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2009 Israeli Elections…

May 13, 2009

2009 Israeli Elections: A Right-ward Shift…

 The results of Israel’s February 10th national elections confirmed the country’s ongoing right-ward political shift.  Although the Kadima party led by Tzipi Livni technically won with 28 seats in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), she is not automatically the winner.  Kadima beat the extreme right-wing Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, by only one vote. 

 Coming in third, with 15 votes, was the ultra right-wing and nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu, led by Avigdor Lieberman.  Because of the popularity of his platform with the Israeli public and support from the Knesset, whoever forms a coalition with Lieberman is most likely to become Prime Minister.

 Livni has asked Netanyahu for a power-sharing deal which could include a two-year rotating leadership.  However, Netanyahu is only interested in including Livni as part of a coalition government lead by him.  So far, Livni has rejected that idea and has stayed on the opposition, saying she “has already been number two.”

 Palestinians are, for the most part, indifferent to who will win the elections because they see Livni and Netanyahu as “two faces on the same coin…Livni vowed to end Hamas rule, and Netanyahu did the same.  The outcome will be the same.” 

 Another correlation that has become clear to many is the relationship between “ammunition boxes and ballot boxes”.  Many people believe that Livni’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was a form of electioneering meant to win support of the increasingly right-wing Israeli public.  Mirroring this sentiment, the election campaigns of the other leading candidates were largely based on anti-Arab incitement and according to most Palestinians, outright racism. 

 The goals of the leading candidates include forced land transfers, more war in Gaza and the continuation of the blockade in the name of self-defense, settlement expansion, and the postponement of talks leading to a two state solution.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will continue to negotiate with whatever Israeli government prevails.  However, Hamas will persist in boycotting any negotiations with Israel until it pulls out of the 1967 borders, removes the illegal settlements, and stops construction on the wall. 

 In addition to alienating Palestinians, the potential of an ultra-right-wing Israeli government may also put the country at odds with its main ally, the United States.  President Barack Obama has made the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a focus of his presidency.  And a Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition government is not conducive to peace and will most likely escalate already high tensions.

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