Random musings on Israeli politics

01.29.03

So who’s celebrating? Well, ironically, not Sharon. He knew he’d be re-elected. He’s not going to celebrate until he figures out how on earth to string together a coalition in this mess.

Amram Mitzna’s not celebrating too hard either. He gambled and opted to compete for votes on the Left instead of in the middle. Bad call, Mitzna. Sure, people like him and he’s charismatic . . . but nobody’s willing to entrust him with the security of the Israeli people any further than they could throw him. Besides, now he’s stuck with a promise not to join Likud in a unity government. I somehow suspect that he’ll be convinced to change his mind on that one in the next couple of weeks.

Sharansky and Sarid were both so disappointed with their parties’ respective performances that they resigned. Oh well, I guess that frees up Sharansky’s schedule a bit and maybe he can even come to Concordia. Yay . . . another riot to look forward to! As for Sarid, he had to realize that there’s only so many members of Peace Now who he can convince to come out and vote. And with Mitzna looking to the far left instead of to Labor’s traditionally centrist base for votes, Meretz lost a lot of ground.

The religious parties can’t be celebrating too hard either. Actually if there’s one bit of good news here, it’s the decline of seats for the ultra-religious parties. Shas lost a good amount of support. This is a bit strange, considering demographics. On the other hand, what was lost in sheer number may be gained in terms of leverage for the religious bloc, since if Sharon can’t convince Mitzna or Lapid to join a unity coalition, he’ll be forced to align himself with the religious parties to form a government. And they’ll demand their pound of flesh in return for support.

Tommy Lapid should be ecstatic with the rise in support for Shinui . . . but an offhand comment by Arafat about meeting with him and possibly having a chance for talks probably didn’t exactly make Lapid’s day. A compliment by Arafat is basically a kiss of death in Israeli politics, and it’s virtually guaranteed that Lapid’s popularity will suffer as a result.

Actually, the only one who should be thrilled here is Arafat.

Okay, I know that sounds crazy. Arafat has to say that he hates Likud and loves Labor. He even made a show of extending an olive branch to Sharon, knowing full well that there was no risk Sharon would actually accept, so it was a cost-free PR move.

But secretly this is the best possible outcome for Arafat. Because if a dovish government was voted in, and wanted to initiate talks, Arafat would have to bargain and make concessions and try to stop the terror. And he’s not ready to do that. So Likud being in power gives him an excuse to continue his hard line. In private, Arafat did a little victory dance last night.

The fact that Hamas regards Sharon’s re-election as a “blessing” should be enough to drive that point home.

Ironically, the only politician in Israel right now who potentially COULD give the Palestinians anything is Sharon. Mitzna couldn’t. Because the only way a deal will ever be negotiated is if the Israeli people are convinced that their security is a foremost concern. They don’t trust Mitzna to look out for their interests above the interests of the Palestinians. But they do trust Sharon.

What, if anything, can we learn from the election? Well, it’s simple: Just look at the number of parties compared to the number of people. The old joke about two Israelis having three opinions must have at least some truth to it.

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