benami195_Amir LevyGetty Images_netanyahu Amir Levy/Getty Images

Netanyahu’s Pyrrhic Victory

One reason for the incoming prime minister's political comeback, familiar from the rise of fascism in Europe, is that the political center and left were preoccupied with petty squabbles and divisive rivalries. The most extremist coalition in Israel’s history was brought to power by a popular-vote margin of no more than 3,000.

TEL AVIV – Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led bloc of Jewish supremacists, messianic nationalists, and ultra-Orthodox theocrats has won Israel’s general election after suffering four consecutive defeats in less than four years. None of these elections was about ideology or policies, but rather about Netanyahu’s own fitness to serve as prime minister. Netanyahu succeeded this time for two reasons.

One reason is that anti-Arab sentiment is a stronger tool than ever for mobilizing voters. This popular animus has been growing in recent years, despite Arabs’ steady integration into Israeli professional classes and the rise of an Arab middle class eager to share in Israel’s revolution of opportunities. Nearly 50% of ultra-Orthodox and religious Israeli youth, and 23% of secular youth, support stripping Israeli Arabs of their citizenship.

But the unprecedented inclusion of an Arab Islamist party in the broad government coalition that blocked Netanyahu’s bid for power after the March 2021 election was a gift to the opposition. Netanyahu and his theo-fascist allies turned it into a highly effective electoral weapon.