Israeli election – what now?….writes Dr Ron Weiser

February 3, 2013 by Ron Weiser
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As the world, and especially Israel, await the structure of the new Government in Israel, former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and Honorary Life President of the ZCNSW Dr Ron Weiser pens his thoughts…

1 – The simple problem is that Bibi (63 years old) won and lost. To quote a great headline in Ha’aretz – “Bibi plummets to victory”.

Dr Ron Weiser

Dr Ron Weiser

As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the prime aim of the merging of the Netanyahu and Lieberman lists – and note that the parties themselves have not actually merged – was not in the first instance to increase their representation in the Knesset, but to ensure that President Peres would have no choice other than to call on Bibi to form the next Government.

One should remember that in the last election, Bibi came in second – he did not want to run that risk this time.

So the strategy worked, the merged list achieved its objective to make Bibi the clear leader and ensure his Prime Ministership – but the Likud Party was a loser.

The combined power of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu dropped from 42 seats to 31.

But even more dramatically, Likud itself dropped to only 20 seats – just one more than Yair Lapid.

Hence the Ha’aretz headline.

 

2 – The media’s portrayal of some sort of equal left/right outcome is simply not credible – neither on the external issues nor the internal ones.

Moreover, in my view, it is this sort of analysis that leads people to continually be puzzled by Israeli Government action – or inaction.

Like it or not, neither the so called Jewish centre left nor the so called Jewish centre right would formally include the 11 members of the Arab parties in any coalition. Some Arab MK’s openly oppose the existence of the State of Israel whose parliament they serve in.

Then we have the question as to what basis anyone has for calling Lapid centre left?

Lapid campaigned actively in the West Bank itself, notably Ariel, he is strongly on the record against a divided Jerusalem and has publically declared his support for Bibi’s landmark Bar Ilan speech calling for a 2 State Solution.

Moreover in the immediate aftermath of the election he declared that the only partner he would join would be Netanyahu and that he would not even consider joining Shelley Yehimovich.

On the economy, Lapid is an avowed capitalist whilst Yehimovich is a strong socialist.

In fact Lapid has much more in common with Bennett than Yehimovich.

On my read the real breakup when it comes to the external issues in particular is:

Left – 17 seats – the Arab Parties and Meretz

Centre Left – 21 seats – Labor and Hatnuah

Centre and Centre Right – 70 seats

& Right – 12 seats – Jewish Home

 

And there, in the very strong consensus amongst  the parties that represent some 85 out of 120 seats, believing in a 2 State Solution but without seeing any credible or willing partner amongst the Palestinians, lies the explanation as to why the Palestinian issue just did not loom large in this election.

 

3 – Whilst one can see natural generational changes occurring, I believe that the policy direction itself is as much circular as it is linear.

The regular trend in Israel these past few elections, is that when there is simply no point arguing about the external issues that are beyond our control anyway, the internal issues rise to prominence.

The Lapids are a family that would have been right at home in Sydney.

Tommy Lapid z”l, the Hungarian speaking Holocaust survivor with wit and brains and great survival instincts, appeared as a rough diamond.

His son Yair, the product of all the privilege that the hard working Tommy could provide him with, is a duplicate of his father, but better dressed and with smoother edges.

Very concerned about the middle class, not the exact social justice focus that those words generally mean in the West, and even more concerned about sharing the burden of working, paying taxes and serving in the army – or actually a little softer than his father on this, willing to consider the possibility of  doing national service outside of the army.

These 2 issues are of course inter related – the more widely the burden is shared, the less the pressures on each individual bearing the load.

Remember though that Tommy Lapid’s Shinui Party, with a platform very much like Yair Lapid’s reached 15 seats in the 2003 election.

The next election after the Disengagement from Gaza – zero.

Yair Lapid’s biggest problem is now going to be delivery – to reach expectations. And this against an increasing national budgetary problem where financial cuts need to be made.

He will have to deliver, or at least appear to deliver, on at least one of two major promises he made – broader national service and/or lowering the cost of middle class housing.

 

4 – One of the most significant changes of this election however has seen the rise of a new template for the desired politician – at least in these times.

Lapid (49 years old) and Yehimovich (52 years old) are both ex senior journalists, not generals.

Whilst Bennett (40 years old) does have a distinguished army career, his success as a high tech multimillionaire right out of Start Up Nation was a big factor in his rise, as well as his personal life and party list which crosses the orthodox/secular divide somewhat.

Notwithstanding the post election spin, whilst Bennett revived his party somewhat, he did not reach the heights promised by the polls, perhaps yet another pointer to the strength of the consensus within Israel.

They are all very well to do, present well, speak well and know how to use the media – in many ways they represent an aspirational model for their followers.

 

5 – The biggest problem Bibi and Israel faces in terms of coalition building, is his reduced authority and the fact that Yehimovich (if she remains true to her word) has stated clearly that she will not join the Government under Bibi.

Note that Labor too did not do as well as expected/hoped under her leadership and it remains to be seen how secure her leadership of Labor is.

Another factor in building the coalition is that Bibi does not wish to be perceived as either the most “right wing” or “left wing” leader in his future government.

And the main divide centers on the issue of national service.

Bibi, Lieberman, Lapid, Livni and Mofaz could all easily agree on the national service issue and find some formula on the external issues, but that is only 58 seats – a minimum of 61 is required and even that would not be a comfortable majority, as any one coalition partner could bring the government down.

Of the Haredi parties, Shas (11 seats) could join the mix as many of their voters actually do serve in the army as opposed to the Ashkenazi Haredi party supporters.

Whilst Bennett (12 seats) could also join, Livni would probably have to drop out and Bibi would have to consider the PR consequences, as opposed to the less significant real policy differences.

If Bibi finds this too hard, he could go for a less desirable outcome from his point of view and form a Government without Lapid, but with Bennett and the 2 Haredi partners – but that also only gets him 61 seats, partners he does not want to sit alone with and would seem to deny the reality of the success of Lapid and the demands of the electorate.

 

And so the question of coalition building goes on until some sort of result is achieved.

Finally – in my view, one of the best analyses of the election came from Hezbollah Chief Nasrallah.

He said “The conclusion that can be drawn from the elections in Israel is that the founding parties, like Labor and Likud, are on the decline.

We can also conclude that there isn’t a ruling party. Netanyahu wanted a strong faction, but there is no such thing,” he added.

Nasrallah crowned former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “as the last of Israel’s kings.”

Addressing the claimed rise of the political Left and Center in the elections, Nasrallah stated that the political sides do not differ in their approaches towards regional issues.

“We can’t be misled,” he said. “When it comes to Palestinian issues … and the Israeli threat on nations in the region, the Right and Left are the same.

History has taught us that most wars have been waged by Israel’s leftist governments,” he added

Comments

2 Responses to “Israeli election – what now?….writes Dr Ron Weiser”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Such a succinct and erudite account of Israeli politics and the recent election. I had bits and pieces of knowledge and now all the gaps have been filled. Thanks for this article.

  2. Peter says:

    Wow.

    Thanks Ron for that clear explanation, it certainly makes more sense than some others I have seen and explains why today Shimon Peres said that parties representing a total of 82 seats have asked him to ask Netanyahu to be Prime Minister.

    Peter

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