Sunday, January 20, 2013

Arlene Kushner On The Israeli Election Countdown (Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

Netanyahu and his Likud-Beitenu list heading things up, with Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, likely United Torah Judaism, and, from the left, Yesh Atid. This would bring the coalition well over the number required.

Too often during this campaign Likud-Beitenu has focused on attacks against Habayit Hayehudi, its natural ally in many respects, rather than the left-center. It has not been pretty. It's because, as I've written before, Bennett, who is greatly popular, threatens Netanyahu, and there is the feeling that Likud-Beitenu has gone down in the polls as Habayit Hayehudi gains. But in the end (is this wishful thinking?), it's hard to imagine Netanyahu won't include this faction, which IS its natural ally in many respects.

Yachimovich says she will not join with Netanyahu, and, not only is Livni also saying this (although she might change her mind at any moment), it is well known that Netanyahu is not inordinately fond of her. At the same time, Lapid is dropping hints that he might join a Netanyahu coalition. And so, of the three left-center, it is Yesh Atid I would expect to join.

Could Netanyahu still bring in Livni as well? Yea... Especially if he wants something resembling a unity government in the event that he acts against Iran. The trick would be to get "two state solution" Livni in the same government as Bennett (see more below on this).


With regard to bringing in coalition factions with diverse positions: One of the stumbling blocks in forming a coalition is that the haredi parties want military exemptions for those studying in yeshivas, while the left-center, including Lapid, is pumping for universal draft. The negotiations for establishing a coalition of factions with diverse positions require considerable political skill -- not to say compromise on the part of the various players in order to be in the governing coalition.


One of the issues that has been raised in various contexts during the election is that of women's rights; especially has this been the case since many of the undecided voters are reported to be women.

There are countless social issues, with all parties giving at least lip service to them -- improved education, reducing poverty in the nation, etc.

A major dividing line between parties has to do with "negotiations for a two-state solution." We've got Meretz at the far left, calling for negotiations according to the "Saudi Peace Plan," which is a recipe for Israel's destruction. And at the other end of the spectrum there is Otzma leYisrael (Strength to Israel, with Arieh Eldad), which says that Jordan is the Palestinian state.

It is on this issue that Likud-Beitenu and Habayit Hayehudi diverge. Naftali Bennett has come out against a Palestinian Arab state and calls for annexation of Area C. PM Netanyahu says he will govern on the basis of his Bar Ilan proposal for a demilitarized Palestinian Arab state.

I still believe that this is political posturing -- he knows that there can be no negotiations now (he has said so) and that his parameters will not be acceptable to the Palestinian Arabs, who demand nothing less than everything -- refugee return, Jerusalem, etc. etc.

Netanyahu is very different from Livni, for example, who clambers passionately for that Palestinian Arab state, which will make the world happy with us (she thinks). He says he'll keep building in Jerusalem and the major blocs no matter what the world says.

And yet his position diverges from Bennett's. Bennett, however, would never refuse to join the coalition because of this; on the contrary, he hopes to strengthen Netanyahu's back.


There are 34 parties running in the election. A good number of them will not make it past the 2% cut off for seats in the Knesset and will disappear from sight.

Here in Israel you don't have to register to vote. Every citizen receives a slip in the mail entitling him or her to vote at a designated place. Soldiers, who can vote at any polling place, have begun voting.


Before I leave this subject, I cannot resist this question: Other than in the current situation, has anyone ever heard of someone starting a party and naming it after herself? Tells us a whole lot.


Now here's a position from PM Netanyahu that is worth repeating. He has met with a group of Senators visiting in Jerusalem: John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.).

And he told them:

"Building in Jerusalem is not the world's problem; a nuclear Iran is the world's problem. The problem is not building in Ariel and it is not building in Jerusalem. The problem in the Middle East is Iran's attempt to build nuclear weapons, and the chemical weapons in Syria and the Islamic extremism that is spreading in Africa and threatening to inundate the entire region.

"History will not forgive those who allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. This was, and remains, the main mission facing not only myself and Israel, but the entire world." (Emphasis added)

I do not believe this is electioneering. I am convinced that he believes this, and that this was a message for the American government.

Can he believe this and not structure a coalition that will permit him to deal with the problems most effectively?


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