It's very clear that the recent Israeli elections produced a major winner: Bibi Netanyahu. The prime minister proved once again that he is a professional in a field of amateurs. Despite polls predicting a near loss or worse, despite pundits criticizing his every tactic including his trip to Washington, he pulled out a victory for his Likud party and brought it the largest number of seats it's earned in years.
So who were the losers in the election?
Well first there's Labour, or whatever it's calling itself these days. Despite having the advantage of running against a long-time incumbent who had called an unnecessary election and was providing scandal after scandal, Herzog and Lipni couldn't pull the trigger and convince the electorate to restore the party's history dominance.
Then there's Yesh Atid. Despite positioning itself as the only true centrist alternative and having a telegenic leader it dropped its seat total significantly, not unlike Yair Lapid's father's party Shinui which followed its freshman performance with a quick drop into irrelevance.
But the biggest losers in this election will actually be part of the incoming government. Irony of ironies, Bayit Yehudi and Naftali Bennett lost the most in the recent election and not just because their seat total also dropped.
No, Bennett is a loser because the Chareidi parties are now likely to be back in the coalition and everyone who follows Israeli politics knows that, given half the chance, Bibi loves to suck at their toes even at the expense of the rest of the country.
One can hardly blame him. Centrist and alternative parties come and go. After the next election in a few years there just might be no more Yesh Atid or Bayit Yehudi but there will still be Shas and United Torah Judaism, still polling the same overall number of seats. Their MK's will still be political whores willing to sell out the country in exchange for the right amount of funding for their non-productive sectors. If you need a government they will be there, for sale as always.
And what's the price they will demand in return? Well other than an end to the now illegal draft exemptions for their community and a restoration of funding for their yeshivos one can confidently predict that they will demand an end to any inroads the Dati Leumi community has made in the last two years in the centres of religious power in Israel. The Chareidi leadership has long advertised itself as the only genuine Torah community in the world and made sure everyone knows it sees Religious Zionism as a bastard step-child worth throwing under the train. Having been excluded from the government for two years does anyone doubt that the Chareid parties will exact a measure of revenge? Never mind what it says in the Torah about grudges and revenge, what do you think they'll really do?
The only alternative is for Bennett to temporarily move Bayit Yehudi into a more parochial position and defend the Religious Zionist community. Instead of trying to create a more religious alternative to the Likud he had to first ensure that the religious establishment doesn't slide back into the dark ages it was slowly starting to emerge from. And he will only be able to do that by standing up to the bullies who are preparing to return to their former offices.