Saturday, December 20

The Upcoming Israeli General Elections of 2015

It is not surprising that 20 months after the last elections, the coalition has collapsed. Many issues are facing Israel including economy, social, educational issues, as well as improving infra-structure and affordable housing for young couples. Much money was funneled into the illegal settlement enterprise - the baby of the ruling right wing at the expense of solving many of these problems.

The most important problem facing us is the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Israel's relations with the US, EU and many other countries in the world are influenced by the way Israel deals with this issue. We have not had any word yet on what the contesting parties intend to do in order to jump start peace talks with the Palestinians. The solution can only be achieved by negotiations with strong motivation on both sides to end the conflict. Israel’s international image has never been as poor as it is since the Likud coalition had been in power within the last couple of years.

We all know what has occurred on all these various issues over the last 20 months especially. The Likud coalition has achieved very little in the economic sphere, prices have soared, salaries have remained static and there is hidden unemployment.

In July 2014, there was Operation Protective Edge and despite Hamas being heavily bruised, they were not defeated and the war ended inconclusively with Hamas coming out of their holes under the debris and massive destruction in Gaza. Time will tell how soon the next round of fighting between Israel and Hamas will recommence. Hamas has been holding massive demonstrations of strength in rhetoric with their militants parading in army uniforms. The usual, hate-filled stereotype slogans of fantasy and glory are becoming common place in Gaza Street including the firing of an occasional missile into Israel despite the cease-fire.  Nothing has been done to alleviate the stressful situation of the citizens of Gaza including rehabilitation of homes destroyed in Operation Defensive Shield.

Voting at the Polling Station in Israel
There were the tragic terrorist attacks in Jerusalem with terrorists using vehicles as killing machines against innocent people waiting for public transport. Stabbings and violence undertaken by Palestinian terrorists against anybody that happens to be doing their routine business in Supermarkets, even those who were at prayer in a neighborhood synagogue in Jerusalem were not immune to the shocking violence and Palestinian terrorist killing sprees.

In the background of all these security threats, Netanyahu's coalition partners have not been playing Netanyahu's game and were demanding various reforms that Netanyahu was not prepared to concede. He decided to hold elections in the hope that he will strengthen his hand after the elections assuming that his Likud Bloc is re-elected.

The Labor Party under Yitschak Herzog and Hatnuah Party under Tzippi Livni have decided to run on one ticket against the right to extreme right Netanyahu-led Likud bloc. These two party leaders have formed a center-left bloc and it remains to be seen who else will tag onto their list. Avigdor Lieberman, a right wing leader of Israel Beitenu, whose views on transference of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to the autonomous areas of the Palestinian Authority are well known, has indicated that he has no problem joining the left of center bloc or the right wing bloc, thus ensuring a seat  for himself and a cabinet post in the new government.

The Shas Party of ultra-Orthodox Sephardim is splitting with the resignation of Eli Yishai, one of the leaders of the party, to form his own party. What is interesting is the new party formations such as Moshe Kahlon's right of center, Kolanu Party. If one seeks a party that has an ideology which has stood the test of time and with which one can identify, it will not be easy. Even the traditional difference between left wing and right wing is becoming more blurred than ever before.

The situation in Israel  is very fluid electorally with new alliances forming between most unlikely bedfellows which changes on a daily basis. The polls by the various polling organizations show that the left of center block and right of center to extreme right are garnering equal support of 50 - 50 with the center block, Yesh Atid, holding the balance. The ultra-Orthodox Parties could support either side. The split in Shas will cause Shas to lose a lot of support forcing it to become marginal.

The main blocs are bending over backwards to get support from doubtful voters. Party loyalty to any party other than being left or right wing is not as strong as it was in the past. The race seems to be for egotistical reasons by getting a seat in the Knesset at all costs even if it means changing loyalties.

The situation is very unpredictable at this stage and the various polls are showing trends rather than predicting who will win.

When one goes to vote, the voter will land up with a coalition that would be ungovernable and many people refuse to go out an vote for this reason.
When one is faced with such a strange mix of parties, many of whom do not reflect the desires of many voters makes the choice difficult. Partisan parties that are one-issue parties and only represent a section of the population rather than all Israel's citizens is not good for the country. The newly elected government must represent all Israel's citizens irrespective of race, color or creed and solve the various communities' problems as they arise.

It is preferable to vote for a party that will not sacrifice its ideology for coalition wheeling and dealing for the sake of a Knesset seat. There are very few parties in that category. The Arab parties are partisan and do not represent the interests of the Arab communities, who are citizens of Israel. They could have done this as well as being a bridge for facilitating peace talks between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, rather than rabble-rousing pro-Palestinian sentiments in the Knesset that were unproductive as well as being divisive. The religious parties join any coalition in order to get money for their yeshivot and religious coercion that is so-called "status quo". They have no problem being part of any government coalition with the exception of Eli Yishai's ultra-Orthodox breakaway party that has stated it will support Bibi Netanyahu as prime minister.

This leaves us with only two parties that over the years have retained their ideologies and will not join any coalition that is anathema to their ideology as well as being relatively non-partisan. These two parties are Meretz and Hadash, the latter is a joint Jewish-Arab party and is non-Zionist, while the former is left wing and Zionist with a social democratic basis that is social issues and peace-oriented. For those voters who still believe in  integrity and no automatic tagging onto a coalition that is opportunistic and does not lead us to the reforms that are necessary for all Israel's citizens, are really faced with these two choices, including advancing the peace process as well as an end to the occupation.

There will also be no compromise on terror and no government, whether left or right, will tolerate a Palestinian State alongside Israel that is ruled by Hamas that will dig tunnels to facilitate terrorist group infiltration into Israel for establishing an Islamic state and massacring hundreds of innocent civilians. Hamas record of accomplishment for peace with Israel is non-existent by their admission and charter.

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