Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Roger Cohen is either a racist, a fool, or suicidal. His utterly stupid column this week has been parsed by plenty of others, and I have no desire to rehash his drivel.

Cohen doubts that “Hamas is sincere in its calls for Israel’s disappearance.” That must mean that the recent poll conducted in the P.A. shows that a majority Palestinian society actively seeks peace (Hebrew Ynet). How else can one explain that if elections were held today, genocidal Hamas, led by Haniyeh would win 47% v. Fatah, led by Holocaust denier Abbas.

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In light of Labor’s dismal showing at the polls, Amir Peretz thinks he can win back the chairmanship of the Labor Party. This is the former labor leader who shut down the country at whim, turned Defense Minister and cost Israeli lives and a failed war.

I hope he wins. It will truly spell the end of Labor. The public is not that stupid. My prediction is that Labor would be forced to merge with Kadima, forming one Left-wing political party, and bringing Israel back to the right-left bi-polar system.

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Shmuel Rosner, whose analysis is generally very good, has been pushing a theory over the last couple of days regarding the will of the Israeli electorate, claiming the elections were “a victory for the center,” and that the public wants a national unity government. Rosner argues that people did not vote along ideological lines, rather most were motivated by their personal preferences among Israeli politicians. With one caveat, I agree with that assertion. Israelis did vote mostly by personal preference, but within their general “camp.” In fact, I would say the strongest “personal” vote was the רק לא ביבי (Just not Bibi) vote, resurrected from Barak’s 1999 campaign.

Many pundits have been saying that the elections results show that the public has realigned itself further to the Right. While the public may have taken a step rightward, there was no real change in public opinion since 2006. In the last elections most still voted for “Sharon’s party” and still viewed Likud as a corrupt machine.

Most importantly, however, Kadima’s image was a right of center party. Kadima has since, pretty clearly, placed itself on to the left. People who see themselves as moderate left voted for Kadima, and fewer voted for Labor, leading to its collapse. That, however, does not account for all of Kadima’s 28 seats. As mentioned, Bibi is a rather polarizing figure in Israel, and the “Just not Bibi” vote helped Kadima immensely, but not enough.

Back to the issue of the public’s desire for a national unity government. There was a significant “Just not Bibi” vote, add to that massive disgust for Kadima and its corruption, and what you get is a significant concern in the “National Camp” (the religious Right). The Jewish Home party and the National Union party only have seven seats between the two of them, down from nine in the 17th Knesset, because many who traditionally vote for these parties (whichever versions are running that year) voted for Likud, concerned that Livni might be the next Prime Minister.

I do not see any strong desire for a unity government. What I do see is a very polarized society, made of many camps, each of which despises the other camps’ ideologies. That being said, I do think the press has been successful in scaring much of the public with their illustration of Lieberman, to a degree that many would prefer any government to one in which Lieberman holds high office.

In any case, the prospect of a national unity government is still pretty unlikely. For one, if Livni sits in this government she will be relegated to the position of Bibi’s sidekick. Next time around, she will be nothing but a has-been, and she doesn’t the stature, or the history, to forge a comeback (even Barak wasn’t able to do so). There is nothing particularly remarkable distinguishing her from others in her party (Meir Shitrit, Roni Bar-on, Avi Dichter, just to name a few). If Livni realizes this, she will not allow herself to disappear into oblivion. And it seems she has, as Kadima members have leaked that if Likud first forms a Right-wing coalition and only then turns to them, they will remain in the Opposition.

However, assuming Kadima does want to join Likud. With who else? The Jewish Home party is rumored to be mulling a merger with Likud – that’s 30 seats, along with Kadima, that makes 58. National Union has already said they will not sit with Livni, and Labor seems determined to remain the Opposition, leaving three parties that would even consider joining such a government: Shas, UTJ and of course, Yisrael Beitenu. Livni’s claim to fame was that she stood up to Shas before the elections, how would that look if she now joined a government that met Shas’ demands?

That leaves Lieberman. Setting aside Livni’s enormous personal price, if she does join a Netanyahu-led coalition, the government’s term will probably play out in one of the following ways:

  1. With Lieberman – Large stable government for a full term, that will get nothing accomplished (Extremely unlikely).
  2. With Lieberman – Large Stable government for 12-18 months until it implodes, and either Livni or Lieberman resign, leading to new elections, yet again. (Still unlikely – Israeli politicians are selfish).
  3. Without Lieberman – very, very unstable government, leading to either new elections, or to a realignment of the coalition in fairly short period of time. (If Peres puts a lot of pressure on Bibi, this is somewhat likely).

I still think the most probably outcome is a 65-seat Right wing coalition, which will not be extremely stable, and is likely to implode over religious-civil disagreement between the Haredi parties and Lieberman, in 1-2 years.

Does anyone have a more optimistic prediction?

EDIT: My math was a bit off, and the only way options 1 and 2 are even feasible is if the Jewish Home-Likud merger does happen. In this scenario a “large” Likud-led government with Kadima would be 78 seats, with both UTJ and Lieberman and a “narrow” one would be 63 seats, with UTJ (even less stable the Right-wing government Bibi can put together).

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Livni + Lieberman?

There are two ways in which Kadima and Yisrael Beitenu will be members of the same coalition. Either under Livni or under Bibi. As I’ve already said, the only way Livni can form a coalition is if Lieberman sells out. Yes, Bibi could join a Livni-led coalition, but if Lieberman holds his own, I don’t see that happening – Netanyahu has a stronger hand right now.

The other, only slightly more likely, possibility is that Netanyahu actually manages to convince Livni to join a government under his leadership. Any future government in this Knesset will almost surely include Avigdor Lieberman, as a senior member of that coalition. And since Netanyahu has already claimed he wants to form a the largest possible coalition, we might see all three parties in the same government (total number of seats of those three: 70). I do not think this will happen, for reasons I will explain, but in case it does, it might be the best option.

Traditionally, in Israel, the government is very ineffective. I don’t see this changing any time soon. However, Israeli government have also usually been very damaging to Israel. Thus, if Kadima joins a Likud coalition, there will be so much infighting that the government will probably be, just as ineffective, but will also be relatively powerless – too hamstrung to do any real damage. The status quo will remain the staus quo, and I can think of much worse things than that.

Nevertheless, this scenario is not very likely, Livni does not seem as durable of a figure on the Israeli political landscape as, say, Bibi, Peres, Barak, etc. If she does capitulate, and join a Likud-led government, her days as chairwoman of the internecine Kadima will be numbered. She stands a far better chance of “long-term” survival is she pretends to stand up to Netanyahu.

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Netanyahu has announced he will not agree to a rotation arrangement with Livni, saying, “We will not [agree to] a rotation government, we intend to form the [largest possible coalition] government.”* To me, this says one of two things:

  • Option 1 – he will try to head a coalition, with Kadima as a member. I do not think such a coalition would last very long, because such a government would not be able to get much done at all. The status quo would continue being the status quo (which is not necessarily a bad thing).
  • The second, more likely, option is that he is trying garner public support, in order to be able to say “Look, I tried to reach out, but Livni wouldn’t play ball. But the people chose us (the Right-wing) – we have a majority, and I’m sorry Kadima is too obstinate to adhere to the will of the people.” Then he will go on to form a relatively narrow, 65-seat, coalition, backed by his, alleged, nonpartisan inclusiveness. (Think Barak and his famous claim to be “ראש הממשלה של כ-ו-ל-ם” – “the Prime Minister of e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e”).

If you want to try to test out all of the possible combinations (until the soldiers’ votes are counted, if that even makes a difference), then Ynet has “Make Your Own Coalition” game*. See if you can form a coalition. It even tells you if a coalition agreement is unlikely – i.e. Hadash along with Yisrael Beitenu. On the other hand, the program seems to believe that a Yisrael Beitenu/Kadima/others coalition is feasible. Who knows?

Also, on Ynet has a feature that lets you see the breakdown of how various sections of society voted (Kibbutzim, Urban, Arabs, Jews).*

In any case, the most ironic thing I’ve seen in the past few days is the verse, quoted on the Knesset’s official elections website*: “(הָבוּ לָכֶם אֲנָשִׁים חֲכָמִים וּנְבֹנִים וִידֻעִים לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם וַאֲשִׂימֵם בְּרָאשֵׁיכֶם. (דברים א’, י”ג” – “Get you wise and understanding men, and full of knowledge, from your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.” (Deuteronomy 1:13). Right.

*Sorry, all sources on this page are in Hebrew.

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I think it’s pretty incredible how Peretz, Halutz and Olmert are all remembered as complete failures for the disgrace in Lebanon 2.5 years ago. Yet, somehow Livni managed to emerge untainted. And she’s the architect of the failure known as UNSC 1701…

Anyone care to proffer an explanation?

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Israel pretends to be a free country. However, it seems that when things get a little difficult, the authorities prefer to capitulate in the face of threats, rather than live up to their responsibilities.

Last week, Justice Eliezer Rivlin turned down Mazuz’s request to deny Baruch Marzel from officiating as chairman of the ballot committee in Um El-Fahem. Rivlin, head of the Central Elections Committee was exactly right when he said “it was the authorities’ job to keep the peace regardless of those present at the ballot boxes.”

In spite of this, the police decided they were not part of these authorities, those who have a responsibility to actively keep the peace, and Marzel was banned from entering a city in the State of Israel. Israel is now an independent state, but an Israeli citizen can be banned from traveling lawfully around his own country, because of views he harbors. If there is legitimate fear his appearance will cause riots – those who riot need to be arrested and brought to justice. Apparently not in Israel.

Arieh Eldad, National Union Knesset Member, went to Um El-Fahem, as Marzel’s replacement on the ballot committee. Yet, it seems that even an MK cannot be safe in Um El-Fahem, and he had to request a police escort, in order to leave the city safely.

The city’s leadership, however, responded in favor criminal activity, “they tricked us and brought in Eldad instead of Marzel,” said Apu Agbaria, a representative of Hadash. If you do not like what he has to say, or what he stands for – protest, vote, go on strike. Do not, however, try and claim that banning him from entering Um El-Fahem is, in any way, acceptable. If Ahmed Tibi were banned from entering Modi’in, for example, because of fear of rioters, what would the public’s reaction be?

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