Anshel Pfeffer writes: 48 hours before the polls opened, on a train from Jerusalem, making the winding journey downhill to Tel Aviv, the passengers, mainly soldiers and police officers returning to their bases after a weekend’s leave, were talking about the election. “I didn’t want to vote Bibi, he’s been around too long, but now there’s a danger of the left coming to power, so we have to vote Bibi,” was a sentence I heard repeated up and down the train.
The fatigue that most Israelis felt for Netanyahu was very real. In poll after poll large majorities answered that they would prefer change and more votes were cast for parties who were critical of his policies and whose leaders, if they could find a way of sitting together in one government, would have gladly replaced him.
So how did Netanyahu manage in the last six days of the campaign to convince more than 250,000 voters to change their minds and vote Likud? Why did his rivals fail so miserably at mobilising the anti-Netanyahu sentiment into a coherent and cohesive political force?
Netanyahu won the election because he succeeded in stoking a deep and irrational fear of the left. A left which – or so runs the line – is too complacent, too cosmopolitan, too secular and too lacking in an ideological backbone to stand up for Israel’s interests.
Netanyahu’s cynical ploy on election day, when he warned in a personal message on his Facebook page of “droves of Arabs” descending on the polls, was appealing less to the racism of his potential voters than to their fear that the left was incapable of keeping a hold on power and would be easily manipulated by outside forces. He was warning them that should they vote for someone else, Jews would be losing control of their destiny in their land. [Continue reading…]