The Zionist Conspiracy
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Memories From The 1996 Election
(Originally posted on March 27, 2006, just prior to Israel's 2006 Knesset election.)
The night is long. Wait and be patient. Now it is time to go home, and hope - and also to pray - that in the morning, there will be a better hope, a better plan, a better way, to a secure peace.
-Binyamin Netanyahu at Likud campaign headquarters at midnight on May 29, 1996. At that time, exit polls predicted a narrow victory for Shimon Peres. A little more than two hours later, revised exit polls suggested that Netanyahu had pulled off an upset.
Those of us with right-wing political views had waited a long time for the 1996 elections. Four years earlier, Labor, led by Yitzhak Rabin, deposed Likud and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. In the next four years, settlement construction would be significantly curtailed, Israel recognized the PLO and signed the Oslo Accords, terrorism became rampant, Israel allowed the PLO to operate in Jerusalem, polarization in Israel sharply increased and Rabin was murdered, Meretz took control of the Education Ministry, Israel offered to cede the Golan Heights to Syria.
I was a few weeks into a summer associate position at a large law firm. I remember speaking with a classmate of mine throughout the day who was working at another large firm. I told him that I was "cautiously pessimistic" about the elections. He confided that a bigshot he knew had inside info that Peres won the election.
In the early afternoon, I was given an assignment. There were lots of tedious agreements to review on an urgent basis.
At 3 P.M. the election ended. I went downstairs and listened to my portable radio. I learned that exit polls predicted a narrow victory for Peres.
I checked the Internet, but ten years ago there was scant information available in real time.
I started working on the assignment. I checked the news every hour. Nothing had changed. Exit polls still indicated a Peres victory.
It became apparent that I would be in the office very late. At 7:30 I again went outside. I believe Robert Berger was reporting live from Jerusalem. He said that pandemonium had broken out at Likud headquarters after new exit polls showed that Netanyahu had won.
I was ecstatic. I went back upstairs, and started talking about Israel with the second year associate who had given me the assignment, and who then seemed like a senior attorney to me. She wasn't Jewish but was rather knowledgeable about Israel and Netanyahu.
When I left the office around 10:30 I was told to be ready to "go to the printer tomorrow." I did not know that going "to the printer" entailed anything of significance. I went home and watched Nightline. Ehud Olmert, then of Likud, was extolling the virtues of Netanyahu. Yossi Beilin, then of Labor, was lamenting the apparent Labor defeat.
The election was still too close to call, and I stayed up most of the night, watching and videotaping the live election coverage on CNN. I went to sleep at 4 A.M.
The next day, I discovered that "going to the printer" was quite grueling. We were to review tens of thousands of pages of documents and stay until the closing of a securities offering two days later. They were kind enough to order kosher food for me, albeit from the Second Avenue Deli which I could not eat. When at around 2 A.M. I discovered that neither I nor anyone else was going home anytime soon, I told the second year associate that in a few hours I would need to go home to get my phylacteries (tefillin) so as to fulfill my obligations to properly conduct the morning prayer service. When she realized that I was serious about getting my tefillin, she let me go home at 3 A.M., so long as I was back by 7.
When I woke up after 2 1/2 hours of sleep, CNN had confirmed that all of the votes were counted and Netanyahu had won. I went back to the printer, but was sent to the office after a few hours since I would have to leave early that evening for shabbos. Another summer associate replaced me.
I got home just in time for the 6 P.M. news. Christiane Amanpour was reporting live from Jerusalem. Walter Rogers reported from the Kotel, where Netanyahu was greeted shortly before shabbos.