Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Surprising Israeli Elections

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Votes are still being counted, but as the elections in Israel move to a close, there have been some surprising results.

The Likud-Yirael Beiteinu unity list is predicted to win 31 mandates, the highest total of any party but still well below the 42 seats they started out with.

One of the biggest shockers was Yesh Atid ('There is a Future'), TV personality Yair Lapid's party, which is predicted to win 18-19 mandates. Yesh Atid is a centrist party whose main message was essentially economic dissatisfaction, emphasis on social issues and the insistence that all Israeli Jews serve in the military, with no more exemptions for the haridim.

Bayit Yahudi('Jewish Home') ended up with 12 seats, an excellent showing compared to where they were but not as high as the previous polls showed them getting. Apparently Netanyahu's negative campaigning had an effect.

Shas, the Orthodox religious party mainly focusing on Sephardi Jews, those originally from the Middle East and Southern Europe ended up with 11 mandates, while United Torah Judaism, a religious party on the right ended up with 6.

On the Left, Labor ended up with 17 seats, while the EU-funded far Left Meretz and Tzipi Livni's Hatenua appear to have ended up with 6-7 each, depended on who's counting.

The Arab parties ( Hadash, Balad and Ram) look to end up with 10 mandates.

Now comes the fun part.

While Netanyahu will still almost certainly get nod from President Peres to form the new government with himself as Prime Minister, he's going to have to put together a coalition in order to govern.This involves compromise, horse trading of ministries and perks and moderating positions on issues that surfaced during the campaign.

My personal guess would be that he taps Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid for starters. It would give the new government credibility in the social welfare department, and Lapid and Netanyahu have a number of areas of agreement when it comes to economic issues. Also, Yesh Atid pretty much has no real foreign policy positions, and it's not their focus. That would bring Netanyahu to 49-50 seats, 11 or 12 shy of the 61 he needs.

After that, there are a number of ways Netanyahu can go.If he does pick Lapid, he probably is going to have trouble getting Shas to serve in the new government with Yesh Atid. By the same token, Shas' spiritual leader insultingly referred to Jewish Home and Naftali Bennet as 'goyim' because they favor allowing civil marriage in Israel, so any government that included Shas would have to smooth those bumps over, and it's not going to be easy.

If we assume Shas is out of the picture, then Netanyahu can either choose to bring Labor in for a unity government (66-67 seats) or he can try to bring in United Torah Judaism and Jewish Home ( 66-67 seats when combined with Yesh Atid's 18-19 seats)for a center right coalition.

The idea of pairing Labor with Likud, Yirael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid is asking for trouble, just as it was in the 18th Knesset when Labor revolted against Ehud Barack and left the government.If I were Netanyahu, I wouldn't even consider it.

Of course, another real possibility would be a combination of Labor, Yesh Atid, Meretz and Livni's Hatenua, which would amount to 49-50 seats. To govern, they would have to bring in Shas or Jewish Home, both of which are a highly unlikely fit.And they would have to fight it out amongst themselves as to which Indian was going to be chief, even less likely!

So, why did Likud/ Yisrael Beiteinu lose so much ground? A lot of it was sheer timing. An election in September would have gotten them a much better showing.

Another factor was the combined list, which meant that a number of Israeli politicians in both Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu with no hope of getting into the Knesset this year because of their low placement on the list simply didn't go all out to work the streets this election.

And finally, Netanyahu's attacks on Bayit Yahudi and Naftali Bennett backfired badly. Most of their vote cam from Likud, and the every attack fed uncertainty on the Right about Netanyahu's bonifides.

So the next step is seeing whom Netanyahu and Likud pair up with.

By the way, as a side note, remember the remarks pro-Obama columnist Jeffrey Goldberg quoted President Obama as making, saying that 'Israel doesn't know it's own best interest.'?

Well U.S. officials in Israel are now conceding that not only did President Obama make those remarks and that it was done with the deliberate intention of hurting Netanyahu at the polls, but that it backfired badly.

I can verify that last bit. Israelis across the spectrum were outraged


B.Poster said...

If a high ranking US official like POTUS made such a remark about a top official of any other government in the world, the news media in the US would be outraged at this US leader. They would howl with rage in front of every microphone they could find and in every print medium in existence against US "meddling" and US "interference" in the Affairs of a "soverign" nation to promote US "imperialism" or something to this effect. When such disrpect is shown to an Israeli leader, the media either says nothing or actively encourages POTUS in this endeavor.

For what its worth, sometimes the media has a valid point regarding these attacks. Other times not so much. The reality is these things are not as clear cut and straight forward as America "bad" and foreign adversary "good."

Why should Israel be any different than any other country in regards to media treatment? If it is wrong for the US to meddle in the affairs of any other nation, why is it suddenly accpetable to meddle in the affairs of Israel?

A bit off topic but it is generally agreed that the US will need to rethink its position of having military bases around the world and acting in a security/policman role in the world. At least to hear the media tell it, this is so. They never tire of pointing this out. In its global security role, the US acts to keep trade routes open and to ensure the stable flow of goods around the world. If the US relinqueshes this role, its going to make global commerce much more difficult which will hurt allot of people including many Americans whose livelyhoods depend upon global trade. On the other hand, it will save America allot of money and should cut down on the risk of military conflict with Russia, China, and others and very likely make Americans more secure in their homeland.

Has anyone done a serious cost benefit analysis of what would be lost and what would be gained if America were to relinquish the role of global provider of security?

Finally, when learning about the situation in Mali, it seems the US has only limited military coverage for that part of the world. I was told by the news media and others that the US global military presence was all encompassing. Is the notion of US global dominance of this magnitude an exageration? I suspect it is. After all by building up someone that one does not like to be more powerful than they really are makes them much easier to demonize!!

louielouie said...

bibi should have just simply said the US doesn't know what's in it's best interest.

B.Poster said...

"I can verify that last bit, Israelis accross the spectrum were outraged." Yes, I can imagine so. I would expect Americans to be outraged if a foreign nation interfered so blatantly in its domestic affairs. Generally the media will act to condemn such interventions by the US in the domestic affairs of foreign countries. The different standard applied to Israel is somewhat puzzling, however, when we realize that top levels of the media and the US government have been infiltrated by Islamists and their sympathizers perhaps it makes some sense.

"bibi should have just simply said the US doesn't know what's in its best interest." I could not agree more. Just for examples. When the Egypitan rebellion first manifested itself, the US should have done one of the following, a.)since the fall of Mubarak was probably inevitable no matter what the US did, simply stay out of it. While the MB likely emerges victorious in the ensuing power struggle, they would be weakened in the struggle which would have made them less powerful which likely makes them easier to deal wtih, or b.)support Mubarak. He had worked with us as well as we could have hoped for in that vital part of the world. If there were a chance to save his government, perhaps he could have used our assistance. In any event, cutting him loose at the first sign of trouble likely sends a powerful message to those who might think of working with us that we cannot be trusted.

The best approach for Libya and Western Eurpoe would have been to stay out of it entirely. In this case, Khaddaffi likely prevails, valuable European oil deals are preserved, Libya's agreement not to pursue WMD remains in effect, and Khaddaffi's assistance against Al Qaeda and other Islamists remains in force.

If the fall of Khaddaffi was inevitable, the best course of action might have been to say out of it. At least this way, the Islamists, while ultimately prevailing would have been weakened in the process making the easier to deal with. With that said, given the valuable oil deals with Khaddaffi and his agreement regarding WMD perhaps NATO and the US should have tried to save his government, if that were possible.

In the cases of Libya and Egpyt by enthusiastically jumping in on the side of the Islamists, the exact opposite of American interests was carried out. Now a bitter enemy has been strengthened exponentially.

To cap this all off so far, we have Syria. Not only have Islamists been strengthened but the US government has managed to anger Russia!! You're spot on Louie. The US government has no idea what its best interests are right now.