Quick Israeli Election Reactions

By Jeffrey Goldberg

1) Israelis are most upset by the rising power of the ultra-orthodox (the Haredim). This accounts for Yesh Atid's strong performance. Plus party leader Yair Lapid's hair gel. Also a very important factor.

2) Yesh Atid is such a Jewish name. "There is a Future." Optimistic, but threaded with melancholy.

3) Netanyahu could have spent more time focused on social issues.

4) Kadima. What was that about, anyway?

5) I'm assuming, for now, a Likud-Yesh Atid-Jewish Home coalition, but anything is possible.

6) Every television commentator is asking what this means for the peace process. What does it mean for the peace process? Not much.

7) This election is a reminder that settlers only represent 4 percent of the Israeli population.

8) Biggest question on my mind: Will Obama and Yair Lapid have chemistry?

9) Okay, not the biggest question on my mind.

10) On the one hand, Lapid's victory is a victory for secular Israel. On the other hand, about 40 percent of members of the next Knesset will be Orthodox.

11) Hamas never fails: A spokesman says that Netanyahu's decision to visit the Western Wall after voting represents a "provocation."

12) This, from Adam Chandler: "Myth #1: Israelis are disaffected and checked out.
Counterpoint: The voter turnout in Israel is the highest since 1999 (when Netanyahu was thrown out of office). The most recent numbers released by the Elections Committee show that almost 64% of Israelis have voted. The total may eclipse 70% by the end of the day."

And this, from my Bloomberg View column:

A Netanyahu-Bennett-Lapid coalition would be far more likely to take bold action against another of Israel's threats, the rise of the ultra-Orthodox, than to take on the peace process. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Haredi men don't serve in the army and are on the public dole so that they can pursue full-time religious studies. And Haredi political parties are becoming more radical (ayatollah-like, in some ways), demanding sex segregation on public buses and generally trying to erase the line dividing synagogue from state. Lapid's popularity is derived in large part from his stalwart stance against the privileges accrued by the ultra-Orthodox.

Belief in the efficacy of the peace process has ebbed dramatically, even among those Israelis who know that Bennett's vision of an Israel in permanent control of the Palestinians is a formula for ruin. The weakness of the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank; the recalcitrance of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip; and the Arab Spring uprisings, which have left Syria in chaos and Egypt in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, haven't advanced the cause of a two-state solution.

One more quote to keep in mind, this from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who said three years ago (in a statement just unearthed this month) that Muslims should "nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews." Statements like this, which are also often heard in Palestinian circles, give Israelis pause about pursuing compromise.

The next coalition -- even if it is center-right, rather than hard-right -- is going to have a hard time selling a revitalized peace process.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/quick-israeli-election-reactions/267410/