Deep Wounds and Lingering Questions After Israel’s Bitter Race
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM — Benjamin Netanyahu was returned to power. But there was a cloud over his apparent turnaround, the result of an increasingly shrill campaign that raised questions about his ability to heal Israel’s internal wounds or better its standing in the world.
He said there would be no Palestinian state under his watch.
He railed against Israeli Arabs — because they had gone out to vote.
From the capitals of Europe, to Washington, to the West Bank, to the streets of Israel, even while his critics said Mr. Netanyahu had reaffirmed his reputation as a cynical, calculating politician, it appeared that his approach succeeded in drawing votes from other right-leaning parties.
But along the way he angered the president of the United States with a speech to Congress and infuriated European leaders eager to see the peace process move ahead to create a Palestinian state.
David Axelrod, President Obama’s former senior adviser, said on Twitter that Mr. Netanyahu’s last-minute stand against a Palestinian state might have helped ensure him another victory. “Tightness of exits in Israel suggests Bibi’s shameful 11th-hour demagoguery may have swayed enough votes to save him. But at what cost?
” he wrote.
“There were a number of us who wanted to see whether his gambit to criticize the president, in breach of all diplomatic protocol, will be rewarded in Israel,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia.
Mr. Connolly, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is a relatively junior member of Congress, and Mr. Netanyahu retained support within Congress, especially in the Republican majority. But Mr. Connolly’s views echoed those of many Democratic lawmakers who have expressed dismay about what they said were Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to ally himself with Republicans in America.
“As far as I’m concerned, Netanyahu burned his bridges with the American government and a broad swath of the American people,” Mr. Connolly said. “It is to me, frankly, a really sordid approach to diplomacy and friendship and alliance. I hope that behavior is not rewarded today.”
The campaign for the Parliament was divisive, exposing the fault lines in Israeli society, between the religious and the secular, the left and the right. It exposed a fatigue with a man who is seeking to serve a fourth term as prime minister, and a fear over Israel’s place in the international community. Much was driven by the tenor of the campaigns, which became personal and bitter.
Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting from Tel Aviv, Diaa Hadid from Nazareth, Israel, and Michael D. Shear from Washington.