As of a few months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected to win another term with relative ease. But as the polls pointed to a much closer race, and Netanyahu’s position became far less secure, the prime minister started to succumb to degrees of political panic.
Indeed, today is Election Day in Israeli, and Netanyahu appears to be losing his cool a bit.
“The right-wing government is in danger,” Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post. “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.” […]Some 20 percent of eligible voters in Israel are Palestinians, also referred to as Israeli Arabs.
As the Washington Post’s report noted, many Palestinians have chosen not to participate in national elections in recent years in order to protest Israeli policies the West Bank and Gaza. This year, however, “a coalition of Arab parties opted to run on a joint ticket.”
And though Netanyahu’s social-media message was no doubt intended to motivate the Israeli right, there’s some anecdotal evidence that the prime minister may also be creating a backlash. BuzzFeed talked to a Palestinian woman named Nour Aslan who was on the fence about whether to vote today – right up until she saw Netanyahu’s controversial rhetoric.
”This is an outrage. It is embarrassing. Are we not citizens of Israel? Do we not deserve to vote?” Aslan said, adding that the prime minister’s message left her “shaking with anger. “
All of this, of course, comes on the heels of Netanyahu’s announcement yesterday that he will block a two-state solution if re-elected – a desperate move that puts him at odds with both his previous position and with the bipartisan U.S. position that currently stands as American foreign policy.
Jeffrey Goldberg noted this morning that if Netanyahu somehow manages to hang on, it’s “unlikely” the prime minister will be able to “walk back the things he’s said and done over the past two days.”
NBC News’ First Read added:
It’s rare that an election in another country could have significant repercussions here in the United States. But make no mistake: Today’s election in Israel is a big deal – on the domestic politics surrounding the Iran talks, on the U.S. politics over Israel … and on the future U.S. policy toward the Middle East.
For more on this, msnbc’s Yardena Schwartz had a good piece today noting “5 things to know about Israeli elections.”
I’d just draw your attention to a specific thing American observers should keep in mind: the polls close on Israeli’s parliamentary elections at 4:00 pm ET, but the results may not come into focus for a while. It’s not just the process of counting the votes in a close election, it’s also the process of party leaders working behind the scenes to put together a coalition government.
It’s worth keeping this in mind because it’s entirely possible that Netanyahu’s Likud Party will come up short today, but Netanyahu may still be able to remain prime minister depending on how the governing coalition takes shape.