Israel's 2015 elections will surely be extensively studied and dissected to detect trends, statistics and voter preferences. But most of all, they serve as the starting point of the Israeli left's soul-searching marathon titled "where did we go wrong."
The perhaps idealist bubble of Tel Aviv was shattered into pieces when official results rolled out and it was obvious that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had gained a crushing landslide victory. Not only was his Likud party spectacularly successful, but he himself had proven that King Bibi was capable of resurrecting himself from scathing financial reports detailing his and his wife's excessive spending, shaky -- if not collapsed -- ties with Israel's closest allies, and the remains of a summer war which left a country no less under threat, and in mourning.
Immediately, fingers were pointed to the liberal, "La La Land" media, to those lefties who only speak amongst themselves and have never met the other "tribes" of Israeli society. The disappointed, if not shattered, left-wing camp jabbed back with calls of leaving the country, horrified by a "broken people" and their democratic choice, and just plain depressed. Some even ridiculously called to replace the nation.
Here's the thing. Change can't happen in three months. Ask America, which went through eight years of a Bush administration before being able to elect Obama into the White House. If the 2008 transformative Obama campaign is any indication, change requires the rules of old politics to be rewritten: in organizing support, shaping pubic opinion, playing the political cards with your opponents and most of all, physically and emotionally, reaching all voters. Change requires research and stamina -- understand what is hurting society most, and providing the hope in rhetoric and action -- that you can change that.
To be fair, the Isaac Herzog-led Zionist Union did not completely fail. It aroused sleepy or indifferent voters and performed well relative to elections in the past decade. But it failed to convince the unconvinced, and stuck to singing to the choir. It struggled to keep the valid cost of living issue at the top of its agenda, as Netanyahu retorted with the Iranian nuclear threat and the "world is against us" rhetoric. The left-wing camp spoke of social justice, about reforms in health and education, but it mainly focused on ousting Netanyahu. "Anyone but Netanyahu," the grassroots organizations rallied. Netanyahu, clinging to his security mantra while riding on fear mongering wave, only jumped ship when he realized that was in danger of losing. Only then did he speak to the Israeli media and provide answers on the economy.
But Netanyahu knows the ropes all too well. As it has historically been in Israel, security trumps economy. With that in mind, and seeing as this was the second round of elections since the social justice protests that did not make a dent in his policy, Netanyahu showcased what he does best: speak. In a 5-day rhetorical blitz, he spoke to the legitimate security concerns of many Israelis, even if these concerns come at the expense of their financial prosperity.
These elections may have been a slap in the face for the left out in left field, but it was certainly a wake up call at the least. It's not the economy, stupid -- it's security. Israelis want to first and foremost feel safe. Address these concerns, don't belittle them. Undoubtedly, social justice reforms need to be implemented, and the majority favors a realpolitik stance to be taken diplomatically.
There's no need for the long face. This is a turning point for the left. The next leader -- who will replace Netanyahu -- has a lot of homework to do in the months ahead, in building the infrastructure and network, but also understanding that change is a process. After all, we are the change that we seek.
The writer is a speechwriter and communications consultant for senior Israeli political and business leaders, and hosts various news shows on TLV1 Radio (tlv1.fm) and television channel i24news.