On Wednesday, March 11, Colgate hosted Professor Miriam Elman from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Her lecture, titled “Israel’s Elections and the Prospects for Middle East Peace in 2015,” focused on the election of Israel’s 34 government on March 17.
As predicted by Elman, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu of the Likud party was elected to serve his fourth term as Prime Minister of Israel. In an election that seemed too close to call at exit polls, Netanyahu eventually beat the competition. According to Elman, Netanyahu did not want this election in the first place, and victory was not guaranteed.
“Netanyahu really had to fight,” Elman said.
She discussed the rise of a moneyed left, forming the Zionist Union, whom had fielded a successful campaign to compete with the Likud party. The Likud party had been forced to face damage control including a campaign video that backfired and a 2013 peace deal which had been leaked.
Some important candidates that Elman cited included Yair Lapid, “the comeback kid,” Moshe Kachlon of the Kulanu party and Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union. All of these candidates had the potential to upset the superiority of the Likud party in the new government. In a coalition, both Lapid and Kachlon had the potential to swing a majority, while the Zionist Union was hoping to get enough seats to control the government.
SGA President senior Sarah Rende was among students present at the lecture and commented on Elman’s discussion.
“Her take on the election was really interesting, especially because she was coming at it from less of a Western perspective,” Rende said.
Elman cited Palestine’s role in the election as minor, since most Israelis do not believe that peace is possible. Instead, the candidates focused on quality of life issues.
Elman also discussed Netanyahu’s speech in front of the U.S. Congress concerning Iran. Agreeing with many scholars, she argued that Iran is an existential threat to Israel. She entertained the notion that Netanyahu’s intentions were purely for the good of Israel and didn’t expect the speech to change the election outcome. Elman presented statistics, including that one out of five Israelis do not trust President Obama and 56 percent of Israelis supported Netanyahu’s decision to speak to Congress, in order to show that Netanyahu was not using the speech as a campaign tactic; however, others were less convinced.
“I was a bit skeptical of her opinion on the motivations behind Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, but the lecture was really interesting and educational all-in-all,” Rende said.