Something else — something entirely unexpected — happened. Bibi’s Likud was expected to secure 20 to 22 seats in the Knesset Tuesday night. That’s what all the polls showed. Instead, it appears Likud won 29, maybe 30 seats.
Not only was that shockingly good for Likud, it was a far stronger showing than in the last election, because in 2013, the party had merged with another called Yisrael Beytenu.
In 2013, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu together won about 23 percent of the vote. Tuesday night, Likud alone won 24 percent (or so the results seemed to suggest at press time).
Take it still further: Yisrael Beytenu evidently won six seats last night. So, if you unofficially reassemble the 2013 merger and unite its total with Likud’s, their overall number is 36 to 37 seats—nearly a 15 percent gain in two years.
Bibi’s path to forming a new government is clear and should be relatively easy, especially compared to last time.
He gambled his entire career and he won, just as he did with the speech in front of Congress earlier this month.
The three-month election process was heart-stopping and melodramatic, like an old “Batman” episode from the 1960s without the camp — including the startling role played by Special Guest Villain Barack Obama doing everything in his power to take down the man he seems to have chosen as his Enemy No. 1.
The president (or his team) shipped close campaign aides to Israel to help Bibi’s opponents, and one State Department-funded group helped coordinate the line of attack.
The strategists going after him figured out that the key to the election was to stimulate what might be called “Bibi exhaustion” in the electorate. Their approach was to remind centrist voters of Bibi’s failure to do anything about the nation’s spiraling cost-of-living crisis, which had helped bring hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets in mass protests in 2011.