Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Israel's election

From what I read there is an almost universal consensus that Benjamin Netanyahu is headed to an overwhelming victory in Israel's January 22 parliamentary  election.  Look a little closer and you will see that what is really meant is that the merger of Netanyahu's Likud Party and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu will give the new party the largest share of seats in the new Knesset.

But in Israel's parliamentary system that is not the same as forming a new government.

About two weeks ago, Eric Lee wrote a provocative post " "Is this Netanyahu’s final month in office?" looking at the trend in polling results over the last year or more. Lee points out that the right wing parties of Netanyahu and Lieberman have declined in the polls from 45 seats in late 2011 to 36 seats in Dec 2012. [And, in a poll after Lee wrote his post, even lower to 33  seats!]It might be possible, Lee observes, that the left and center parties might be able to form a government with the support of the religious Shas party.  And, in a more optimistic projection, with the left, center and Arab parties getting about 10 percent more current projections, they might be able to cobble together a government without Shas.  Lee concludes "the most likely scenario is that Netanyahu pulls together a coalition, but it’s not inevitable."

Then, on December 29, I read this in the Times of Israel

The three leading center-left parties — Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid — are exploring possibilities to work together after the January 22 elections to try to prevent Likud-Beytenu head Benjamin Netanyahu from retaining the prime ministership, or at least to wield the strongest possible hand in coalition negotiations with him.

Efforts to merge at least some of the center-left parties foundered in the weeks before the deadline for submitting party lists for the elections earlier this month. A bid for a Labor-Hatnua alliance made some headway, but collapsed because both Yachimovich and Livni wanted to lead any such merged slate.

But opinion polls showing a gradual fall in support for Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu — and a first vague indication that some votes might be moving across the political spectrum from right to left — have energized talk of post-election possibilities on the center-left.

At this stage, surveys give no ammunition to the notion that the center-left might prevail in the elections, but activists see Netanyahu sliding, and believe the center-left may yet have more leverage than had been anticipated just a few weeks ago.

Livni said Friday that, after the elections, she would “attempt to create a front with other partners with the same worldview… with the imperative to replace Netanyahu.”
And, here is another reason not be overly pessimistic about the elections. Adiv Sterman reports

A broad majority of the Israeli public would vote in favor of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, if the government brought a plan that offered security guarantees to a referendum, polls published Sunday by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace found.
Roughly two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) expressed support for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps; a demilitarized Palestine; and Jerusalem’s Old City administered jointly by the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, with Israel maintaining control of the Western Wall.
Journalist Larry Derfner praises Meretz's peace program 

the Meretz peace plan, which the party presented in its election campaign this week, an oasis in the desert.

The proposal doesn’t screw around. It calls for Israel’s immediate recognition of Palestine, followed by a settlement freeze, release of prisoners, lifting of roadblacks, and negotiations based on the Arab peace plan with the sponsorship of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – a “Regional Quartet” to accompany the old Quartet of the U.S., EU, UN and Russia. It also calls for scrapping the Oslo Accord – which ex-peace negotiator Dov Weisglass has held up as Israel’s instrument for turning the West Bank into “the only prison in the world where the prisoners have to provide for themselves” – and replacing it with an agreed-upon program for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate on a “fair, equal, government-to government basis.”

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