|Naftali Bennett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
What is characteristic of these elections is the predictability of the outcome. All the polls confirm that Likud -Yisrael Beiteinu will win and there will be no change. Netanyahu will remain prime minister. The composition of the coalition is the only question mark. Much depends on the inroads into Netanyahu's support by the latest charismatic maverick, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Heyehudi Party who will take away votes from the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Bennett talks about disobeying an IDF lawful command if it is against his conscience to evacuate Jewish settlers from their homes in disputed territories. This may give him more support from the right wing. Bennett is causing Netanyahu to sweat, turning the Likud-Beiteinu campaign into a campaign against him and his party. It is the right against the extreme right. Lately Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu are steering away from this tactic as it is not achieving the desired results in the polls.
Bennett is not concerned with growing world opinion against Israel over the increasing settlement activity in the West Bank, especially in the E1 area. He views a coalition including the center and left of center parties as a disaster for Israel and a recipe for increased incursions and terror by the Islamists such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad and possibly the Salafis who are even more extreme. He also opposes the the two-state solution. Bennett is a right wing extremist and he wishes to take Israel into more uncompromising positions. Another problem that has cropped up is the Likud-Beiteinu union. Avigdor Lieberman's indictment is becoming more complicated. He was interrogated by the police on 25th Dec 2012 in the evening for about 40 minutes under caution. Lieberman had dismissed his vice Foreign Minister, Daniel Ayalon, and, according to reports, Ayalon has made statements to the police incriminating Lieberman even further. Ayalon denies this. However it is quite possible that the press reports are true. Ayalon is not expected to admit to this even it is true.
Lieberman wanted a quick trial so that he could return to the political arena and receive the Ministry of Foreign Affairs portfolio in the new Netanyahu Government. This is just not going to happen and his political career will be ruined if the court decides that there is moral turpitude. This means that he will not return to the Knesset for 7 years. He is a persona non grata in many countries because of his extreme right wing views that even borders on racism. He will be no loss to the political arena. Arthur Finkelstein, Netanyahu's guru, has misread the political climate and Lieberman's legal problems. This will not work to the advantage of the Likud-Beteinu even though they will win the elections but with less mandates than expected.
Who knows how much the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu payed for Arther Finkelstein's consulting services. He did not give his services for free. It is becoming clear that the union of the Likud with Yisrael Beiteinu was a bad one especially now with Lieberman's charge becoming more complicated. It will not effect the final outcome of the Likud-Beiteinu predicted victory. There will always be those Lieberman supporters who will go into denial claiming that Lieberman was framed and it may have a boomerang affect giving Lieberman increased support.
The campaigns of the parties are moving into full swing with the debating programme of Nissim Mishal on Thursday nights on second channel. The programme kicked off with a debate between Arye Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi Shas Party and Yair Lapid of the secular Yesh Atid Party. Both are poles apart in their thinking and the arguments between them was aggressive. At the end of the day both candidates will be part of the Likud-Beiteinu Party coalition of Netanyahu and the indicted Lieberman. It is just entertaining to watch this programme which will be held on Thursday nights until the elections. Nothing will change as Israel moves towards the extreme right with all the center parties as part of a coalition that will do very little to improve Israel's poor world image.
Another very important aspect of these elections is a total absence of discussion about the Peace Process. As I mentioned in a previous post, this subject is a vote loser and is almost taboo. No party dares to tread in that direction. The only party that does talk about it is Meretz. Maybe this is why Meretz will only get three to four seats in the Knesset. It is as if the discussion of the moribund peace process is directly proportional to the number of potential votes lost. This should really be a cardinal issue. As the situation is today, President Mahmoud Abbas, with all his weaknesses is the only moderate leader in the Palestinian camp who really wants peace.
The present Netanyahu Government has been doing all in its power to weaken Abbas even further and strengthening Hamas to continue with their "armed struggle" against Israel. This strengthens the right wing. Netanyahu is engaged in making plans for building more settlements in the West Bank and encroaching on the future Palestinian state lands even further.
The only way to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas is to freeze all settlement activity, close Israel's border with Hamas-run Gaza, cease supplying Gaza with electricity and essential goods. Gaza should get electricity from Egypt, which is run by the Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is an offshoot with a similar ideology.
If Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist then why should Israel supply Gaza with electricity and essential goods? The responsibility for this should be in Egypt's hands. Travelling to the West Bank from should also be via Egypt. There should be no travelling from Gaza to the West Bank via Israel.
The border between Gaza and Egypt should be open and the siege on Gaza lifted. Obviously there should be international patrols off the Gaza shores to ensure that there is no weapon-smuggling into Gaza. Egypt must take responsibility for its borders to prevent hostile activity and violence towards Israel.
Only by adopting these measures allowing the people of Gaza to travel freely and lifting the sea embargo and not allowing trade or travelling from Gaza via Israel will weaken Hamas and the people will be able to free themselves from Hamas terror and tyranny. If Hamas changes its attitude towards Israel and recognizes Israel's right to exist, agree to negotiations as well as cease its terrorist activities then these measures could be rescinded.
Why have no parties included peace negotiations as part of their electoral manifesto?
Israel's future is dependent on an agreement of peace with its Palestinian neighbors. It could be achieved but the right wing government is not interested. Illegal settlements is a great vote catcher with the right wing in Israel and the status quo with all its dangers is the preferred tactic electorally among the right and probably the center as well.
It makes no difference for which center religious party one votes, they will be part of the Likud-Beiteinu led coalition. The day after the elections, the situation changes politically and old alliances fall. Everything is negotiable. A few days after the elections and a governing coalition emerges after the wheeling and dealing, one will be saddled with a macabre coalition that one least expects consisting of all the bickering center parties with Shas. The voter will get indigestion at this result.
All that is left for one to do is to vote for a party that will not join a Likud-Beiteinu led coalition. This leaves us with Meretz who have stated that they will not be part of a Likud-Beiteinu coalition. There is no guarantee that the Labor Party will not join the right wing coalition