I wouldn't want to be in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's shoes this morning. Beyond Likud-Beytenu's surprisingly poor showing; beyond the sense that Netanyahu and his advisers made every possible mistake; beyond his personal disappointment, the prime minister is in a bind right now. He is hemmed in by Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) on one side, the haredim on another, and Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) on another. They all want to be part of the coalition. Is that possible?
I don't intend to untangle the knot here, to figure out all the possible coalition configurations. The French have a saying: Don't sell the bear skin before killing the bear. I do not intend to divide the bear skin between those who managed to kill it and those who barely contributed. I will leave that headache to the prime minister, who made his bed and now has to lie in it. Neither he nor his circle realized that the social protests had not died and that they would have to face up to this on election day.
But we can already derive several conclusions from the election results:
1) When parties unite, it does not necessarily make them more powerful or attractive. Netanyahu’s and Avigdor Lieberman's (Yisrael Beytenu) celebrations of three months ago were premature.
2) One can start a new party along the lines of Yesh Atid, without a clear ideology or agenda, and without a small army of politicos, and still pick up 18 to 20 seats.
3) It was enough to espouse two vague slogans — concern for the middle class and demanding that haredim be drafted into the army — for a former spokesmodel for Bank Hapoalim (Yair Lapid) to gain on Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, a woman who for years has fought the real fight on behalf of the proletariat. There's social justice for you.
4) The public, unlike many journalists who abet government corruption, does not like corrupt MKs and ministers. The public has proved that it is wiser and saner than journalists. Any way you look at the scandals surrounding Avigdor Lieberman, for instance, they did not help Likud-Beytenu. Lieberman was almost absent during the campaign, and this was no accident. He was neither seen nor heard, but the public did not forget. It is hard to forget his string of iniquities.
5) The same can be said about Shas’ legendary Aryeh Deri. Clearly, he is no legend; he is not even particularly popular. These elections proved that the Sephardi community rejects criminals as well. It is embarrassed to be identified with them.
6) Rumors of the death of the Israeli Left were immature. There is a real Left in Israel, not a sycophantic one, and it is not afraid to fight for peace and protect human rights. A Left that makes clear, incisive statements without fear. This Left now has a leader whose name is Zahava Gal-On. She proved that it is possible to take the high road, not to engage in shtick or underhanded tricks, and to double Meretz's power, bringing about 100,000 supporters back to the fold.
Nor did the support of suspected criminals, convicted criminals, and a wrongdoer like Ehud Olmert for Shaul Mofaz help him. Once again, contrary to certain journalists, the public is not stupid. The pitfalls of associating with people like this, Mofaz learned too late, are greater than the benefits.
The public are truly not dupes. They kicked almost 60 legislators out of the Knesset while opening the door to almost 60 new ones. Just look at the list and you'll realize that this was no mistake: Most of those kicked out should have gone home a long time ago.
One final word about the two “magicians,” the campaign strategists imported from the U.S., namely Arthur Finkelstein, who consulted for Likud-Beytenu, and Stanley Greenberg on behalf of Labor. They remind me of some of the players acquired by the premier soccer league: They are superfluous. Here in Israel, we have minds that are no less nimble. Both parties could have done better with homegrown Israeli advisers.