Thursday, February 12, 2009

ISRAELI ELECTION FINAL: We Know the Vote Count; Now Stay Tuned to Find Out Who Won

With one hundred percent of the ballots counted, we know the results of the Israeli election; yet Israel and the world remain in suspense over who will become Prime Minister. The pie chart above from the Jerusalem Post shows the party breakdown in the next Knesset. Tzipi Livni's personal victory over Binyamin Netanyahu was Pyrrhic indeed, as it appears most likely that her Kadima party will be headed into oppposition with Labor and the other left-wing Israeli parties.

The reason for that is best shown by this alternative pie chart, also from the Jerusalem Post, which divides the pie on a right vs. left political basis:

As Jerusalem Post editor David Horowitz notes, even though Kadima led all parties with 28 Knesset seats, the total of all of the left-of-center parties, including Labor (13), the far-lefty Meretz (3), the anti-Zionist Arab parties United Arab List (5) and Balad (3), and the communist Hadash Party (4), amounts to only 56 seats. Since Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu Party ("Israel Our Home--15 seats and the big gainer in this election), has strongly indicated that he would prefer a Likud-led coalition over a Kadima government, Ms. Livni's only hope of forming a stable coalition government would be to buy off the Sephardic Torah Guardians Party ("SHAS"--11 seats) and United Torah Judaism (4), the two parties of fervently religious Israeli Jews, with promises of generous aid to their private religious school systems. This prospect is neither impossible, nor unprecedented, but would be very unpopular with the supporters of Ms. Livni's Kadima Party and her other potential coalition partners, many of whom might accurately be described as fervently anti-religious.

Bibi Netanyahu, on the other hand, although he must be smarting from the sharp drop in Likud support during the final days of the electoral campaign, can console himself by surveying the makings of a solid right-of-center coalition government. With Likud (27 seats), Yisrael Beitenu (15), SHAS (11), the nationalist largely religious National Union (4), the religious Zionist Jewish Home Party (3), and United Torah Judaism (4), Mr. Netanyahu would be able to present a 64-seat coalition that not only would be politically stable, but also relatively cohesive ideologically.

However, it is the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, who will decide whether Ms. Livni or Mr. Netanyahu will have first shot at forming a coalition. A product of the Labor Party, a long-time political foe of Mr. Netanyahu, and a strong advocate of territorial concessions to the Palestinians, usually in return for empty promises, the architect of Oslo, if he leads with his heart rather than his head, will allow Ms. Livni the first opportunity to try and form a government. At that point, folks, the Kadima political bazaar will be open for business for 3 weeks, and Ms. Livni will gladly pay top shekel for any Knesset faction's soul, if it is for sale.


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