Major media outlets emphasized Netanyahu’s corruption charges in coverage of his victory.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Major media outlets reacted cautiously to what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “the biggest win of my life,” following exit polls Monday night that showed the right-wing bloc falling just short of an outright majority in the Knesset.
While giving credit to the Likud campaign, they focused on the possible political deadlock that could still ensue and the prime minister’s legal troubles, which Blue and White had failed to capitalize on properly, with the BBC saying it had “failed to weaponize his upcoming trial.”
The Associated Press reported that although the polls showed that the Likud had defeated its rival party by several Knesset seats, “it was unclear whether the embattled Israeli leader could secure a parliamentary majority as he prepares to go on trial for corruption charges later this month.”
Agence France Presse (AFP) put the legal issue in its headline, which stated, “Indicted Netanyahu claims victory in Israel vote.” Deeper in the article, it acknowledged the prime minister’s achievement, saying that the Likud’s 36 or 37 seats “would mark the party’s best-ever result” under his leadership.
Reuters pointed to Netanyahu’s ability to “survive” politically, being the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. His successful campaign was built on “his strongman ‘security-first’ platform … and his loyal base of blue-collar voters [which] has stood firmly behind him throughout, seemingly unfazed by his imminent trial.”
It also quoted the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, Yohanan Plesner, who said, “While we need to wait for the final results, there is no doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu has won a significant political mandate from the Israeli people.”
The news services said that, with President Donald Trump’s backing, Netanyahu may now have the chance to make good on his campaign promises of annexing the Jordan Valley and declaring Israeli sovereignty over all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
AFP mentioned his campaigning “on building thousands more homes in Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territory, even though they are considered illegal by the international community.”
The BBC noted the possibility of building a coalition by adding defectors from other parties. “Mr. Netanyahu will take a majority of one as a mandate for his agenda. That includes the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank that Palestinians want for a future state, as laid out in Donald Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century.'”
CNN commented that Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan that envisioned Israel annexing 30 percent of Judea and Samaria was one of the biggest motivating factors for turning out the Arab vote, resulting in what is shaping up to be 15 seats for the Joint Arab List.
Several services quoted top Palestinian Authority officials’ disappointed reactions to the right-wing victory, such as Saeb Erekat’s tweet that it was “obvious that settlement, occupation and apartheid have won the Israeli elections.”
All described the jubilation in Likud headquarters Monday night.
A France 24 reporter explained that the party supporters were happy because there was no way for Blue and White to set up a coalition this time even with the addition of Israel Beiteinu, Avigdor Liberman’s party that had played the spoiler role in the last two elections.
“That’s why Netanyahu is celebrating tonight, because he thinks, ‘By hook or by crook I’ll do this,’ and he knows that by hook or by crook, the Center-Left parties can’t,” said France 24’s Irris Makler.