Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Elections Approaching 2

A piece in Haaretz.com claimed that Avigdor Leiberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, was an ex-Kach member. Kach was the ultra-nationalist party run by the late Meir Kahane. Pundits didn't think this revelation was going to help Leiberman in the polls. Leiberman's office denied the allegation, saying that Leiberman may have visited the Kach offices on occasion but was never a member of the Kach party, which was outlawed in Israel in 1988.

As for who votes for Leiberman, The Erev Chadash TV show broadcast a Globes poll Tuesday night: Likud 25, Kadima 21, Labor 17, Yisrael Beitenu (Leiberman) 17.

Analysts believe that the backbone of Leiberman's support comes from the West Bank settlers. But according to political commentators, another strong sector are those people angry at the Israeli Arabs for holding pro-Hamas rallies during Operation Cast Lead.

Analyst believe that Leiberman will certainly get the non-religious settler vote. The modern orthodox former National Religious Party, now called Beit Yisraeli (Israel house) or the New National Religious Party, will get an estimated 8 seats. Pundits think Leiberman could count on them as well in the event he is asked to form a coalition.

Israel TV commentators say that Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu is worried about this metoric rise in Leiberman's popularity. Netanyahu advisors fear that the votes for Leiberman, and other smaller parties that voters assume will join a Likud coalition, drain off votes to the Likud. This could place Likud in a position where Kadima would come even or perhaps surpass the Likud in Knesset seats; a worse case scenario for Likud is Leiberman's party getting more votes than either Likud or Labor and forming a government with Leiberman as the PM.

Every Israeli election seems to witness another maverick party that comes from nowhere and captures the public's imagination. In the last elections the Senior Citizen's party won nearly ten seats simply because voters were fed up with the other choices and sought a safe, fresh alternative. Prior to that Tommy Lapid lead a party that won fifteen seats. Going back to the 1980's the late Yigal Yadin headed a party called The Third Way, that won about 16 seats. None of these parties existed at that level for more than one election. Most disapeared.

On the street, nearly everyone interviewed said they still don't know who to vote for. Commentators say that 50 per cent of the Israelis want Ehud Barak as Defense Minister. A report in the press Wednesday morning said a back-door coalition deal already exists between Likud and Labor

Smaller parties have sprung up, as they always do. Some are quirky, promising the legalization of marijuana, other splinter parties from politicians who didn't get a 'safe' place on their former parties election list. For example, former Labor minister Ephraim Sneh is running on a 'shut down the Mafia' ticket. To underline his point someone blew up his car. Another is Rabbi Melchior, another former Labor miinister now running as head of the "Green" party.

The TV ads are lame. Green party. Russian Parties, etc. Will there be another 'gimliem' Senior Citizens party that surprises everyone? No one knows, but all signs point to Leiberman as the big surprise so far.

However, according to the commentators, whoever wins won't last long. The choices are too limited, the issues too severe, the coalition too fragile.

More rockets on Tuesday. Ashkelon got hit, again. Israel bombed more tunnels. So far 31 attacks have been launched on Israel from Gaza since the cessation of Operation Cast Lead., 19 rockets, and 12 mortars.

Likud leader Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyhu has made a campaign promise that he would destroy Hamas if elected. But analysts say the only way to do that is occupy Gaza, which would make Israel the landlords of a million and a half Palestinians, many hostile, who would need food, clothing, and municipal services, all paid for by the occupiers, according to International Law. Campaign promises, the commentators say, are just that. Few people expect anyone to fulfill them.