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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

As you may have seen, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a clear victory in last night's Israeli election that looks all but certain to keep him as Prime Minister in the next government. It is important to note that Netanyahu scored not one but what amounts to two major upsets last night.

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A scattering of new details from the Israeli election results. And to be clear, we only have exit polls so far - though Israeli exit polls have a better record than American ones.

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Polls just closed in Israel and a raft of exit of polls show a big comeback for Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud, who closed the last two days with a round of racist, anti-Arab Israeli appeals to consolidate the right wing vote in Likud. It seems to have worked. The exit polls don't all agree. But most show a virtual tie between Labor and Likud in the high 20 seat range. In other words, both major parties seem to have over-performed their numbers.

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We're in that liminal phase of election day in Israel which is always so difficult for political obsessives because we simply do not know what is happening. Polls stay open until 10 PM local time in Israel (4 PM eastern). The big news of the day is a final day series of racist invocations from Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud campaign begging right-wing voters to turn out because of a purported wave of Arab-Israeli voters voting 'en masse', helped along by foreigners, leftists, NGOs and the media, intent on driving him from office. Over the course of the day, Netanyahu sorta kinda tried to amend these statements slightly. But not really. And then not at all. After stating definitively yesterday that he will never allow a Palestinian state to come into existence on the West Bank, Netanyahu has decided to close out hard-right, racist and dark.

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Israelis go to the voting booths tomorrow. The final pre-election polls, published Friday, showed a substantial and possibly widening lead for Labor Party chief Isaac Herzog and his 'Zionist Camp' alliance with Tzipi Livni. But Israeli law bars publication of polls after Friday, meaning we have no visibility into the weekend or today, when the decisions of late-deciding voters may prove pivotal. Israeli campaign polls are notoriously imprecise and the three-day blackout only adds to the uncertainty.

As we've discussed, even if ZC/Labor bests Netanyahu's Likud by four seats, that will not be end of the story and it will not necessarily mean Netanyahu is ejected from power. The range of results that now seem probable will likely kick off a days- or weeks-long process in which one or possibly both Herzog and Netanyahu get a chance to assemble a government.

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There was a very weird, unplanned moment yesterday in the Israeli election campaign. Both candidates were, I think it's fair to say, essentially ambushed when the interviewer on Israel's Meet the Press pushed the two together for a short mini-debate. Both Isaac Herzog and Benjamin Netanyahu were appearing on the show in successive interviews. In the brief moment when Herzog's interview was ending and Netanyahu's was about to begin, the host said in so many words, 'Hey, you're both here, why not ask each other some questions?' As best I can tell, neither man had any idea this was in the cards. And it's possible even the host only had the idea in the moment. In any case, it was a bitter and intense, albeit brief exchange, lasting a couple minutes.

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If you're following the Israeli elections closely you're not going to the Times to follow it. Like on every other issue, it's a generalist's read. What gets published there is an attempt at the take for the record on developments reported hours or days earlier in more tightly focused publications. But there is a funny, fascinating passage tucked away in last week's Times article on the burgeoning campaign of Zionist Camp/Labor chief Isaac Herzog. Asked what Prime Minister he would aspire to emulate, Herzog pointed to Levi Eshkol, Prime Minister from 1963 until his death in office in 1969. I am going to make a bet - and I doubt I'd get much disagreement from anywhere on the political spectrum - that this is the first time any aspiring PM has ever done that.

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Six polls were released in Israel today, the last day when public polls can be published before the election. Five of those polls showed a four seat Zionist Camp/Labor Party lead over Likud. One showed a two point lead. It now seems highly likely that ZC/Labor will end Tuesday night with the most seats in the new Knesset. And if the polls are broadly correct, it seems increasingly likely (though by no means certain) that Herzog will get the first chance to form a new government. The question is whether he will be able manage the complicated math and coalitional politics to pull it off.

With all the uncertainty, one thing seems certain. The result for Likud can't possibly be as bad as the bleak headlines and agitated panic out of the Prime Minister and his party would suggest. This evening, Netanyahu or whoever posts to his Facebook page penned a slashing series of accusations against the ZC/Labor list claiming his rivals' campaign is "illegitimate" because it is the creature of a world conspiracy involving foreign governments, international tycoon, Israeli media, NGOs, all banding together to bring him down. The claims read so febrile and unhinged that if Netanyahu weren't a Jew and the head of government of the Jewish State you would almost expect to end up claiming a global Zionist conspiracy was plotting to bring him and the right to its knees.

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