Netanyahus decisive victory gives him the chance to make history

It wasn’t quite “Dewey Defeats Truman,” but the scope of Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive victory in this week’s Israeli election took many observers by surprise. The pre-election polls were wrong. The Israeli people have spoken loudly and clearly, and they want Bibi back.

The results leave no question as to the composition of the next Knesset, but which parties will join Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the governing coalition? Will he leave centrist and left-leaning parties in the dust, or will he reach out to the other half of the electorate? Will he pack his cabinet with hard-liners or will he take a team of rivals approach and include diverse voices?

Most importantly, will Netanyahu stick to the extreme right-wing line he brandished during the waning days of the campaign?

In those final weeks, he used fear as his bludgeon, warning Israelis that they would “lose him,” and that he was their only hope in defending the nation against Arab aggression.

He promised to accelerate construction in eastern Jerusalem, which, rightly or wrongly, will surely inflame the Arab population and others around the world. Breaking with his previous pledge, he also promised there would be no two-state solution on his watch. His rhetoric reached its height on election day, when he claimed that “foreign leftists” were bringing Arab voters to the polls to help defeat him.

He tactics worked. His people turned out, and voted him in with an unexpectedly large majority. But Netanyahu’s statements last week were not just powerful punches. They were potential knockdown blows to a two-state solution and Israel’s international standing.

Now the campaign is over, and Netanyahu has power in his hands once again. He no longer needs to be on the defensive; his position is assured.

Given that, may we suggest that he use his fourth term as prime minister to build what he does not yet have: a legacy for the future.

We hope that legacy includes bringing his fractured nation together, resolving the Palestinian conflict and restoring to full luster the relationship between Israel and its chief ally, the Untied States.

He could start down that road by recognizing that nearly half of the Israeli electorate chose a different direction for the country. He could accept that social and economic reform is desperately needed, and bring ministers into his Cabinet who can make that happen.  He could abandon cronyism and form a government that represents the best interests of all the Israeli people.

Let us pray he chooses this option.