So, it’s a year since the general election that resulted in the current Israeli government. Are Israelis happy with the outcome? How would they vote today?
If you cast your mind back a year, the now-ruling Likud didn’t actually “win” the election — a fact the whole world seems to have forgotten. The largest party was Kadima, which received 28 of the Knesset’s 120 mandates. Likud received 27, but given that, it was able to pull together a working coalition led the government. If new elections were held now, Likud could be confident of a clear win. According to a new Haaretz-Dialog poll, partly published here, Likud would now return to the Knesset with 35 mandates, while Kadima’s head-count would drop to 26.
Perhaps the most interesting result of the poll is one that isn’t featured in the article hyperlinked above. It concerns Israel’s future in the West Bank. The key word in discussions about the West Bank at the moment is “bi-national.” The belief across the center of Knesset is that Israel needs a peace deal that will take it out of the West Bank, otherwise the only option left will be a single bi-national state in which, as demography runs its course, Jews will be outnumbered (it was this consideration that drove the disengagement from Gaza). Defense Minister Ehud Barak forcefully made this point last week, as reported here. But apparently the Israeli public doesn’t share this fear. Only 28% of respondents answered yes to the following question: “May our continued presence in the territories lead to a bi-national state?” The fact that only just more than one in four Israelis even consider accepting the principle that is guiding the political discourse of the country is quite startling. Some 53% of respondents actually dismissed the possibility.
In advance of Tuesday’s election in Israel, candidates of various persuasions have shown no shame in cribbing from the storied presidential campaign of Barack Obama — regardless of their ideological similarities or differences with the American president, The Daily Beast reports.
The Shas Party, whose constituency traditionally has been composed of Orthodox Sephardic Jews, has gone so far as to reappropriate for its own purposes Obama’s “Yes We Can” slogan. Meanwhile, the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, Tzipi Livni, is evoking Obama’s message with the catchphrase, “You have a chance to make history,” and Benjamin Netanyahu, of the center-right Likud Party, last year hired on two Obama strategists.
Echoing a recent Forward story, Ashley Rindsberg, in The Daily Beast, writes:
“Far more than just a source of borrowed slogans and talking points, Obama has become a political weapon. The Kadima and the left-of-center Labor parties have campaigned on the notion that ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu simply won’t be able to get along with Obama. In the Israeli media, the portmanteau ‘Obibi’ is used to describe Netanyahu’s rise to front-runner against the backdrop of a liberal American president who might be less than sympathetic to his positions.
But it’s not completely clear that even the centrist or left contenders would simply line up for Obama once in the government. Livni has tried the hardest to identify with Obama, going so far as to print campaign leaflets for Hebrew-speaking voters that read, in English, ‘Believni.’ Although Kadima led the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza under Ariel Sharon, there’s little indication that Kadima under Livni would follow the same path in the West Bank, no matter how much President Obama might desire such an outcome.”