Posted: October 27th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: elections | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

So, it’s election time in Israel. Again.

As expected, Tzipi Livni informed president Peres today that she was unable to form a coalition, and though Peres may give another MK a chance to do so, it is more likely that we will have a general election in the beginning of 2009, probably in February.

The truth is Livni didn’t have a chance to begin with: she couldn’t form a left-center government because Shaul Mofaz and the right wing of Kadima would veto it, and a center government with Shas was just too expensive. Shas was asking for too much: expensive financial support for Hasidic families, and a veto on any negotiations with the Palestinians regarding Jerusalem. The reality is that Shas just didn’t want to form this government. Its leader, Eliy Yishay, would rather have an election now, because in less than a year Aryeh Deri, the former leader of the party who was indicted in court and banned from political life, will be able to run for office again.

But are the elections good news, and for whom? The right wing, both here and in the US, is celebrating. They feared a Livni government that would move forward in the peace process, possibly even on both fronts – Syria and the Palestinians. They also believe that with Netanyahu riding high in the polls, they have a fare chance of forming a stable center-right coalition. Netanyahu believes that together with Liberman the extreme “Ichud Leumi – Madal” party and the religious parties, he will have a block of more than 60 MK (which makes half of the parliament), and than he can force Kadima, and even Labor, into his government, giving it the necessary stability and international credibility.

However, it is not very likely that Netanyahu’s victory will be THAT big, and then he will be confronted with two options: a right wing government that will provoke international pressure, or a center government that would demand moving forward in the peace process. And then what? I really think Netanyahu doesn’t know. My impression is that he doesn’t have a serious idea as to what to do with the West Bank. Nobody in the right wing – with the possible exception of Liberman – has. Like Shamir, Sharon and even Netanyahu himself on his last visit to the PM office, if he does nothing, the world and the left will pressure him, and when he start negotiating, the right wing will get him.

In other words, there is no escaping two fundamental facts about our politics:

The first: the Palestinian problem is the basic element that shapes the political dynamics in Israel. It can not be avoided, and even confronting it won’t save you sometimes.

The second: the current political system does not allow the government to really rule. All the PM does, from his first day in office, is maintaining jobs for his coalition.

That’s why we had five general elections in ten years (including the 2001 special election and the upcoming 2009 election). I can’t see any reason for the fate of the new government to be any different from that of previous ones.


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