So the Israeli elections are a wrap. Kadima, as expected, emerged with the biggest share of the votes, securing 28 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (great word, that). They are now expected to form a coalition with second-placed Labour and some of the smaller parties.
Perhaps the Liberal Elite Israeli contingent (yes, both of you) would like to explain what this is likely to mean. Is the path to talks for a two state solution now assured? Will Hamas ever co-operate? Judging by the response from Mahmoud Abbas, I suspect not. Is this a good thing? Whither Binyamin Netanyahu? And why, for what must be the most crucial election for many years, was the turnout so low? (It was 62.3%, which is still fairly respectable – higher than the UK turnout last year if I recall – but low by Israel’s standards.)
Please enlighten us!
It’s a mess, is what it is. 37% of the voters didn’t bother to turn up, and the die-hard parties – the religious and ultra-right wingers – got more than their usual share of power.
Kadima, composed of former Likudninks and Laborites, is the largest party, and there is no viable coalition without it.
However, the center-left block – composed of Kadima with 28 seats, Labour with 20, Meretz with 4 or 5 (not clear yet) – has, at most, 52 seats. They need 61 for a coalition (120 seats in toto in the knesset). The Pensioners’ party is this election’s stunner, coming up with 7 seats, and it already said it will join (sure mark of political ineptitude, if you ask me), but that brings the coalition only up to 59. Not enough.
So Kadima will need other partners. It won’t choose the Arab parties, all of whom took a decidedly anti-integrationist position this time (one of them even boasting that ‘we have no Jewish candidates’).
This leaves us with the religious parties, since Kadima is committed to its “re-gathering” (i.e., retreat) plan, which excludes all right-wing parties (Likud, with 12; Ichud Leumi (National Unity) with 9; and Israel Beitenu (Israel, Our Home), which is the closest we have to a fascist party) as members of the coalition.
The religous parties have grown in strength this election, with the Sephardic party Shas gaining 13 seats and the Ashkenazi party Yahadut Hatorah (Torah-following Jews) at 6. Both are notoriously fickle, when it comes to the peace proccess, and many pundits consider Shas to be a right-wing party; it opposed the disengagement.
All told, I don’t think this Knesset will last more than two years. And the coalition will be a shaky one, with plenty of frogs on the menu.
Well, Yossi gave you a decent run down (seems you now have three Israeli readers), so I am not sure what there is to add, except to say that I disagree with a few of the things he said.
In terms of the government, it is looking like it will be Kadima (28 seats), Avodah (20), Shas (13), UTJ (6) and the Pensioners (7). It is very unlikely that kadima would want Meretz in the coalition – it would paint them as too left wing. The main agenda of the government will not be the diplomatic/political/security/peace agenda – but rather the economic/social agenda – one which all of Kadima’s future coalition partners roughly agree on – a reversal of the incredibly cruel and uncaring neo-liberal thatcherite capitalism which has sent a million Israelis below the poverty line (many of them pensioners, and ultra-orthodox). The problem is of course the diplomatic agenda and the future withdrawals. Neither Shas nor the UTJ supports them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t join a government. So there will be a government which agrees on most thigngs apart from the most important and will be stable. The question is how quickly will Olmert push his next disengagement. If he is clever he will leave it for a while, pretending to be looking at negotiations (which he nor the palestinians are really interested in). It is possible there could be a genuine breakthrough in negotiations, in which case we would see a few defections from the hard party line from Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas, and the government would be able to pass the next disengagement easily. Even without any defections there is a majority in favour of either negotiated or unnegotiated withdrawal, but this majority depends on the Arab parties, and it is political suicide to pass a piece of legislation depending on the Arab vote. On the other hand, a majority of the non-Arab MKs will be in favour, so Olmert might risk it.
But, if Olmert does manage to wait and there is not an increase in terror, then everything could change – most Israeli politicians are power-crazed and hate to be in the opposition, which means you could see the end of the NU-NRP alliance and the two NRP MKs join the government. Equally, who knows what will happen with Likud, once they oust Bibi (and one way or another, they will). If a couple of Likud MKs go over to Kadima, then it could the next disengagement could be a done deal. The same could be said for the Yisrael Beiteinu faction. And it is possible that Shas will support the disengagement if Olmert makes the bribe conditional on their support.
In short (too late) – I reckon if Olmert plays it clever, he could stay in power for the nearly 4 years, but will almost certainly need to change coalitions at some point.
As for the analysis that Yisrael Beiteinu being the closest thing to a fascist party that we have – this is true, but that does not mean they are the furthest right. NU-NRP are more racist, more hard-liner, more right-wing and contain a great deal of religious nut-jobs. Yisrael Beiteinu are classic hawks, but they are practical and pragmatic. People like to call them fascist because Lieberman does such a good impression of a billy dictator thug.
Well I voted for the party headed by a man who has been wrongfully called “the Israeli Arthur Scargill” who also has most dreadful English in Israeli leadership history: I personally undertook that should they somehow win, I’d leave my all jobs to become his personal dialect tutor. That was a close shave! (He is also famous for his moustache, so maybe that was a pun)
And as for what is going to happen, not sure… We’re all holding collective breathe. The settler movement is firing up already at the prospect of a large-scale disengagement from the west bank, but all said, my Palestinian colleagues are very dismissive of how a unilateral withdrawal will benefit anyone (and lets not forget that their government isn’t exactly full of shining promise either) Sigh. Whatever happens, its going to be interesting…
Wow. Longest comments ever! And a new Israeli reader maybe?
Could you run that by me again !!!