By John Podhertz, NY Post
When it comes to elections, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is the political equivalent of a scrambling quarterback. During the three-month election campaign that ended Tuesday night, the prime minister fell 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage before evading a savage blitz, escaped a catastrophic sack, then, at the last moment, turned upfield, crossed the line of scrimmage and galloped ahead for a huge gain.
Although Netanyahu’s Likud Party only won about half the number of seats needed to secure a majority in Israel’s parliament, it did so much better than anyone (including Bibi) expected that he seems to have triumphed in the goal he had set for himself last December when he broke up the government he had formed in 2013 and called new elections.
He did that because he wanted to strengthen his own hand and rid himself of two hostile coalition partners at the same time. This was a risky strategy, and it looked for quite a while like a disastrous one.
Throughout the final weeks, polling suggested Likud had fallen behind the center-left opposition, the Zionist Union.
If Likud had come in second Tuesday night, the ZU might have been given the first crack at forming a new government — and though it would have had profound difficulties assembling that new government, it’s possible the ZU might have succeeded.
But had it failed, Bibi would then have been left with the horrid task of slapping together some kind of nightmarish contraption coalition to secure the 61 seats necessary for a majority. He would have been weak and his government would have been on the verge of collapse from the moment it was assembled.
Something else — something entirely unexpected — happened. Bibi’s Likud was expected to secure 20 to 22 seats in the Knesset on Tuesday night. That’s what all the polls showed. Instead, it appears Likud won 29, maybe 30 seats.
Not only was that shockingly good for Likud, it was a far stronger showing than in the last election, because in 2013, the party had merged with another called Yisrael Beytenu.