Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party was revealed today as the clear winners in Israel's elections this week. Netanyahu was considered to be trailing his more liberal opponent Yitzhak Herzog in the opinion polls in the run up to the election, and last night it was being reported that the election was in a dead heat. This morning, there was a clear winner.
No Overnight Success
Netanyahu didn't win overnight suddenly however, and the win was more-than-likely in the works. Having been on the political scene in Israel for the past 20 years, Netanyahu has done well to recover from his defeat in the elections in 1999 following his first term as Prime Minister. He's since bounced back to win two more terms and put the Zionist Union, Likud's biggest political rivals, on the back burner for two decades. The election win for Netanyahu not only sets up him to become Israel's longest ever serving Prime Minister, but shows that political opinion with the radical right is still strong in Israel.
The Likud campaign did come with some strong promises, some of which concerned long-time allies the US and Nato. Netanyahu did promise thousands of new homes to be built for Israeli settlers in occupied territories hotly disputed with Palestinians over as well as saying there would be no independent Palestinian state under his watch, something that conflicts the US's adopted "two-state" policy. Relations with the US, already icy since Netanyahu took charge 10 years ago, are in danger now of running even more acute with his party's re-election.
In the end, Netanyahu's re-election proves the road to peace may be a very long one in the Middle East. Some analysts would argue the rise of ISIS cleared the way for a more aggressive Prime Minister, something of which Netanyahu's last three terms would show he is capable of being. Others would say the traditionalist nature of Israel's politics and it's obvious connection to religious history is a hard trend to break, but in the end whatever it may be the story will not change in Israel. The fact that the Zionist Union put up such a strong showing though may mean that change might finally be on the horizon.