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Netanyahu's ominous victory not the brand of politics Israel expected

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

The opposition vote was further diminished by lower turnout among Arab Israelis. They were frustrated by divisions among their own leaders and the reluctance of Gantz's party to appeal directly for their votes. They were also subject to a voter suppression campaign as Netanyahu's party sent supporters with some 1,200 cameras and recording devices into Arab polling places.

Allison Kaplan Sommer, a writer for the liberal Haaretz, also pointed to Netanyahu's image-burnishing success in creating warm ties with President Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other "more authoritarian, more transactional and more relationship-oriented leaders."

When it comes to Trump, the Israeli leader can point to how much his constituency resembles his American ally's: Netanyahu lost the sophisticated, upscale voters around Tel Aviv to Gantz by more than 2-to-1, but overwhelmed Gantz in more religious Jerusalem, and also in towns that Sommer described as Israel's equivalent of Middle America.

The fact that Netanyahu could prevail and win his fifth election even in the face of a pending indictment on corruption charges is a tribute to his ruthless and brazen political cunning. But the pending indictment could yet be his undoing. Seeking legal protection from the new Parliament could split his coalition partners and even his own party.

For now, Netanyahu is triumphant, the latest politician to gain or hold power by dividing his country and stoking right-wing nationalism. It's not the brand of politics Israel's liberal supporters ever expected.

 

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E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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