The Election’s Big Losers

It’s too early to know who won this week’s election in Israel. But it’s easy enough to figure out who lost.

The reason we can’t know who won, even though the ballots have all been cast and counted, is that the winner in Israeli elections is the one who can form a coalition of 61 MKs, not the one who gets the most votes. And it will be at least a month, if not two, of high political drama before the process plays out and a new government is proclaimed.

But we don’t have to wait that long to know who lost in these elections. In no particular order, they are as follows:

The credibility of the secular press. Once upon a time, newspapers made an effort to appear unbiased; they tried to draw a line between news reporting and editorializing. That line, which had been gradually fading for years, was completely erased during this election campaign.

Readers of Yediot Aharonot, until recently Israel’s largest-circulation daily, got a steady stream of anti-Netanyahu vitriol. Every story had a predictable anti-Netanyahu slant — poverty is worse than ever, schoolchildren are scoring lower than ever on tests, there are more traffic jams and car accidents than ever, and we know why, don’t we?

Readers of Yisrael Hayom, on the other hand, got the opposite message (predictably, since the paper is owned by Netanyahu-backer Sheldon Adelson).

The election campaign has taught readers that the secular media is agenda-driven and can’t be trusted. This isn’t news to the religious public, but there’s no doubt that the general public has finally gotten it.

Respect for the intelligence of the voter. This was a Rottweiler campaign, where instead of issues being discussed, we had political rivals being ruthlessly torn apart. The media spent more time covering the weighty matter of whether the prime minister’s wife kept the deposits on the bottles used in her official residence than it did grilling candidates on how exactly they intend to lower the price of housing, bring peace, end the Iranian nuclear threat and so on.

The ultimate slap in the face to the intelligence of the voter was Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett’s attempt to put a soccer player on the ticket. True, the secular soccer player was a proponent of the disengagement from Gaza and had no experience in politics, but he was popular and would bring votes. What could be more shallow and insulting to the voter than that?

Democracy. There were elections less than two years ago and the voter clearly said that he wanted a solid coalition of right-wing and religious parties. Netanyahu abandoned his traditional allies, chiefly the chareidi parties, and created a contrived government that clearly had no staying power.

Creating a coalition requires more than the ability to count to 61. It requires allegiance to principles and trusted political partners, which in turn leads to a coalition capable of governing for four years.

The economy. When millions of people get a day off to vote — less than two years after the last elections — and those who do go to work after spending five minutes at the polls get 200 percent pay, that results in a huge waste of money that could have gone to hot lunches for children or medical prescriptions for the elderly.

The much bigger expense was the paralysis caused by the elections, the important economic reforms that were frozen in their tracks.

U.S.-Israel ties. There’s no doubt that the tensions of the past three months between the prime minister and President Barack Obama were exacerbated by the election campaign. Netanyahu felt a need to show voters that he could stand up to the U.S. president, and this produced unnecessary tensions between the two.

Moreover, allegations that the OneVoice Movement, a Washington-based group, received $350,000 in funding from the State Department to campaign against Netanyahu, which are being investigated in the U.S. Senate, don’t add to the health of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

The myth of Palestinian inability to fight terrorism. The PA security forces worked very hard over the past month to prevent terrorism in Israel. They searched the homes of hundreds of potential terrorists associated with Hamas and other groups, arrested nearly 100 suspects and left flyers warning that they would take a firm hand against anyone who dared launch an attack.

The Palestinians, sad to say, weren’t acting out of concern for Jewish lives, but out of self-interest. They feared that a terror attack would work in Netanyahu’s favor. In previous elections, terrible attacks on the eve of an election, R”l, have brought votes to the Likud, which is seen as being tougher on security.

We can only daven that the government that is finally formed will make all of Am Yisrael winners. That it will respect and nurture the Torah world, and bring about affordable housing for everyone, and merit the Divine protection Eretz Yisrael needs to survive in view of the existential threat it faces.