Saturday, March 11

The Israeli Elections of 2006

There are thirty-one parties  taking part in the Israeli General Elections for the 17th Knesset. The axiom that the Israel People can never come to any form of consensus amongst themselves as to the direction that the country must move still holds true to this day. This had been a major problem since Israel’s establishment. No winning party list could ever form a ruling government without the addition of smaller parties to form a ruling coalition. This was responsible for the legal problems that the country has when it comes to forming a viable government. This also results in instability of rule as parties of opposing viewpoints and ideologies found themselves in a limping, ruling coalition.

This time round, while there is a certain déjà vu in the situation prior to the elections, there are changes in party loyalties, which have become dramatic. Many old time party leaders have changed loyalties because of personal gripes with their respective elected party leaders. The Labor Party is a case in point. Shimon Peires, the veteran Labour leader, was dissatisfied with the election of Amir Peretz to the leadership decided to bolt the party and move to Kadima – the centrist party, and took with him a few key members such as Chaim Ramon and Dalia Itzik. The blow to the Labor Party is uncertain. The results of the elections will be the deciding point as to how much Labor will gain or lose. The Likud Party felt this more as many senior members also left to the Kadima Party because of the split between those for and against the Gaza disengagement.

The three main contenders, Likud, Kadima and Labor will be the main issue however, it is almost certain that none will win an absolute majority to form the next government. This election will be different from all the previous elections in that party loyalties in all directions have changed. The Kadima Party according to the polls stands the best chance of winning. This will be the first time in Israel’s history that a new party has excellent chances of winning. In the past, new mushroom parties sprang up, received many votes and became nonentities barely lasting out their terms in office. The central Dash Party under Prof Yigal Yadin of 1977, The Third Way of Avigdor Kayalani of the 1990s, the Centre Party of Yitschak Mordechai of 1999, and the Shinui Party of Tommy Lapid of 2002 disappeared from the political spectrum into irrelevance. This will not happen to Kadima that has broken the bounds of traditional party loyalties and is fielding strong candidates - well-known political hacks of the past government under PM Ariel Sharon.

The usual plethora of small parties of questionable positive significance is also on the periphery of these elections. These range from the ultra-Orthodox non-Zionist narrow issue parties, Arab Parties whose interests are those of Israeli Arabs only and the right wing settlement supporting parties. Out of these small parties, the left Meretz-Yahad has a national manifesto that is all-embracing and is reasonable. This party has remained true to its ideology as illustrated by the quality of its candidates who are experienced parliamentarians. The Likud and Kadima Parties have been tainted with corruption. Any party that has a corrupt record is not worthy of re-election. Some candidates in these parties are on the verge of being summoned for enquiries for their suspected illegal activities. This is the first stage before the Attorney General, Mani Mazuz, draws up charge sheets against them.

The Israeli Electorate should take a number of factors into consideration before casting their votes, which will be mentioned later.

It is unfortunate that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will take a back burner position in these elections. Hamas’s electoral victory does not open the door for meaningful negotiations to a final, just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Hamas and Fatah are negotiating to form a coalition, which does not seem to get off the ground. It is doubtful if it will. The problem between Israel and the Palestinians will remain existential for an indefinite period until Hamas becomes more pragmatic, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and disarms its groups of vigilante, terrorist militias. There is a form of consensus on this issue between the main parties. Their differences are approach once Hamas gets their act right on peace with Israel.

The electorate will have to decide whether clean government takes priority. Israelis are taxed heavily. The tax burden is one of the heaviest in the world and the returns for the average citizen are poor in comparison to what they pay. Can we sit back and allow the government to squander our money on personal pleasures, conveniences and travels?

Another factor is the future of various social issues. The Likud Government had adopted draconian financial cuts when Bibi Netanyahu was Minister of Finance. Employees in the public service were forced to pay an extra tax – support and growth tax - for which there was no accountability. The poorer sectors, such as pensioners and those who live in poverty were the hardest hit. The pension able age for men was raised to 67 years and for women 63 years from 65years and 60 years respectively. Does the Likud deserve support with Bibi Netanyahu at the helm? All those who are members of Kadima were also partners to these draconian cuts. The memories of the Israeli Electorate are short and there is no doubt that they will vote for a government most hostile to their social needs as in the past. They will then moan until the next elections scheduled in 2010. It has been the case for most governments since Israel’s establishment.

The issues in these elections should be
  1. Promise of clean government

  2. The educational standards that have eroded under the Likud ought to be improved.

  3. Social services and improvement of minimal salaries to encourage employment should be given top priority.

  4. Movement towards an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict should be an important goal.

  5. Economic stability and growth as well as encouraging oversea investment in Israeli industries are important as well.












      

2 comments:

zac said...

Dear Simon,
My comments are interspersed and marked ##.
SwS,
Ami
----- Original Message -----
From: "Shimon Zachary Klein"
To: MideastWebDialog@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Saturday, March 11, 2006 1:37 PM
Subject: [MEWDialog] The Israeli Elections of 2006


There are thirty-one parties taking part in the Israeli General
Elections for the 17th Knesset. The axiom that the Israel People can
never come to any form of consensus amongst themselves as to the
direction that the country must move still holds true to this day.
## On the contrary - this is the first time in many years that there seems to
be a consensus that is unspokenly evident in the platforms of the 3 major
parties. For better and for worse here are the consensus issues:

* Nobody cares about most settlements any more - this is true of both labor
and Kadima and certainly Meretz. Together those three parties represent a
majority. Olmert's vision of Israel sounds quite a bit like Yitzhak Rabin
talking. I read someplace that a moron wrote that Olmert is a dangerous
leftist while Sharon at least was a known supporter of the right. This is
rubbish. Olmert was raised in the revisionist movement while Sharon was raised
in Labor Zionism. Yet they and most Israelis seem to agree on essentials.

* Meretz and Labor pay lip service to negotiations, but everyone in fact
agrees that unilateral disgengagement is going to happen and has to happen --
from the Likud to Meretz inclusive IMO. Likud pays lip service to settlements
and Meretz and Labor pay lip service to negotiations.
.
* Everyone seems to agree that Bibi went too far in robbing the poor to feed
the rich.

* Everyone has shut down the issues of religious coercion - it is not an
issue. The Shinui party collapsed. Meretz is not playing this card. Labor is
silent. Nobody is raising this issue.

The core of Israeli society - about 85-90 mandates is more or less agreed on
all the above issues. There are real disagreements about Jerusalem and about
the Jordan being the border of Israel as Olmert and Bibi want, but we haven't
reached the point where that decision must be made.

The parties that disagree with the above either represent marginal groups
(Haredim, Arab nationalists) or groups that marginalized themselves (religious
Zionists).
## End Comment


This had been a major problem since Israel's establishment. No
winning party list could ever form a ruling government without the
addition of smaller parties to form a ruling coalition. This was
responsible for the legal problems that the country has when it
comes to forming a viable government. This also results in
instability of rule as parties of opposing viewpoints and ideologies
found themselves in a limping, ruling coalition.

## Israel has a constitution like the French Fourth Republic. Yet it has
managed to provide fairly stable government nonetheless. Labor was in power
for 30 years, and then Likud was in power for nearly 30 years. I would not say
it is unstable. The problem was that usually to dilute the power of other
coalition partners, the winning partner took on board various ultraorthodox
parties that could be satisfied by bribes to religious institutions. This time
in fact, there should be no problem in forming a government - even a
government without religious parties. Labor plus Kadima plus Meretz will have
60 votes if the polls are right. The question is whether Kadima will form a
left coaltion or a right coalition. Peretz may be stubborn enough to ensure
that he can't form a coalition with Olmert, just as he failed to partner with
Peres and Barak.
## End Comment

This time round, while there is a certain dיjא vu in the situation
prior to the elections, there are changes in party loyalties, which
have become dramatic. Many old time party leaders have changed
loyalties because of personal gripes with their respective elected
party leaders. The Labor Party is a case in point. Shimon Peires,
the veteran Labour leader, was dissatisfied with the election of
Amir Peretz to the leadership decided to bolt the party and move to
Kadima - the centrist party, and took with him a few key members
such as Chaim Ramon and Dalia Itzik. The blow to the Labor Party is
uncertain. The results of the elections will be the deciding point
as to how much Labor will gain or lose. The Likud Party felt this
more as many senior members also left to the Kadima Party because of
the split between those for and against the Gaza disengagement.

The three main contenders, Likud, Kadima and Labor will be the main
issue however, it is almost certain that none will win an absolute
majority to form the next government. This election will be
different from all the previous elections in that party loyalties in
all directions have changed. The Kadima Party according to the polls
stands the best chance of winning. This will be the first time in
Israel's history that a new party has excellent chances of winning.
In the past, new mushroom parties sprang up, received many votes and
became nonentities barely lasting out their terms in office. The
central Dash Party under Prof Yigal Yadin of 1977, The Third Way of
Avigdor Kayalani of the 1990s, the Centre Party of Yitschak
Mordechai of 1999, and the Shinui Party of Tommy Lapid of 2002
disappeared from the political spectrum into irrelevance. This will
not happen to Kadima that has broken the bounds of traditional party
loyalties and is fielding strong candidates - well-known political
hacks of the past government under PM Ariel Sharon.

The usual plethora of small parties of questionable positive
significance is also on the periphery of these elections. These
range from the ultra-Orthodox non-Zionist narrow issue parties, Arab
Parties whose interests are those of Israeli Arabs only and the
right wing settlement supporting parties. Out of these small
parties, the left Meretz-Yahad has a national manifesto that is all-
embracing and is reasonable. This party has remained true to its
ideology as illustrated by the quality of its candidates who are
experienced parliamentarians. The Likud and Kadima Parties have been
tainted with corruption. Any party that has a corrupt record is not
worthy of re-election. Some candidates in these parties are on the
verge of being summoned for enquiries for their suspected illegal
activities. This is the first stage before the Attorney General,
Mani Mazuz, draws up charge sheets against them.

The Israeli Electorate should take a number of factors into
consideration before casting their votes, which will be mentioned
later.

It is unfortunate that the peace process between Israel and the
Palestinians will take a back burner position in these elections.
Hamas's electoral victory does not open the door for meaningful
negotiations to a final, just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian
dispute. Hamas and Fatah are negotiating to form a coalition, which
does not seem to get off the ground. It is doubtful if it will. The
problem between Israel and the Palestinians will remain existential
for an indefinite period until Hamas becomes more pragmatic,
recognizes Israel's right to exist, and disarms its groups of
vigilante, terrorist militias. There is a form of consensus on this
issue between the main parties. Their differences are approach once
Hamas gets their act right on peace with Israel.

The electorate will have to decide whether clean government takes
priority. Israelis are taxed heavily. The tax burden is one of the
heaviest in the world and the returns for the average citizen are
poor in comparison to what they pay. Can we sit back and allow the
government to squander our money on personal pleasures, conveniences
and travels?
## The crookedness goes beyond that and in other directions. Israeli taxpayers
lost
## nothing because Sharon and his son took a fix to promote the Greek Island
## scheme, but it is still an issue. Organized crime outside government -
rockets
## being shot around by gangsters - is a problem you do not mention.
## End Comment.

Another factor is the future of various social issues. The Likud
Government had adopted draconian financial cuts when Bibi Netanyahu
was Minister of Finance. Employees in the public service were forced
to pay an extra tax - support and growth tax - for which there was
no accountability. The poorer sectors, such as pensioners and those
who live in poverty were the hardest hit. The pension able age for
men was raised to 67 years and for women 63 years from 65years and
60 years respectively. Does the Likud deserve support with Bibi
Netanyahu at the helm? All those who are members of Kadima were also
partners to these draconian cuts. The memories of the Israeli
Electorate are short and there is no doubt that they will vote for a
government most hostile to their social needs as in the past. They
will then moan until the next elections scheduled in 2010. It has
been the case for most governments since Israel's establishment.

The issues in these elections should be
1.Promise of clean government
2.The educational standards that have eroded under the Likud ought
to be improved.
3.Social services and improvement of minimal salaries to encourage
employment should be given top priority.
4.Movement towards an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict should
be an important goal.
5.Economic stability and growth as well as encouraging oversea
investment in Israeli industries are important as well.
## My issues:
1- Peace
2- Equality for Arabs as well as everyone else & Education. It is much more
than social services and some welfare payments.
3- Investment in infrastructure and industry rather than settlements. Olmert
talks about it. Will he do it?
4- Revamping the IDF to undo the damage that was done by the occupation.
5- Tax reform and national pension. There are 3 authorities that collect taxes
including National Insurance. About a 3d of the money goes to support tax
collector officials. At the same time we do not have a national pension plan
at all. National insurance should be used for a national pension plan, and not
as subsidies to Yeshiva students and people who make huge families. If the
government finds it imperative to support large Bedouin and Haredi families,
it should not come out of our pensions.

## End comment

http://tinyurl.com/mnx4n

Kevin A Ashton said...

A very thoughtful attempt to deal with a difficult issue,though I was surprised that you only placed fixing the conflict as your 3rd or 4th important issue to be an election issue?....surely it should 1st?

Anyway keep up the good work a I do hope both countries can find a lasting peace.

Regards Kevin