A long-time acquaintance of mine, CUNY political scientist, Mitchell Cohen, a former co-editor of Dissent magazine and a veteran Labor Zionist observer and writer on Israeli politics, has written an article in the Huffington Post on next week’s election. He comments somberly on what seems to be in the offing:
…. Bibi, a prime minister responsible for untold damage to his country’s image, looks to come in first in elections scheduled for January 22 — regardless of a record of ineptness and the indictment of Avigdor Liberman, his (now ex-) foreign minister for fraud, breach of trust and possible “moral turpitude.” Liberman, once Bibi’s protégé, leads a secular ultra-nationalist party that has amalgamated with his mentor’s Likud. Some of their vote, polls say, is being lost — but to an even more radical party, both religious and right-wing, led by Naftali Bennett, another Bibi protégé.
…. Israel is indeed demonized like few other countries. … It is impossible, however, to exonerate Israel’s rash right-wing government for its current difficulties. It is one thing to thwart Muslim extremists who shoot missiles from Gaza; it is another to settle Jewish fanatics in the West Bank. ….
In the meantime, my friend and colleague, Ralph Seliger, has just published a detailed overview of what to expect at the In These Times magazine website. In a mere 1200 words, he helpfully
explains Israel’s unique system of proportional representation as well as predicts the bottom line result, as crystallized in its subhead, “A clash of parties is likely to yield a new coalition government, but not a new direction.” He concludes as follows:
… the most likely outcome is that Netanyahu retains control, with the political makeup of the next government determined by which parties Netanyahu invites to a new coalition, and who accepts. My guess is that Netanyahu would prefer taking in parties of the center and center-left rather than the [far-right party] Jewish Home, so that he’s not tethered to the extreme Right. Regardless, the extreme conservatism of Netanyahu’s own list promises a new government of stagnation, in which Israel continues to slide toward an oppressive one-state future, which most Israelis claim not to support, and Palestinians ultimately will not accept.
A contrary view comes from my friend, Eric Lee, the founder of the online international labor news website, Labour Start. Originally from New York, Eric lived on a kibbutz in Israel for most of the 1980s and ’90s and began the BibiWatch website during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister in the late ’90s. He currently lives in the UK, but remains interested in and knowledgeable on Israeli affairs, and has emailed the following summarizing an analysis at his blog:
Please do read the whole article (it’s very short), but here’s the bottom line:
- Israeli elections are complicated.
- Polls are no indication of what will happen on election day.
- Netanyahu is eminently beatable.
- Israelis tend to vote for governments that they see as moderate, not extremists.
- Voter turnout is what matters – the left does much better when it approaches 80%, as it did in 1999, 1996 and 1992.
Don’t give up on the Israeli center-left. The results next week may well surprise.
Finally, an article posted today at The Times of Israel website provides a run-down of “near-final” polls. There is some solace in the five to seven seats prognosticated for our friends in Meretz, up from its current meager representation of three, but still a far-cry from its heyday numbers of twelve and ten when it was a major coalition partner in Labor-led governments.