Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 11, 2009--The Elections- What They Mean

It's the day after the Israeli elections, and things are not much clearer than they were last night. A few things are clear, what is considered the Israeli right, is clearly victorious. It is also true that Minister of Foreign Relations and Prime Minister hopeful Tzpi Livni won a significant personal vote yesterday as well. The parties of the right have clearly been strengthened and the parties on the left have been weakened.

Where does it go from here? Most observers believe that MK Netanyahu clearly has the upper hand and that he will easily be able to put a coalition together. The parties on the right are clearly a majority and he can put them together to form the government. To do that he will be dependant on the parties on the far right, those he would prefer not to be dependant on since that government will not even be able to make the pretext of any diplomatic advances. Netanyahu's goal is to convince Kadima to join the coalition after he no longer needs them.

The big unknown is MK Avigdor Lieberman. He met with both Netanyahu and Livni today, and both came away from their meetings upbeat. Lieberman has a real dilemma. On one hand he was elected due to his perceived right wing views. His natural constituency would clearly like him to enter a right wing coalition. On the other hand, the two areas that he has been most interested in accomplishing, a new form of government and greater separation between state and religion are two goals that he is unlikely to achieve in the coalition that Netanyahu is able to build on the right. Livni on the other hand, can offer him passage to these most cherished items. His right wing supporters may be less impressed however.

Lieberman is going abroad on vacation for a few days and is not expected to return until early next week. There is another possibility that Lieberman could be the one to force both Livni and Netanyahu into a coalition with each other. That coalition could easily pass legislation for creating a new method of election and a new constitution and then resign. Of course the idea of someone who is likely to be indicted in the near future being the king maker in Israeli politics, is humorous if it was not so sad. The election results show a continued move rightward in the Israeli electorate. Why? It really is very simple - every city in Israel that came under fire in either of the last two wars voted strongly for the right. Only in the center of country did people vote for the center or left. It should not come as a surprise. When Kadima was last elected it was soon after the pullout from Gaza and in the shadow of Prime Minister Sharon. The left had always stated that if only we pull out of places we would have peace. The pullout from Lebanon and Gaza proved that wrong. So with the views of the left discredited the right has gained. Unfortunately, the right has never provided an alternative plan. They claim that Israel needs to just stay strong and it will all work out. Meanwhile, the expectations in the US are high. When I was introduced on the radio today the host stated "with expectations of peace in the Middle East high, Israel had an election yesterday". I had to explain to the listeners that nothing that has happened in the Middle East in the last two year provide any reason to believe that there should be high expectations of peace. Just because President Obama is now in office, there is no reason to believe that there should be high expectation of peace.