benami155_ Ilia Yefimovichpicture alliance via Getty Images_netanyahu Ilia Yefimovich/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

The Last Days of Netanyahu?

In Israel's recent parliamentary election, voters stopped Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's leadership of the country toward xenophobic theocracy. But Israel now faces a period of political deadlock, and it remains to be seen whether Netanyahu really will be politically sidelined.

TEL AVIV – At long last, Israel has taken a step back from the religious nationalist abyss into which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had been leading it. In the September 17 parliamentary election, the country’s second in five months, the “natural coalition” of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Orthodox groups, and proto-fascist factions failed to reach the 61-seat threshold that would have enabled him to form another government.

For Netanyahu, who has spent 13 years in power, this election was only partly about his nationalist political project. His main aim was to reproduce the only coalition that could grant him parliamentary immunity from his imminent indictment on charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.

Fighting literally for his freedom, Netanyahu ignored legal and ethical rules of campaign conduct. For starters, he recklessly pledged to annex the Jordan Valley – part of the West Bank – without any strategic assessment of the consequences. In addition, he proposed a bill that would have allowed Likud activists to place cameras in polling stations; when the bill failed to pass, Likud claimed that opposition parties were planning to steal the election. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s Facebook page warned supporters that Israeli Arabs “want to annihilate all of us.”