Expert: Netanyahu in good strategic position

Thursday, January 31, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

The right-wing powerhouses of the Israeli political scene might not have done as well as many hoped in the recent election, but that doesn't mean Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to achieve his goal by calling an early vote.

Professor Gideon Rahat, an expert on Israeli politics at the Israel Democracy Institute and the Hebrew University, told Israel Today that "Likud lost the election, but Netanyahu won."

Asked why Likud and its partner Israel Beiteinu Party lost so many mandates, Prof. Rahat said Israelis have been searching for a viable centrist option since at least 1977.

That's why Yair Lapid's centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) did so well, at the expense of both the right and left.

When it comes to economics, "most Israelis want socialism over capitalism," said Rahat. But Israelis also realize that unrestrained socialism means most of their taxes go to support sectors of society that largely fail to contribute - namely the ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Arabs.

When it comes to security and the peace process, "most Israelis see that [the Palestinians] don't want real peace, but Israelis also don't want to rule over the Palestinians," Rahat continued.

These two factors drive voters to centrist options like Yesh Atid, which ran on a platform of sensible socialist economic policies and a cautious approach to peace-making with the Palestinians.

All that said, Netanyahu still came out as "the only real option for prime minister," explained the professor.

"Netanyahu is in a very good strategic position," said Rahat. "He can make a coalition with Yesh Atid and the center, but threaten to pull out and form a new coalition with the right if his partners don't go along with him.He has several options."

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