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February 5, 2009: Political Confusion, Voter Angst

April 7, 2009

These are tough times for serious voters on the right who are trying to decide how to cast their votes. The difficulty is a function of what’s going on in the country and of the electoral system under which we operate (which, everyone agrees, needs reform, but which is never quite reformed).

The goal of the first order is to keep Tzipi Livni from becoming prime minister. This is understood.

Evelyn Gordon, in a piece in the Post, calls the decision regarding whether to vote for Livni a “no brainer” (something that can be decided, figuratively, without even having to use your brain).

When asked by Haaretz last week to name her accomplishments, the first thing Livni said was that “I enabled the disengagement, thanks to the Livni compromise…I led the disengagement legislation…”

And then she said, “I created the idea of a diplomatic exit [from the Second Lebanon War]… I formulated [Security Council] Resolution 1701.”

This is rather stunning, for she named two colossal failures. Never mind that she was involved in these matters (which is serious enough), if she cannot perceive now that they are not actions to be proud of and is eager to tout them as successes, there is really, really a problem in her thinking.

And so, run, don’t walk, away from Kadima. Why anyone would still want to vote for her is beyond my capacity to comprehend. But there are still many who, at least according to the polls, do. Which is part of the problem. In the polls Kadima is second, not that many mandates (seats) behind Likud.


Where, then, do right wing voters cast their votes? I’m speaking of Zionists — in the main, but not exclusively, religious nationalists — who understand our connection to the land and are eager for us to hold our heads up high as Israelis and reclaim our entitlements.

A logical place for many of us to cast our votes is National Union (Ihud Leumi), headed now by Ya’akov (Ketzelah) Katz, war hero and head of Beit El institutions, who is greatly loved and respected. When he said, on assuming the party position, “We will raise the banner of the Land of Israel, which has been sullied in recent years,” it was possible to believe him. On this list, as well, are other individuals with strong Jewish pride and integrity.

No one imagines that National Union will win the election. The goal is to provide a solid nationalist presence in the Knesset, and, hopefully, in the government, if Likud invites this group into the coalition.


But wait! Likud is not doing well in the polls. Previously it was further ahead of Kadima; now the gap has narrowed — according to some polls Likud is only three mandates ahead of Kadima. This is partly because some voters are looking to National Union, or to Mafdal (the old National Religious Party, now known as the Jewish Home — HaBayit HaYehudi).

But far more so because, as I wrote yesterday, of Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home) party, which has drawn some Likud supporters. Lieberman’s meteoric rise in popularity was unexpected. He is now attracting not only his fellow Russian immigrants, but native Israelis, as he assumes a very tough line with regard to Israeli Arabs, whom he charges with frequently manifesting disloyalty to the State. His position on a Palestinian state is vague, as previously he advanced ideas of land trade, but now says he is opposed.


What must be faced then is that a vote for one of the smaller nationalist parties might mean that Likud doesn’t win. And this would be counterproductive to all nationalist goals.


But wait! There are nationalists who would vote for Likud to prevent Livni from being victorious who become slightly apoplectic at the thought of Barak as Defense Minister in the new government. And so the question is asked about how serious Netanyahu is in this regard.

I heard the argument, just today, that the way to keep Barak from being awarded this position is to vote for Likud. There is a potential logic to this. Likud is not expected to win more than about 30 seats. But a governing coalition requires a minimum of 61. Likud will have to negotiate with other parties to form that coalition, and such negotiations require striking deals, and making attractive offers. In theory, the stronger Likud is, relative to the other parties that would join the coalition, the less Likud would be required to offer.


But, first, is it clear up front that Likud would need Labor in order to secure a coalition — might it not be secured simply by including the parties to the right, including Yisrael Beitenu and Shas? That’s what the numbers suggest may be possible. Is the need to form a governing coalition Netanyahu’s only (or real) motivation for including Labor? It seems increasingly clear that the answer to this is no, that he is anticipating the formation of a unity government of sorts — that he wishes to be centrist and broad-based.

And then the question is, why? The only possible rational that occurs to me is Netanyahu’s desire to stop or interfere with Iran’s nuclear development, which would require a broad national consensus.


What’s unsettling is that a party that wishes to appeal to all segments of the population and is too inclusive ends up becoming stalemated internally. It becomes difficult to know what such a party truly stands for. And what I’m sensing now is a tremendous desire on the part of many to find some clarity.


Imponderables… Unknowns… Speculations…

Dear friends, it may seem as if I have just led you in circles, but this is not the case: I’ve merely painted a bare bones picture of what is happening here politically at the moment.

There are a dozen other questions that might be asked, such as: If Kadima wins the election would Livni be able to form a coalition? What are the demands of Yisrael Beitenu and Shas? Will Labor, at the end of the day, be willing to join a coalition that contains Yisrael Beitenu, which, because of its strength, would certainly be included in a Likud-led coalition? (A majority of Labor MKs are opposed to sitting with Lieberman but Barak is not ruling it out.)


A Likud activist close to the center of things, whom I queried today about Labor being included in a Likud coalition, responded thus:

The question is, what would you rather have, a coalition of Kadima and Labor, or a Likud-led coalition that includes Labor and maybe Kadima (Kadima??). Unpalatable, but maybe realistic.

By next Tuesday morning, each voter will have to make a decision for him or herself.

What is striking is that polls have indicated an unusually large percentage (approximately 20%) of the voters still undecided as of this late date. Many are struggling to find the answers that are right for them.

The import for our nation is enormous.


After earlier announcing that a truce settlement had been achieved, the Hamas delegation today left Cairo as the cease-fire talks collapsed; they are expected to return in a matter of days. Amos Gilad is now going to Egypt to receive a report.

Reportedly, issues outstanding include length of the cease-fire, monitoring of the crossings, what goods would be permitted in via the crossings and progress on securing the release of Shalit.

The Hamas negotiators were stopped by Egyptian police on their way out of Egypt, as they were carrying some 8 million dollars and two million Euros in cash, in suitcases.




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