The Israeli political merry-go-round

The Israeli political merry-go-round

I know I still have to give my report on Comic Con. I’ll hopefully have that tonight. Here’s a quick tidbit: I met the (Jewish) man who created the Joker.

Now, most eyes are focused on Israel and the elections. The Big Lipowsky has an editorial in tomorrow’s issue about the faults of the Israeli electoral system. So I won’t repeat myself here (hold your applause, please).

Overall voter turnout reached just above 60 percent, which was better than the 2006 turnout but not as good as in years past. The LA Times reported, however, that Israel’s Arabs were very happy with the turnout. Arab leaders had feared that Israeli Arabs disillusioned with the political system or boycotting in general would cause the Arab parties to lose their Knesset seats. Instead, the turnout among Israeli Arabs was about 50 percent, and the Arab parties were able to keep their three seats a piece in the Knesset.

Now for the juicy stuff. Bibi or Tzipi, who will lead? Kadima won more seats in the Knesset than Likud (by one or two depending on which pollster you’re using), but the right-wing bloc overall won more seats than the left. In short, Bibi has a better chance of forming a coalition that Livni and could become prime minister.

The Standard will have more analysis in tomorrow’s issue, but there’s one piece people are overlooking. Of course we are all interested in who will actually be the next prime minister. But neither party received more than 30 seats (if even that) and that means neither has a strong mandate from the people. Now, the interesting part internally for the Likud is that during the party primaries, Moshe Feiglin had originally won a spot in the Likud’s top 20. Netanyahu then busted him down to the 36th spot, effectively keeping him out of the Knesset. At the time, Feiglin said he would not contest the decision because he didn’t want to be in the Knesset as the result of a court decision. It will be very interesting to see if he sticks with that position and what happens to him in the future. Based on my interview with him last year I can tell you that Feiglin has a strong personality and is not going to disappear. Like Avigdor Lieberman, he provides a fresher face in Israeli politics and I don’t doubt that eventually, the Israeli public may decide to push forward the new blood.

New blood is definitely an issue in Israeli politics. Where else but Israel would you see the two of the three major candidates (Netanyahu and Labor’s Ehud Barak) be people who had already served and been voted out of the top job? Livni, meanwhile, is the one who called for new elections in the first place because she could not form a coalition three months ago. With the bigger right-wing bloc now, she may find herself equally unable to mount a government and then we could be back to elections by Pesach. Unless there is a unity government or Netanyahu can pull something together.

Either way, Netanyahu and Livni have one thing in common: They are both very good foreign ministers. Hopefully they will be able to band together for the good of the entire country and whichever one triumphs will appoint the other foreign minister.

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