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Netanyahu won Israel’s election, but his coalition will be fractious and unstable

21 5 105

This week Benjamin Netanyahu won a spectacular election victory, his fourth in the last decade. Yet though supporters have once again bowed down to King Bibi, his victory parade may not last long. Netanyahu’s new coalition represents little more than a reincarnation of its former self, and its first year will be marred by the very same divides that threatened to collapse the previous government.

Tuesday night’s election was a nail-biting finale to Israel’s soap opera election season. Having watched events unfold since the Knesset was dissolved in December, with polls fluctuating wildly and candidates taking mudslinging to new, dirty lows, the prospect that Netanyahu could be dethroned seemed almost too good to be true. When initial exit polls showed the incumbent prime minister on the ropes and his shiny new rival Benny Gantz on the verge of making history, everyone held their breath.

Scenes from the Likud party headquarters were eerily quiet; tumbleweed dancing across the screen would not have looked out of place. Meanwhile over at Gantz’s HQ, streams of blue and white confetti and scenes of jubilation added to the sense that, maybe, 2019 was the year Netanyahu would be defeated.

After almost losing, Benjamin Netanyahu comes 1st in 2019 Israeli election – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

After almost losing, Benjamin Netanyahu comes 1st in 2019 Israeli election – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Alas, it was not to be. Unlike Gantz who rushed to give his victory speech, Netanyahu paused, collected himself, and waited for reality to set in. Exit polls in Israel are notoriously unreliable, and as the night wore on and the first official votes trickled in, sure enough, it was King Bibi who came out on top. By the early hours of the morning it was virtually business as usual, with Netanyahu delivering yet another rousing speech, loyal supporters cheering on cue.

Whatever you think of Netanyahu as a prime minister, politician, or indeed as a human being, one cannot deny that he plays the game better than his political rivals. He spews venom when necessary, playing on Israeli society’s deep-seated tribalism to secure votes at the expense of the country’s minorities. He rubs shoulders with the strongmen of the world to polish his Mr. Security, Bibi-can-fix-it image. He holds his Trump cards close to his chest until the last minute, throwing them down on the table at exactly the right moment to devastating effect.

READ: Trump congratulates Israel’s Netanyahu on election victory

In securing re-election, Netanyahu cemented his place as the king of kings, surpassing even the state’s founder David Ben Gurion in the annals of Israel’s history. Yet though he will inevitably spend the next few weeks basking in this glory, his victory lap could prove short-lived.

Netanyahu is facing the same predicament that plagues all Israeli prime ministers – how........

© Middle East Monitor