The date of February 10 is accurate for the US, but here in Israel it is actually the early morning of February 11. This will be brief, because the situation is so tentative yet, but I didn’t want to end my day at 2:00 AM without some explanation regarding the elections that were held today.
It has been an evening of stress and anxiety, but there is reasonable hope that when the fog clears we will be all right.
All tallies from all polling places are not yet in, but as I write, with more than half the votes counted, Likud has 27 mandates (seats) and Kadima 28. Yikes! However, the right wing/nationalist/religious bloc has 65 mandates and the left wing bloc including Arab parties has 55. This is of enormous importance.
When the votes are all counted, it is the job of President Peres to consult with the head of every party and ask who he or she would want to lead the nation. Only then does he give the nod to the person — either Netanyahu or Livni — who will do this. Even if Likud does not tie Kadima or pull ahead, if it’s obvious that Livni cannot put together a coalition (which requires an absolute minimum of 61 seats and is not stable without more than that), then Peres might well select Netanyahu. And even if he picks Livni, if Netanyahu manages to maintain discipline within the right wing bloc — so that all those parties hold tight and refuse to join Livni — then she will not be able to form a government and it will go to Netanyahu.
Most votes will be counted within the next few hours, but there are some specialty votes, such as the IDF votes, that take longer to be tallied. Because of the tightness of the election, the absolute final vote carries greater significance than would otherwise be the case. Commentators are saying tonight that soldiers vote further to the right than the population at large, and that vote might bring Likud ahead or even with Kadima. There are other factors at play as well that might cause this to happen.
Ironically, tonight both Netanyahu and Livni have claimed victory.
Netanyahu was clear: The people have spoken. The right wing bloc is far greater than the left wing bloc. I will be the next prime minister. And you had better believe that Netanyahu and associates are already working hard to build the necessary right wing bloc discipline.
As one commentator put it, with regard to Livni’s statement, she needs to be prime minister because it is necessary for Israel to be a vassal state of the US. Obviously, she put it that only she can get along with Obama, but I think that commentator was on the mark. That there is a greater likelihood that Netanyahu would stand strong against Mitchell and Clinton and Obama than that Livni would is actually something very much in his favor.
Could the entire situation change by morning? Yes… We have to look at the final numbers. And after that, see how the whole process I’ve just described plays out.
There will be several other factors to watch as this plays out: Will Netanyahu, if he is successful, hold to a purely right wing coalition, or might Labor be brought in? He might bring in Labor to make his coalition stronger, but unless I’m very much mistaken (which is certainly possible), if he’s seeking right wing bloc discipline in order to block Livni, then he will have to give precedence to those right wing parties as he builds his government. Plus, there is some resistance within the Labor party to sitting with Lieberman. How Lieberman, the spoiler who drew votes from Likud, will play his role is also significant. And then there is still the remote possibility that those Kadima rebels would return to Likud, as it has been so often said they would. If Netanyahu succeeds, and has the ruling coalition, but a narrow coalition, that is when they might decide to join him, providing additional strength to the government.
Perhaps tomorrow I will write more about why it is so essential for this nation that Livni lose. Even after all I’ve written, there is more to say, as more hair-raising policy decisions are advanced. If Netanyahu’s projection is wrong, and he cannot control a majority right wing bloc, prevent Livni from forming a coalition, and become prime minister, I will grieve deeply for the situation.
And so…tentatively…with a hope and a prayer.