Answers From Israel

In response to an email, two friends of StillRight who live in Israel (hereafter referred to as “C” and “M”) were kind enough to answer some questions I had about the upcoming election there and other related issues. Here’s the Q and A:

Who is going to win the election in Israel?

C: Likud looks like it will get more seats than any other party, and it seems pretty clear that right-wing bloc (Likud, Lieberman, Shas and the other religious parties) will have a majority of the 120 Knesset seats. There is still plenty of jockeying among the parties, particularly between Likud and Lieberman, but it shouldn’t affect the overall outcome of a victory for the right.
M: Probably Bibi.

Will Bibi form a true unity coalition with centrist and left parties, or a center-right coalition?

C: Bibi has, not surprisingly, spoken out of both sides of his mouth on this one. Most of the campaign he emphasized his intention to form a broad government with all “Zionist” parties of the right and left, in an attempt to be perceived as more moderate. When he saw the right-wing satellite parties gaining on him, like Lieberman, he tried to take their votes by turning right. Hard to tell what he will ultimately do.
M: Center-right.

Whom are you voting for and briefly why?

C: Still unsure, but leaning to Kadima. I’m holding out a waning hope that maybe Livni still has a shot of becoming prime minister instead of Bibi.
M: Tzippi [Livni], mostly with the hope of bringing in Labor and keeping out Lieberman.

Bibi- principled leader or total opportunist?

C: One of the interesting outcomes of Bibi serving as Finance Minister was learning that he does have some principles. He really does believe in the free-market. On land/peace issues, however, he has no principles whatsoever and will just see which way the wind blows.
M: Neither, but he’s aligned more to the right and the political system forces opportunism over true leadership.

Any chance that we will see real civil reform in Israel (marriage and other church-state matters)?

C: Unfortunately, none whatsoever. As usual, the land/peace issues will continue to dominate the political scene, even though there are parties on the right (Lieberman) and left (Meretz) who would support that agenda.
M: Not in the near future.

Was this campaign as devoid of a discussion of issues as the media here made it seem?

C: Absolutely. There is also a high percentage of undecided voters (unusual in this land of overly decisive people) and a lot of shifting voters. No one seems to have any strong feelings in favor of any particular party.
M: Issues, what issues?

Will the action in Gaza heat up or calm down in the months ahead?

C: Hard to imagine Gaza staying calm for long.
M: Heat up.

Will the Israeli public support a trade for Gilad Shalit even if it means giving up as many as 1000 prisoners?

C: Definitely. Israelis supported the release of the child-killer Samir Kuntar for the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev from Lebanon, and they will support the release of many murderers for Gilad. It will be very difficult for the families of the victims of these terrorists, but it will go through.
M: Yes.

Don’t Israelis feel that such trades only encourage more kidnappings?

C: Yes, and yet they keep falling into the same trap. Everyone is motivated by the fear that one day they might be in the same position as the Shalit family.
M: They don’t like to think about that, they just picture their own son being kidnapped.

Any other random thoughts/ parting shots/ or predictions?

C: Expect major tension to come almost as soon as the next government takes office, when Obama/Mitchell demand that Israel stop all new construction in the West Bank. Israel already agreed to this in the context of Bush’s road map (with Bibi voting in favor at the time as part of Ariel Sharon’s government), but they never actually lived up to their commitment. I don’t think Obama will be as accommodating.
M: The big deal here is Lieberman as the third party that will determine the direction of the government. Many people are choosing who they’ll vote for based on how scared they are of Lieberman. Personally, I see him as Jurg Haider without the boyfriend.

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