Prime Minister Netanyahu Re-elected but Changes in Store for Israeli Government
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JEFFREY BROWN: And now to Israel.
As election results come in tonight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on his way to another term in office.
But, as Margaret Warner reports, his next government could look quite different from his last.
MARGARET WARNER: The prime minister’s victory came as no surprise, given his lead in the polls heading in to today. But the margin of victory was a lot narrower than his Likud Party had hoped. And whatever governing coalition Bibi Netanyahu tries to put together, it’s sure to include new faces and new agendas that will influence the country.
One of those, Naftali Bennett, a high-tech millionaire and former settler leader who remodeled an old religious and nationalist party for the 21st century, calling it the Jewish Home. He was out early at a polling station in Tel Aviv.
NAFTALI BENNETT, Jewish Home Party: I think we’re starting something new. And — hey. And we’re trying to unite all the various tribes in Israel, the secular, the religious, the ultra-religious, the Jews, the Arabs, everyone together to unite Israel and do something good for this nation.
MARGARET WARNER: His comments were inclusive, but Bennett’s platform has a hard edge. The time for negotiating with the Palestinians is over, he says. Just annex parts of the West Bank. His campaign has drawn an enthusiastic following.
DAVIDE SAGIEL, Israel: A fresh face, and he also has a lot of powers and abilities to contribute and to make the Israelis fight together, religious people and secular people. And I think he’s a very attractive figure for many youngsters especially for youngsters in Israel.
MARGARET WARNER: The other major new face, at least as a political figure, is a Yair Lapid. The former TV anchor and columnist launched his own movement, Yesh Atid, There Is a Future. It has propelled itself into contention with a detailed pitch for middle-class votes and a gauzy centrist mess and of hope and change.
YAIR LAPID, Yesh Atid Party: Because in a world, in an age where people do everything to escape responsibility, you took responsibility. Because in an atmosphere where everybody is staying in their home and accusing each other, addicted to the politics of hate and fear, you decided to take the chance and believe in something. So you are my heroes.
MARGARET WARNER: Lapid is also pushing to reverse the cloud of religious conservatives on government policy, and education, housing and the draft.
Fellow former journalist Shelly Yachimovich is hoping to resurrect the prominence of the historically strong Labor Party, which has been in decline for more than a decade. She’s leading the party that drove the peace process with Palestinians towards a different message this time, focusing almost exclusively on economic and social issues.
For many Israelis, those concerns matter most in 2013.
ANNA KUNTSMAN, Israel: I want middle-class concerns taken care of. It is slowly collapsing. For young couples like me and my husband, it is almost impossible to buy a flat or a house. And it is even hard to raise a child and to live with respect.
MARGARET WARNER: A plurality of Israelis, however, have voted to keep the leader they know. The prime minister built his appeal around his decades of experience and his image as a tough guy in a dangerous neighborhood. That worked for Tomer and Avi Tepper-Lupu, who brought their young twins to the same polling station where Bennett voted. They both work in Israel’s booming high-tech sector. And both cast their votes for Netanyahu.
How important is security as an issue to the two of you?
TOMER TEPPER-LUPU, Israel: Very important. I think it’s the first thing today. And that’s why I think Bibi is the only alternative that we have today, he’s the only one who can do it.
MARGARET WARNER: But, tonight, Israel’s voters were saying they want him to listen to other voices, too.