The people have been heard — and the message is loud and clear: Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister, and no opposition bloc, not even one that includes parties that are enemies of the State of Israel, will be able to prevent it.
In actuality, Netanyahu didn't have a real rival for the premiership, but his party's drop in Knesset seats could make the task of forming a coalition difficult for him.
His options are either to quickly create a government on the basis of the solid parliamentary core he has, similar to Menachem Begin in 1977, and call on the other Zionist parties to join him; or to engage in lengthy negotiations with both his concrete and potential partners. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and Netanyahu will need to choose which is preferable.
Even if the Likud didn't manage to completely exploit its electoral potential — there is more than one reason this happened and in the not-too-distant future this will also have to be addressed. The essential, primary question presently facing the elected prime minister is how to ensure a government strong enough to operate freely and to implement the necessary measures on the diplomatic, security and economic fronts in the next four years. Some perhaps as soon as this year.
Netanyahu will need to block populist social and economic trends to prevent deterioration similar to some European countries — and simultaneously face the dangers posed by our environment.
One issue likely to take precedence over all others is the Iranian nuclear threat, which will also mold our diplomatic and military relations with the United States — for better or worse. It's encouraging that President Barack Obama declared on Tuesday that his government will maintain close ties with any Israeli government. Either way, he already knew it would be a government headed by Netanyahu.
The Palestinian issue will also be pertinent, and on this front Obama's declaration that the U.S. will continue to support direct negotiations without preconditions, similar to Netanyahu's position, is also encouraging. With that, it can be assumed that during his next term, Netanyahu will seek to propose new and creative ideas to advance the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians — without hurting Israel's basic security interests or the country's Jewish and Zionist values.
Despite the fear camping propagated by the Left and the left-wing media in Israel and the U.S. about American vengefulness pertaining to Israel, we can to assume that Obama and his advisers — who are cognizant of both countries' shared basic interests and the dangers hiding in the weeds in this part of the world — will be more honest and realistic than Israeli oppositionists.
To ensure such positive relations Netanyahu's new government will clearly also need to engage in creative diplomatic measures — perhaps more so than ever before.