The results of Israel’s national elections have astounded many in Israel and abroad.
Israelis awoke on February 11 to find that parliamentary elections had not yielded a new government, rather political gridlock : the center-left Kadima party headed by Tzipi Livni holds a one-seat lead over the rightist Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu ( 28 against 27). But the total gain of all right-wing parties – 65 out of 120 seats far outweighs those on the left, making it more likely that Netanyahu will, in the end , head the Government. In Israeli politics, not one lone vote, but the party bloc that the contestant for the premiership is capable of cobbling together, tips the balance in the end. According to Israeli law, it is now the President’s role to consult with all parties, and decide on whom to confer the task to form a coalition
Despite the lack of clarity as to who will be Israel’s next Prime Minister, one thing is painfully clear : the entire left wing bloc has suffered a crushing defeat in these elections. The Israel Labor Party whose founders have achieved great things in the past, and who has led the peace-camp for many years, has dwindled down to 13 seats and is now the fourth largest party, this following Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu ( Israel our home) that got 15 seats, a far-right wing , ultranationalist party. Meretz, who had hoped to make great progress in its new “transformation” ( The New Movement- Meretz) has been cut down from 6 to a mere 3 seats, barely enough to get into Parliament.
This tremendous downfall can be explained by a remarkable upsurge of right-wing thinking, following eight years of rocket attacks on Israel, and what part of the public considers an insufficient Israeli response. Many in the south of Israel, especially the youth, bought into easy slogans such as “the Hamas can be crushed” But the sweeping downfall can be explained also by the success of the last-minute forceful, but fallacious campaign led by Kadima that not voting for Livni ultimately means handing over the power to Netanyahu. The fear of having again a Netanyahu-led government made many Labor and Meretz voters defect at the last moment, just to stop Netanyahu.The illusion of defeating the right which the campaign created, deceived many. In fact, Livni beat the left, but was ultimately beaten by the right.
These are, indeed , some of the reasons, but not all . Both Labor and Meretz have suffered a deep crisis. Labor’s identity crisis has been the result of joining, over the past 9 years, right-wing governments; changing leaders frequently has eroded our credibility and public support.
The nature and composition of next Government will have a tremendous impact on Israel’s policies, mainly on the peace process. Should Netanyahu choose ( and succeed) in forming a center-right Government, chances are that he will cooperate with the US and Europe in advancing the dialogue. Should he form the Government based on small-right wing parties holding him hostage to their demands, Netanyahu will have no choice but to increase settlement activity and stall on ay peace process that would require him to give up West Bank territory.
As to Labor, we will most probably sit in the opposition. Time has come for us to face honestly our failures, rehabilitate and rebuild ourselves in the opposition, as a serious, responsible alternative to the right-wing that won
Israel Labor Party.