On Sept. 13, Israelis celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. They dipped apples in honey to represent the sweet year that they hope to have, and they reflected on everything that had happened in the past year. The most prominent event was certainly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprising victory in the March 17 elections.
On the eve of the previous New Year, Israelis were still licking their wounds after Operation Protective Edge (July-August 2014), including the 50 days during which Tel Aviv came under rocket attack even though the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. At the time, Israelis had no idea that Netanyahu was fed up with his coalition partners — especially Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni — and that he was planning to bring elections forward. In December 2014, he fired Lapid and Livni and called for early elections. It looked initially like just another maneuver straight out of the Netanyahu political playbook, intended to ensure him another term in office. What eventually transpired was something very different. Labor Party Chair Isaac Herzog joined forces with Hatnua Party leader Livni to create the Zionist Camp, a new party that soon began to gain momentum. During the last two months of the campaign, Netanyahu was sinking in the polls. Almost everyone, including Netanyahu himself, thought that he would lose the election. Israel seemed to be approaching the end of the Netanyahu era.