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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Arlene Kushner On The Israeli Election Countdown (Part I)

January 20, 2013

"Election Countdown"

Ron Nachman was a founder of the city of Ariel in 1978, when a group of dedicated pioneers, with the blessing of the government, set up the first tents. A member of Likud, he later gave up a career in the Knesset to become Ariel's first mayor, and held that title until last week, when he passed away after a long battle with cancer. His funeral was today.

Nachman's dedication to developing the land of Samaria -- and to the city of Ariel -- was well known in Israel. He is being mourned by many. The Yesha Council today saluted him as: "a Zionist settlement pioneer in his body and soul and an unstoppable builder of the Land of Israel."

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Well, two more days until Israel's election. Wish I had something really intelligent to say by way of analysis. But unfortunately, this campaign has not lent itself to this, as it has focused as much on personalities as on the genuine issues of the day.

And, unfortunately, while I am able to say that there is little to report regarding the election, the media, struggling with that same paucity of solid material, resorts to providing nonsense information in place of news. Tzipi Livni (head of the party named after her) had an argument with Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) when they found themselves riding on the same elevator. Gasp! What a revelation.

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The betting remains that Binyamin Netanyahu will form the next coalition, but nothing is a certainty. Besides which, there is still the major question of which factions will be in that coalition.

Israeli law forbids election polls in the days immediately leading up to the election. So, we've seen the last of those polls -- although there have been a huge number, with almost daily ones in the last weeks. From one to the other there have been some notable differences, but by and large Likud-Beitenu (the merged Likud and Yisrael Beitenu list) is expected to be the largest winner, by far --although the current predictions of between 32 and 37 mandates are all less than what had been anticipated when they merged their lists. And the "right wing and religious" parties are expected to form a majority of the newly elected Knesset. Habayit Hayehudi -- an "up and coming" party -- is predicted to have some 14 mandates.

Yesh Atid is also making a quite respectable showing for a new party.

Part of the problem in predicting what will happen is the very large number of "undecideds" that remain this late in the game. If a significant number of those who haven't decided yet which party to vote for all vote in one direction, it could throw all predications off.

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Let me re-cap once again with regard to what we'll be seeing. After the election results are in, President Peres will meet with heads of each party and ask whom they recommend to head the next government, i.e., form the coalition. As party heads provide their answers, the number of mandates (seats) that they represent is noted. Ultimately, Peres will select the person with enough factions saying they support him/her so that it is assumed s/he will be able to form a coalition -- i.e., have more than 60 seats in the 120 person Knesset. (This presumption is not always accurate -- last time, Livni, who then headed Kadima, was asked first and failed to form a coalition.)

Three major left-center parties -- Tzipi Livni, Labor (headed by Shelley Yachimovich) and Yesh Atid (headed by Yair Lapid) -- had said they were going to form a coalition after the election, and agree to all tell Peres that they wanted someone else (whom they had in mind has never been quite clear), These three parties would not, even with the most optimistic of election results for them, constitute a count of more than 60 mandates. They would likely bring in other parties such as Meretz and Kadima (which scarcely exists), and, still lacking sufficient mandates, lure a heredi party such as Shas into their camp -- a party that would agree via a prior arrangement not to recommend Netanyahu.

This is all speculative theory. First, the three left-center heads do not get along. It's not just Livni and Bennett in the elevator who have had harsh words for each other. They have harsh words for each other when they're not in an elevator. And second, for this to happen Shas would have to be more attracted to this group, and what they offered in return for coalition support, as compared what Netanyahu would offer.

So...we can assume it will likely be Netanyahu.

I am going to go out on a limb here and make my own prediction as to what the new coalition will look like (and yes, I'll eat my words if I'm wrong):

(Continued in Part II )

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