Israeli election: A replay of last April?

Voting in the Israeli election has been completed, and exit poll results have been released. The polls appear to range from giving the edge to Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents to showing essentially a dead-even race.

It’s important to note that this was roughly true of the exit polling in April of this year. Back then, some exit polls were favorable enough to the opposition that its leader, Benny Gantz, declared victory. However, Netanyahu ended up performing better than the polls suggested, and he was able to form a government.

This doesn’t mean Netanyahu will be able to do so after this election. There’s good chance this one will produce a stalemate followed by a royal scramble by both parties to make the deals necessary to patch together a government. There’s some chance it could produce an outright victory for the anti-Netanyahu forces.

There are nervous moments ahead, and the announcement of final voting results tomorrow may be only the beginning.

If Netanyahu loses, it will be interesting to see how a new, more left-leaning government will interact with President Trump. I doubt it will be foolish enough to alienate an American president whose support for Israel has been unwavering. What’s the benefit to a new Israeli prime minister of doing that?

The real danger would occur if Trump is defeated and replaced by any of the Democratic contenders, including Joe Biden. A Democratic president would almost certainly demand that Israel make new concessions to its “peace partners,” i.e. its sworn enemies, in exchange for basically nothing.

Unlike Netanyahu when Obama-Biden-Clinton tried to bully him into such concessions, a new prime minister would almost certainly fail to stand up to American pressure. As a result, Israel’s security would be jeopardized.

But we’re a long way from this worst case scenario. Netanyahu might well prevail. So might Trump.