Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israel's Election Deadlock

Israel's tentative election results are here. I say tentative because, as Imshin notes, absentee ballots remain uncounted, and are expected to lean right. If Likud picks up at least one seat, then Netanyahu becomes the logical choice to form the next government.

As it his, his position is very strong, but not as simple as the left/right block metrics would have it. On the one hand, the Arab parties and Hadash are included in the left, meaning that functionally it's down around 46 seats. However, the religious parties, especially Shas, can be bribed into almost any coalition. At the same time, Avigdor Lieberman has made it plain he wants to contend for the prime minister's spot in the next elections. He might conclude he can do that better as the one who works with the centrist Kadima and ultimately brings it down than he can as a second fiddle to Netanyahu in a Likud-led government.

All Livni's coalition, possibilities, however, are pretty narrow, and again, given the absentee ballot situation, we may yet wind up with Netanyahu getting the first crack at things. Matthew Yglesias cogently surveys the Israeli political scene:
"Likud used to be the main rightwing party. Then, under the government of Ariel Sharon in fragmented into a more pragmatic Kadima faction and a hardline-nationalist faction led by Bibi Netanyahu. Now, Israeli opinion has shifted so far to the right that Kadima, which was founded as a center-right party just a few years ago is now left of the public opinion’s center. And the far-right Yisrael Beitanu party is bigger than center-left Labor and dramatically bigger than left-wing Meretz. Meanwhile, Labor has itself shifted right. A politics dominated, on both sides, by nationalists—ranging from pragmatic nationalists to not-so-pragmatic nationalists to frothing-at-the-mouth-racist nationalists—is not so promising for the cause of peace."

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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