Saturday, February 7

Futility of Israel's General Elections

As the various parties gear up to attack each other on populist matters, the polls will show various minor trends. The Netanyahu Likud coalition was unwieldy with an incapability to govern. Yair Lapid, the ex-Finance Minister in this coalition, claims that the reforms that he wished to institute did not even begin as his hands were tied by PM Netanyahu, with whom he had great differences. It is doubtful, with his inexperience in economic and financial matters he would have succeeded anyway.

The election propaganda has reached a new low with the Likud and Zionist Camp accusing each other of getting funds illegally from various US tycoons to finance their electoral campaigns.

The electoral system in Israel is flawed and the results of the elections after 17th March, 2015 will be inconclusive. No political party will get an absolute majority after the elections. The coalition negotiations after the elections will be the usual déjà vu. According to the latest opinionpolls, the right wing Likud has one or two seats more than the center left -The Zionist Camp (Labor – Tnua). We must bear in mind that the majority of the Israeli Electorate is right wing. This means that as Election Day draws closer, many Israelis will vote for many shades of right wing parties This includes the Haredi Ultra-Orthodox) Parties such as Shas and Torah Judaism Party, Naftali Bennet’s Bayit Hayehudi Party, which is even more right wing than the Likud.

The Zionist Camp under Isaac Herzog and Tzippi Livni does not stand a chance of winning the elections. The Israeli Electorate wants a change but when it comes to the push, they will not allow anything that is associated with the mild left of center to replace a Likud Coalition. Better the devil you do know than the devil you do not know! Electoral results have been a disappointment for many years and government coalitions of compromise will become more complex, leaving Israel's citizens very disappointed and frustrated the day after.

If, by some miracle, the two major parties, Likud and Zionist Camp, receive an equal number of mandates, there is a chance that both parties will form a coalition, pulling in other right wing parties such as Bayit Hayehudi, Haredi Parties, Yisrael Beteinu (despite many of its members under police investigation for bribery and corruption), Moshe Kahlon's Kolanu and possibly Yair Lapid’sYesh Atid. After elections, parties that were non-supportive of Netanyahu or even against him will become potential coalition partners. Labor and Likud have formed coalition governments in the past and the possibility of this happening again cannot be ruled out.  

After close-call elections, there is a tendency for the two large opposing parties to reiterate that "the nation has voted for the Zionist Camp and Likud, giving them a total draw, therefore supporting a coalition of both parties". A coalition of these two parties may please many voters. This coalition, if it is formed, will be a lame-duck government! No reforms will occur and the coalition will be hampered by bickering and an inability to make bold decisions in the economic spheres and, no less important, negotiating peace with the Palestinians.

The parties that will not join this coalition will be the Joint Arab List (Balad, Hadash, Ram-Tal) and Meretz. Both parties have stated this clearly. Other small parties leaning towards the right may or may not join this coalition, depending on the coalition agreements that the two major parties – Likud and Zionist Camp will work out. This will also take a few months and will involve a caretaker government ruling until the formation of a new (or pseudo-old) coalition.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership is hampered by all kinds of fantasies that prevent them from even embarking on a move towards negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian Authority, under Mahmoud` Abbas, is frustrated because of Hamas breathing down their necks and gaining more support in Palestinian Street. Hamas and the PA are still in a shaky unity government, peppered with unrealistic fantasies that are so much part of their psyche. The dreams of  an IS-Hamas Caliphate, which could take over the Israeli occupied West Bank, presents a very serious problem to the establishment of a future Palestinian state, despite Palestinian denials of this not happening. In the volatile Middle East, including the Palestinian fight for an independent state, any scenario is possible including the worst. The Hamas fantasies of Israel’s total destruction are “grist to the mill” of the right wing. The Israeli left is viewed by the right as being treacherous and anti-Zionist despite their strong defensive denials. The inherent racism of the Israeli right and religious right wing is also a strong catalyst that delegitimizes left wing parties such as Meretz as well as the Joint Arab List.

Despite these uncertain scenarios, Israel must be more amenable to new, imaginative ideas towards negotiating a peace settlement with the Palestinians. At present, the Netanyahu Government has not even presented any form of plan for a future negotiated settlement.

The Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis, as well as Operation Protective Edge, have made the Israeli Electorate more right wing in their voting patterns. PM Netanyahu is viewed by many as being strong on security while the left are seen as weak and soft on terror. The Israeli left wing parties such as Meretz will be forced into the margins of influence in Israeli politics. The Joint Arab List will probably be a political force to be reckoned. The Zionist Camp will not take them into the coalition if they win for fear of upsetting the “Zionist apple cart”. Both the center right and center left will do their utmost to disregard the Joint Arab List, who will probably be the fourth biggest political party in the Knesset after the elections.

The Joint Arab List is composed of differing ideological opinions ranging from Religious Islam to secular. It remains to be seen whether this party will be remain united after the elections or will disintegrate into the various political parties of which it is composed. 

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