What a surprise I had when the election results were tallied. I predicted that Likud, Bibi’s party, would get 34 seats and Kahol Lavan, Ganz’s party, would get 35. Actual number of seats of the big parties was 35 each. All the other predictions on my list were wrong.
On Friday, April 12, I am looking at the pictures of every member of the new Knesset. There are a lot of new faces, mostly because Kahol Lavan did so well with 35 seats, a large percentage first-timers, so we citizens have to learn many new names. Likud also brought a number of new MKs [Knesset Members] to the fore because Likud Knesset members had retired, and Netanyahu had encouraged certain Likud MKs to complete their service to Israel.
When the pollsters first gave their predictions, Ganz had a larger number of seats, so it appeared to him a triumph over Bibi. Ganz was so excited that he gave a victory speech at midnight. He forgot to count the parties which were pledged to Netanyahu and would provide him with their seats to form a right-wing coalition.
Throughout the campaign, Ganz was never able to move any party to his side. The results were very similar to 2015 when Netanyahu’s coalition, made up of parties and Likud, numbered 64. This election it was 67. People like myself worked our way through the election season, hoping to see a party moving from right to left. That did not happen, so it was fairly easy to predict a Netanyahu victory.
What has happened here in Israel is that the parties to the right have become stronger as have the ultra-religious parties (Ashkenazic and Sephardic). Moreover, studies here in Israel have shown that a portion of the new voters and people in their 20s have moved to the right. Part of this has to do with the fact that Israel is a capitalistic country, for the most part. While the left is still working for a two-state solution, better social frameworks, better care for the poor, the elderly and Holocaust survivors, that is not the agenda of these youngsters. I can say that because I am 80.
What will this new Knesset mean for Israel’s future, in my opinion? First and foremost, there will be an attempt made to pass a law that a sitting prime minister cannot be indicted. The Israeli secular school’s system will be pushed by the new minister of education to load its curriculum with Jewish religious materials. This was begun several years ago, but I think it has been a failure. There will continue to be encouragement for “start-up” projects.
For those who believe in the highest judiciary in the land making the major decisions concerning the laws of the land, they will not know what to do. Why? Because the Knesset will attempt to make the Supreme Court subservient to the duly elected governing legislative body.
Since I know so much about the Israeli transportation system via my son, a key player in this field in Israel, I have a sad announcement to make to Israel and the world. The approach of the Israeli finance ministry, which pays for these budding train systems, will continue to be catastrophic, so 2022 or 2023 may see the first light railway in Tel Aviv and new lines and extensions in Jerusalem.
As I have said for years, we need American olim [immigrants], whose religious views are traditional-moderate or secular. Sadly, this won’t happen in my lifetime. But think how the Israeli Beresheet moon-lander made it from the USA to the moon’s surface.
Sadly, it crashed a few meters before it was to land. I can tell you Israel will make it the next time. Any project which Israel thinks through carefully will succeed.
David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi who lives in Jerusalem.