Two weeks ago, the United States had a Benjamin Netanyahu problem. The Israeli prime minister seemed to have gone rogue. His ambassador to Washington had secretly negotiated with Republicans to have Netanyahu address a joint session of Congress. Against the Obama administration’s wishes, Netanyahu spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives against U.S. foreign policy. He told members of Congress that the speech wasn’t political. Then he went home and used video of their applause in an ad promoting his re-election.
In the final days of his campaign, Netanyahu pitched himself to Israelis as the candidate who would stand up to President Obama, “American money,” the “international community,” and Israel’s Arab minority. He bragged that he had used settlements to seize strategic Palestinian land, and he vowed to keep doing so. A day before the election, he renounced Israel’s commitment to a Palestinian state. He pledged that if he were re-elected, he wouldn’t permit such a state. He implored Jews to flock to the polls and drown out the ballots of Arab Israelis.
Many Americans, including me, thought these rants would hurt Netanyahu. We were wrong. In those final days, his support soared. On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, won a plurality of seats in Israel’s parliament. Thirty-three percent of Israelis voted for Likud or for smaller parties that officially rejected a Palestinian state. Another 15 percent voted for Jewish nationalist or ultra-Orthodox parties that have blocked Palestinian independence. A further 7 percent voted for a Likud offshoot that is expected to round out the new government. That adds up to more than 55 percent of the electorate. It’s more than 60 percent of Israel’s Jewish voters.
– Read more: The Price Israel Must Pay – Slate