After a divisive political campaign, the people of Israel have delivered what appears to be a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Israel’s parliamentary system is a complex one. With some twenty parties, each with “seats” in the parliament, the victor must put together sixty-one seats/votes so that he might rule over a coalition government—no easy task as it demands that the candidate make hard compromises and concessions to obtain these votes.
But there are some messages that the election makes clear:
- Iran remains a matter of great concern for many Israelis. Even as all Israelis are concerned with domestic issues, physical and geographic security is a top priority. In a part of the world where violence and bloodshed are common, this election took place without one bullet being fired.
- 20% of the Israeli population is Arab, and these people do have the right to vote in national elections as they do. And Arabs do occupy seats in the Knesset.
- While Benjamin Netanyahu came out and declared that he is opposed to a two-state solution, I believe that should an honest, courageous and strong Palestinian leader emerge with a genuine desire for peace, that he will find in Israel a most receptive partner.
- While the Obama administration appears to have “involved” itself in the Israeli election, this effort did not succeed. Israelis deeply value their relationship with America and trust that the relationship can endure the tension that exists between the two leaders.
- As the Palestinian Authority leadership called for disengaging with Israel on talks about the future, how could we not question: After all of the peace talks, Camp David and Oslo, how can we begin to imagine that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were at all serious about peace, when they said no to proposals that would have given the Palestinians a state, and when Hamas still has in its charter the goal of destroying Israel? Yet now, Israel is portrayed as the obstacle to peace, even as a Palestinian state today would surely result in a civil war among the Palestinians as to who will rule, and a Middle East put into further upheaval and chaos. I wish that was not the reality, and that we could blame Netanyahu as the primary obstacle to an agreement, but that is not the case, and in his heart of hearts, our president has to be wise enough to recognize that truth.
There will be a new Israeli government. May it embody wisdom, courage and vision. The people of Israel yearn for the same things that we enjoy in this country: security, opportunity and the capacity to envision a time of peace and prosperity for all her people. Lu Yehi—“may it only be.”