Magazine Article - Harvard Gazette

Netanyahu, in the Driver's Seat

  • Christina Pazzanese
| March 18, 2015

Interview with Stephen Walt

Although pollsters had predicted a tightly contested election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday stormed to a surprisingly decisive victory over Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union party, to claim his third consecutive term in office and fourth overall.

Herzog's center-left alliance of the Labor and Hatnua parties ran an anti-Netanyahu campaign and pledged domestic reforms and resumed peace talks with the Palestinian people. The alliance had appeared to surge in recent weeks, but in the end secured only 24 seats in the next Parliament, while Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party, which took hard-line stances against the formation of a Palestinian state and a U.S.-brokered nuclear deal with Iran, won 30 seats.

Under Israel’s splintered, multiparty system, candidates must cobble together a coalition with one or more parties to secure a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, and install a prime minister. Netanyahu is now expected to far surpass that threshold through coalitions with other conservative, Orthodox, and right-leaning parties before the March 31 swearing-in.

Stephen Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs and faculty chair of the International Security Program at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). The Gazette interviewed Walt, a critic of U.S. foreign policy toward Israel, by email about the election and what the results mean both for Israel and for the United States.

GAZETTE: The conventional wisdom was that this would be a very, very close election and that there was a real possibility that the Zionist Union could win. Are you surprised by the results, particularly Netanyahu's wide margin of victory?

WALT: Netanyahu has always been an adroit campaigner, and he pulled out all the stops in the closing days. Israeli public-opinion polling is also notoriously unreliable, which helps explain why the final results diverged from pre-election predictions....

Continue reading:

For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Pazzanese, Christina. “Netanyahu, in the Driver's Seat.” Harvard Gazette, March 18, 2015.

The Author


Stephen Walt