Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resounding victory this week defied poll after poll, most of which had him trailing by as many as four points before Election Day.
Zionist Union, the political party leading the Israeli left in its aspirations to unseat Netanyahu, had larger campaign funds than the prime minister’s Likud Party, received a thinly veiled endorsement from the Obama administration, and was favored by many in the Israeli media. And yet they lost by a large margin.
In the dramatic weeks leading up to the elections, those interested in seeing Netanyahu’s reign come to an end believed that the economy would be his Achilles’ heel. Netanyahu has led during a time when the disparity between Israel’s rich and poor has grown. He hasn’t been able to bring down the rising cost of living or to provide the middle class with higher wages.
And so the media predicted Netanyahu’s political demise. Yet, the difficult financial state many Israelis find themselves in did not bring Netanyahu down as thought, but turned out to be a secondary concern. Security proved once again to be the primary issue for a majority of Israeli voters.
U.S. President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have, to say the least, a difficult relationship, a point not lost on Israeli voters. However, this may have actually galvanized the Israeli public behind their leader, who seen as a man who won’t back down from speaking the truth about the deal the U.S. is forging with Iran.
On the Palestinian front, Israelis backed Netanyahu as he faces growing international pressure to offer concessions to a Palestinian leadership viewed by voters as interested in anything but peace. And now that Netanyahu will lead Israel’s next government, the Israelis who voted for him can look forward to the security and leadership his term promises.