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They say one should never fall in love with a politician. Ideas, yes, but never the person. They tend to fail and ultimately break your heart. I’ve agreed with that rule and followed it religiously — until the levees broke a few weeks ago.
On March 3, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in an historic speech on Iran, Israel, and the future of Western Civilization. I can’t really remember when I last felt such pride. I’m not sure I have ever engaged in that kind of uncensored admiration
It wasn’t merely his words, eloquent as they were, but the fact that my leader of my state had been given this honor and had made Congress rise to its feet no less than 25 times (yes, I did count). I was proud, and I wept as he said that “if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will still stand.” Those words filled my heart and straightened my spine, and as the applause roared I could clearly see the straight red line from where we have been as a people to where we stand today: with each other, with Bibi, having the ear of the world.
I rarely agree with President Obama, but he was right about one thing: that speech helped win yesterday’s election. The controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s address and its content created a backlash that shook the Israeli right to its core and made the Zionist Union run on a populist, anything but Bibi-platform. The buzz over the past two weeks was that Bibi was gone. But with a politically savvy Netanyahu making this the fate-of-the-nation election, the rallying began. Having had low-energy elections in both 2009 and 2013, the early numbers are now telling tales of both a 5% rise in voter turnout as well as the small miracle of Shas and Bayit Yehudi-voters rallying around Likud to prevent a leftist government dependent on the joint Arab list.
If you have followed the Israeli election from the US or Europe, chances are you are surprised or even shocked today, seeing the political balance of the country basically remaining unchanged. After all, the story of the past few days was Netanyahu saying no to establishing a Palestinian state and warning Israeli voters about the left using buses funded by American money to gather and rally the Arab vote. The headlines read outrage, claiming Netanyahu used fear and racism to garner votes — but the result of the election told a different story.
You see, just as New York or L.A. elites don’t represent the average American voter, the regular Israeli is not represented by the Tel Avivian on Twitter, nor by the average lefty Jew in the diaspora. The everyday Israeli is, much like the average American: a realist who prefers security to utopia and action to pretty words. The Israeli public knows that it has no partner in peace and that pursuing negotiations or — worse — a withdrawal from Israeli land as in 2005, could have catastrophic consequences.
This election was not only a referendum on Bibi Netanyahu, but on the tattered peace process. Bibi’s firm “no” surely helped, especially when he was running against an opponent willing to divide Jerusalem, but saying that it was a magic pill mindlessly swallowed by a fearful population is underestimating the intelligence of the Israeli public.
Some would say the election pitted economic issues against national security and that the hawkish Likudniks won. But if you know anything about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you realize that’s not necessarily true. Israelis know that in order to change the cost of living or the price of bread one has to be alive. Bibi, in short, won on a platform of survival.
It’s hard not to feel the slightest bit of schadenfreude today, seeing the outrage from the same political left that yesterday swore alliance to democracy and the power of the people. It seems they don’t enjoy seeing democracy work, merely seeing democracy work in their favor. But perhaps my glee this morning is less about the pitifully bad sportsmanship shown by the left and more about the horrible political instincts shown by President Obama.
I said, a few paragraphs ago, that the speech Bibi gave to congress helped him win this election – but I think Netanyahu’s first thank you card should be sent to Barack Obama. Not only did he allow Netanyahu to flex his muscles internationally by standing up to a petulant American president, but his catastrophic foreign policy showed Israeli voters that the motto for this election wasn’t “anything but Bibi,” but rather “Whatever Obama recommends, do the opposite.”
So, I guess what I am trying to say is: Thanks, Obama.