|J Street’s staff person in Israel, Yael Patir.|
The Partners “Israel Symposium” met with Yael Patir, J Street’s representative in Israel, in Tel Aviv late in October. We were impressed by the intelligence and moral sensitivity of this young woman. The following is most of what she shared with the J Street “Forum,” on Jan. 6 (Jeremy Ben-Ami is allowing us to quote from what is normally a confidential email discussion):
…. First, about the polls: you ought to know that they are not 100% representative of all voters and that our system has a tendency of producing last minute surprises. In 2006, for example, the surprise was the Pensioners Party that went from 2 seats in the polls to 7 in the ballots. This is partially due to the fact that polls are not allowed to be published in the five days leading up to the elections (from January 18th). These are days of intense campaigning, including TV ads which only start this Tuesday and they can change people’s minds. Especially given that 30% of Israelis still have not decided who to vote [for], which counts for about 18 mandates/seats that can go in different directions.
Polling in Israel [is] mostly conducted by landline phones, a method that misses many voters, mainly young voters, who use only mobile phones. Lastly, as I wrote in the past, when it comes to the center-left bloc, much is dependent on the voters’ turnout. Last election, 300,000 eligible Arab voters and 700,000 Jewish, who are most likely to vote for the center-left, did not vote. This is about 10 seats. Many efforts of different parties with our political affiliation are conducted to get people out to vote. …
…. allow me to take a second to refresh your memory on what is the process of forming a government. Following the elections and consultations with the president, one of the party leaders forms a government with the support of at least 61 MKs. He/she will have 42 days to form a coalition. For example in the last election, although Tzipi Livni was the head of the biggest party in Knesset (with 28 seats), she did not have majority support and the mandate for forming the government was therefore given to Netanyahu.
After continued attempts to position herself in the center and after losing mandates in recent weeks’ polls (since Livni entered the ring), [Labor’s] Yehimovich took a U-turn last week and in an effort to win back votes announced that she will not join a coalition led by Netanyahu. This prompted Livni to propose last Friday (on live TV) that Labor, Yesh Atid and her party Hatnua, will align and announce that they will decide together as a group whether to join or not join Netanyahu’s government. The rationale is that if all do not enter the coalition, Netanyahu is left with an extreme right government (very unstable) with no balancing component (Like Ehud Barak was in the last term). This is also a way to show unity in the center-left and an actual option for an alternative to Netanyahu. It might earn the bloc more votes. [This effort did not end in an agreement on a common strategy.]
As you can understand it is very unclear at this point what kind of government we will have in Israel. It might be an extreme right government made up of Liked-Beitenu and it’s natural allies — the National-religious and ultra-orthodox parties — or, a mixed government with one of the center-left parties (most likely Lapid’s party), or, a government with Likud-Beitenu and Labor+Yesh Atid+Hatnua without the religious parties, or a central-left government led by Yehimovich/Livni (the least likely, but still…).
Whatever the government will be, a look at the lists of the parties and the potential future MKs is somewhat positive for the agenda of the two state solution. In the next Knesset, about 30% will be new comers. I can tell you for sure that we will have more MKs that are vocal supporters of the two state solution. People like Yaacov Peri, no.5 on Lapid’s list, or, Amram Mitzna no. 2 in Hatnua who is a member of J Street Israeli advisory board, or Stav Shafir no.8 in Labor who spoke in J Street’s last national conference. Mainly it is the growth of Labor this cycle which members are committed to peace as well as the entrance of Hatnua and Yesh Atid people, taking the seats of many former Kadima members who weren’t absolute supporters of the two state solution that makes for this change. So, although this seems like an election between the right and the more right, there is still room for optimism.
…. [These are] the average results of all polls that were published this weekend:… Likud-Beitenu 34; Shas 10; Habyit Hayehudi 15; United Torah 6; Otzma 2; Kadima 2; Labor 17; Hatnua 9; Yesh Atid 9; Meretz 4; Hadash 4; Arab parties 7.