As expected, yesterday proved to be a mammoth 22 hour shift, ending in Tel Aviv at the Likud party base for what was supposed to be Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory speech.
But as has become increasingly familiar out here, things didn’t go according to plan and as the polls closed at 10pm, the published exit polls sent shock-waves through the room. Rival party Kadima were ahead by two seats. Supporters did their best to keep spirits up with bursts of “Bibi” chants and flag waving but things weren’t looking good.
Supporters who’d arrived with the sweet taste of victory in their mouths began to sense the discount burger taste of defeat.
In Israeli politics, it’s often the case that there is no definitive winner on the night but usually, the polls are reasonably accurate.
Hours after the initial results were reported by the tv networks in Israel, “Bibi” took to the stage and with an Oscar-worthy performance managed to show little sign of upset and even claimed victory, albeit for the right-wing if not his own party. As Yisrael Beiteinu‘s far-right policies had grown in success, the left-wing Labour party had now been pushed into an unprecedented third place in the polls.
Surrounded by members of his team and party, Netanyahu did his bit, thanked his crew and wrapped up his speech. Before he’d left the stage, supporters were already leaving the building.
Looking down, I noticed scraps of paper that looked like the ballot papers from earlier in the day and had to ask a photographer next to me what the paper said. Discovering they were Likud party papers, soon every photographer was monstering the poor cleaner who was just trying to get home.
With victory so strongly predicted for previous weeks, many in Israel’s politics will be left wondering what went wrong for Likud and what happens now.