigdor Liberman (6 seats), two ultra-Orthodox parties (13 seats together) and an old-new comer, Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister who formed his own party and was able to get 10 Knesset seats. Kahlon will be the minister of finance and will try to solve many socioeconomic issues. Herzog’s Labor (24 seats) as well as Yair Lapid (11 seats — the wiz kid of the previous elections in 2013) will be left in the opposition together with a strong Arab party (13-14 seats) and the left-wing Meretz (4) whose chairwoman Zehava Gal-on, already announced her resignation, accepting responsibility for the party’s failure.
The new Coalition will enjoy a majority of 67 seats in the 120 member Knesset, enough to govern comfortably.
What will this government do?
No change is expected in defense and peace process issues. Netanyahu believes that there is no Palestinian partner and will act accordingly. He will continue to try and prevent a nuclear Iran and the upcoming agreement. The new government will continue to be forceful against Hamas and Hezbollah.
Netanyahu knows that he has to improve relations with President Obama since they have to cooperate for the next almost two years. Obama’s peace process plans may put him on a new collision course with Netanyahu, nevertheless within weeks we will witness a Netanyahu trip to Washington as a guest of the President. All will be forgiven, if not forgotten. Obama will have to respect the Israeli people’s choice.
Netanyahu understands that many socioeconomic problems got out of hand. He will give the new minister of finance, Moshe Kahlon, a relatively free hand, as he tries to confront crucial issues such as the cost of living, a housing shortage, and a much desired reform of the health system. Kahlon is popular and has a chance to succeed.
This term will most likely be Netanyahu’s fourth and last. The unexpected election victory is considered in Israel as an act of personal achievement and Netanyahu is referred to as “The Magician”, by the same media that until now called for his ouster. Netanyahu will have to show strength and creativity if he wants to leave a respectable legacy rather than being a mere footnote in Israel’s history.
Russia plans to station state-of-the art missiles in its westernmost Baltic exclave and deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea as part of massive war games to showcase its resurgent military power amid bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine.
The Russian military exercises this week range from the Arctic to the Pacific Ocean and involve tens of thousands of troops, the Defence Ministry said Tuesday.
The Iskander missiles will be sent to the Kaliningrad region that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania as part of the manoeuvres, said a Defence Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment publicly.
The official also said Russia will deploy long-range, nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 bombers to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine a year ago.
In a statement, the Defence Ministry said the Baltic Fleet, the Southern Military District and the Airborne Forces have been brought to the highest stage of combat readiness and have started moving to shooting ranges as part of the drills.
The wide-ranging exercise started Monday, when President Vladimir Putin ordered the Northern Fleet and other military forces on combat alert as part of the exercise in the Arctic. Other units in the Pacific region, southern Siberia and southwestern Russia also launched drills.
The Iskander missiles deployment to Kaliningrad reflects Moscow’s readiness to raise the ante in response to NATO moves to deploy forces closer to Russia’s borders. The missiles, which are capable of hitting enemy targets up to 500 kilometres with high precision, can be equipped with a nuclear or a conventional warhead. From Kaliningrad, they could reach several NATO member states.
A division of Russian Airborne Forces has been relocated from Ivanovo to the Arctic amid ongoing snap combat readiness drills in the country, the Defense Ministry said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to bring the country's Northern Fleet to full alert in a snap combat readiness exercise on March 16. The drills involve 38,000 military personnel, 3,360 pieces of equipment, 41 ships, 15 submarines, and 110 airplanes and helicopters.
"Ilyushin Il-76 [Candid] airlifters delivered the servicemen and military technology to the military airfield in the Arctic, where the military servicemen from the Russian Airborne Forces are to perform various [drill] tasks," the ministry said in a statement.
Russian military flights outside Russian airspace have reached levels not seen since the Cold War, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Most concerning to NORAD officials is not the number of flights into U.S. and allies' Air Defense Identification Zones but the increasing capabilities of the Russian aircraft and pilots, Adm. William Gortney said.
NORAD says the recent Russian buildup in its Arctic areas, combined with growing Russian military capabilities in the region, is concerning.
"We are seeing more complexity in flight activity," said Col. Patrick Carpentier, deputy commander of the Alaska NORAD region. "The Russians have made no secret they are ... making a lot of headway in modernizing their weapons."
Upgrades include command and control systems that can now allow Russian planes, ships and submarines to coordinate information gathering or attack plans.
"The majority of the flights are long-range missions, so the aircraft we will see are (Tu-95) Bear bomber aircraft and different types of long-range reconnaissance aircraft," Carpentier said.
In September 2014, a squadron of six Russian bomber, fighter, air-refueling and reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted as it approached Alaska airspace. Similar incidents have grown in frequency across Northern Europe since the start of Russian intervention in Crimea and Ukraine. Russian training flights have even forced some commercial air carriers to change planes' courses to avoid the Russian planes.
Gortney said Russia is working on long-range cruise missiles capable of being launched from ships, aircraft and submarines and which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.
"They can reach critical infrastructure in Alaska and Canada that we rely on for a homeland defense mission," Gortney said in written comments to the Senate committee.
While the Left hypocritically questions the senator’s patriotism, no one is disputing his letter’s actual content.
It has been an Iranian tradition since 1979 to end Friday prayers with chants of “Death to America!”
In a purely rational world, that would be all one needed to know that Iran is not a reliable negotiating partner. Alas, we do not live in such a world. But there’s more evidence. Iran, according to our State Department, has been the chief exporter of terrorism for the last three decades. It has worked closely with al-Qaeda, facilitating its attacks on America and our allies. Most of the September 11 hijackers traveled through Iran with the help of the Iranian government. U.S. judges have ruled that Iran was an accomplice in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and the September 11 attacks. During the Iraq War, Iran was responsible for numerous American deaths.
Right now, via its brutal proxies, Iran is manipulating events on the ground in four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sanaa. Whatever success there has been against the Islamic State in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit has been thanks to Iranian advisors operating in Iraq and the Shiite Muslim militias they control. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, retired admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he fears Iran more than Islamic State.
So, obviously, the greatest villain in the world today is . . . Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.). He led the effort to get 46 other senators to sign a letter to the Iranian government explaining that any deal with Iran would require congressional approval.
The New York Daily News branded them all “TRAITORS” on its front page. Isn’t it amazing how even vaguely questioning the patriotism of liberals is an outrage beyond the borders of acceptable debate, but branding 47 GOP senators “traitors” is treated as at least forgivable bombast? Retired major general Paul Eaton told the Washington Post they aren’t traitors, they’re merely “mutinous,” revealing Eaton’s shocking ignorance of our constitutional structure. Yes, Obama is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but he is not the commander-in-chief of the co-equal legislative branch.
The more important point here is that no one disagrees with the content of the letter because it is accurate. The White House had to admit that Cotton was right; the deal as it stands would be a “non-binding” agreement. And, therefore, as the letter explains, “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen.”
(In fact, Obama did pretty much exactly that with an agreement struck between Israel and the United States about settlement growth in Palestinian territories.)
This premature admission is politically inconvenient for the Obama administration because it wants to get the United Nations to approve the deal, making it a fait accompli. It hoped to get to that point without anyone noticing.
The Cotton letter is not mutinous or traitorous or unconstitutional. It is inconvenient, and apparently being inconvenient in the age of Obama is all it takes to be called unpatriotic.
Scott, Joel Rosenberg had a good commentary on Bibi's victory this morning. He called this a miracle from God! It wasn't even a narrow victory but a crushing defeat of the opposition. It has God's finger prints all over it! Amazing! It sure looks like Bibi is God's man for the time of Jacob's trouble!
Thanks for that. Ill post it when i get a chance. I meant to go to his site earlier but lost track w all the other news
WV, agree completely. This does appear to have God's fingerprints all over it. This isn't just squeaking out a win at the last minute, this is a drubbing for those who've openly said they would negotiate away Israel's land.
Guess the Administration is going to have to send all that Champagne back into storage.
"Guess the Administration is going to have to send all that Champagne back into storage"
HaHa...Good one Caver!
They can save it for the day martial law begins.
the classless spoiled brat resident of the WH has so far not congratulated bibi...surprise, surprise...yikes how did he get in office smh
Probably has something to do with 120% voter turnout in many counties. 100% voting for Barry, people voting illegally, electronic booths recording rep votes for democrats instead ie rigged voting, busloads of illegal voters etc etc.
WV and Scott,
DO you really think Bibi could be God's man for the trib? I thought Israel signed a treaty they shouldn't and then terror strikes. Where am I off on this?
Perhaps he is for the time of Gog Magog.
Thankfully the rapture is not dependent on any of this. The Lord is bringing many to Himself in the Arab countries and Bibi may be in place as much for keeping a peace that is productive for many to still enter in. At any rate it seems like some grace is still in play for Israel and I rejoice.
Thats a good question W - I have a hard time seeing him there during the Trib, but as you say, maybe at the time of Gog-MaGog. For all we know, he'll get raptured (well, you never know....)
To be perfectly honest, I thought he would get defeated and a weaker leader would put Israel in a 'perfect' position to be weaker and weaker leaving only God to protect them. So who knows....Its all God's plan, and so amazing and fascinating to watch these things develop.
If Bibi was there at the beginning of the Trib, I sure don't think he would last long in that role at that time - sadly
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