Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 10, 2009 Israeli Election

From an Israeli scientist who writes posts in TNR:

"...From my quick review of the postings it seems that I am the only one here who actually **DID** vote in the Israeli elections today. A few comments are in order, in no particular order. Take whatever you read (and have read) in the Western media about the elections & the various & sundry parties with a grain of salt. Make that a lump of salt. In some cases, make that the entire salt mine. Mush of what I have read (including some of Marty's post) is overly simplistic and superficial and often downright wrong (like much of the coverage of Israel).

Although Livni seems to have a plurality (if not a majority) of support here, this isn't the case among Israelis and even among many Kadima members (who may well hold their nose and vote their party nonetheless). Contrary to what was (mis-)reported in the Wash.Post, to the extent that Kadima has closed the gap with Likud it's because Yisra'el Beiteinu has siphoned votes from the Likud to the right, not that Israelis have have gone gaga over Livni.Indeed Ari Shavit, one of Israel's more respect journalists & pundits, who is stands out for his general intellectual honesty (a rare commodity in the Israeli journalistic landscape), who isn't Gd forbid suspected of right wing leanings (p'tooi p'tooi) issued a warning about Livini's hollowness & general incompetence in a column in Ha'aretz, which produced quite a ripple here. He based his column on interviews with people who know her well, all of whom are on the Center-Left of Israeli's political spectrum.For all you Livni fans, I suggest that you read Shavit's column:


Even if Livni / Kadima were to edge out the Likud and Shimon Peres were to assign her the task of trying to form a government, it is highly unlikely that she could succeed. Polls indicate that the "Right wing" bloc is staging a serious comeback (much of it thanx to the "disengagement of Gaza", Lebanon 2, and a general realization that the dire warnings by the right wing parties about the consequences of Oslo etc., were prescient if not downright prophetic, and the general feeling that the Israeli left & peace processors live in LaLa Land) and will command a majority of mandates in the Knesset -- at least 66 out of the 120 seats.For Livni to form a government she would have to bring Sha"s or Yisra'el Beiteinu (a.k.a., Lieberman) -- the latter more likely than the former together with all of the Arab parties into the coalition. She would have better odds of converting lead into gold.

The Labor Party seems to be going the way of the Federalists -- the party that founded the country and dominated its leadership during its early decades, but then gradually disappeared from the political landscape. This is not a final diagnosis and if Kadima ultimately falls apart (as some think it will, sooner or later), Labor could undergo a resurrection of the moribund. But I wouldn't hold my breath on it.

The stories on Lieberman & Yisrael Beiteinu's views are highly distorted & downright wrong in many cases (full disclosure: I did **NOT** vote YB). He is no more racist than those lefties & peace processors that believe that Palestinian state needs & ought to be Judenrein. He also has some very distinguished people on his list, most notably the highly respected career diplomat & former Israeli ambassador to the USA (appointed jointly by Sharon & Shimon Peres), Danny Ayalon.Lieberman's is not against a Palestinian state. Quite the contrary. But as part of the inevitable land swaps he wants to take heavily Arab sections of pre-'67 Israel and annex them to the nascent Palestinain state with their Arab citizens in exchange for chunks of Judea & Sameria containing the largest blocks of Israeli communities.

The greatest opposition to these border line shifts (as aptly noted by Noga) comes from the Arab citizens themselves. They are the last ones who want to realize their national aspirations by becoming citizens and residents of the nascent Palestinian state. Which is why the plan is doomed to failure (probably). If the plan were ever implemented most of the Arab citizens who live in the areas to be transferred would simply move to the areas of Israel not being transferred to the Palestinians. This is already happening among some East Jerusalem Arabs.

Correction to Marty Peretz: Lieberman is not currently a minister in the Olmert government. YB did join the coalition some time after Lebanon2 (as the largely meaningless “Minister for Strategic Affairs”) but left the coalition about a year ago. Minor details.

Netanyahu is the Israeli elite’s & media’s (both Israeli & Western) favorite whipping boy, perhaps because of his uncanny success in being Israel’s Cassandra who disdains the regnant political correcticist dogmas that pass for serious political analysis & reporting. In some respects he may eventually be recognized as Israel’s Andrew Jackson.Netanyahu was first elected P.M. (by less than one percent of the vote) in Israel’s disastrous experiment with the thoroughly bastardized hybrid electoral system wherein the P.M. is elected directly, with the Knesset proportionally elected at large by party lists, and then having to form a coalition government that gains the approval of the Knesset (after the 2001 election, Israel reverted to the pure parliamentary proportional system, for better AND for worse).

The result was that Likud only received about 20 seats (I forget the exact number) and Netanyahu was forced to form a very unstable coalition of a zillion small parties who often pulled at opposite directions. It was actually amazing that he kept it together as long as he did. This is why Netanyahu has been stressing in the last week of the campaign that for him to form a stable government (which most Israelis want) Likud needs a substantial plurality of seats in the Knesset. If in the endLikud edges out Kadima with a slight plurality (in the mid-20’s), Netanyahu will probably form a coalition but it probably won’t last beyond 2010 or 2011 at most.

What did Netanyahu accomplish (aside from the being the Cassandra with the best track record)? Terrorism was kept at an all time low during his term as P.M., in comparison to the Rabin, Peres, & Barak reigns. Probably because Netanyahu held Arafat’s feet to the fire (to the extent that he could with Clinton & Co. in the White House & State Department), refusing to grant Y.A. concessions unless he delivered on stopping terrorism.

This did not win Netanyahu friends among Clinton, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk & others who were fighting for peace down to the last Israeli, but we here in Israel appreciated not being blown up.Also as Ariel Sharon’s Finance Minister, Netanyahu is wide regarded as having saved the Israeli economy which is one of the reasons that the economy currently has been showing signs of greater resiliency than that of Europe, the US etc. As a side benefit he also began the process of weaning Israel’s Hareidi community off of living on the dole (for which they will probably never forgive, let alone recognize him). As a result more and more Hareidim are seeking gainful employment although the full socio-economicl & political ramifications won’t be fully apparent for another generation or so.I have more to say but I really have to get back to work.

Oh yes, I suppose you want to know how I did vote in the end. Likud. Without a moment’s hesitation.

Hershel Ginsburg. Jerusalem

Efrata February 10, 2009 10:21 AM..."

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