Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Friday, January 18, 2013

Israeli Election and the Coalition After

The last polls legally allowed before Israel's January 22 election have the Israeli Right bloc composed of the secular Right parties and the religious parties winning a slim majority of about 64 seats. This includes two seats to the far-right Otzma L'Israel (Strengh to Israel) party, which Netanyahu is determined to keep out of his coalition. This will give him 62 seats or a majority of two. This projection has Likud Beitenu receiving only 32 seats, over ten less than was expected only a month ago. Another older poll by the newspaper Ma'ariv has Likud Beitenu receiving 37 seats (Hebrew link). But usually the differences between polls occur between parties within the same bloc so that the overall bloc margins remain about the same. The Ma'ariv poll has Labor coming in a distant second at 15 seats, Jewish Home a close third with 14, and Shas a close fourth with 12 seats. But the Ma'ariv poll is older and doesn't take into account an apparent shift to the Center-Left and the far Right. Much depends on turnout--typically the highest levels of turnout are found among settlers in the West Bank and among the ultra-Orthodox who are both ideologically motivated to vote. The mainstream Israeli peace movement Shalom Akshav/Peace Now has been attempting to counter this by publicizing voting levels in different locations in the previous election in an app for smart phones and other electronic devices.

If the Right bloc does receive a slim margin of only a few seats it will weaken Netanyahu's bargaining power and make him more susceptible to extortion from the ultra-Orthodox and settler parties. This was a regular feature of Israeli politics since the mid-1980s. Yitzhak Shamir's right-wing coalition was brought down by the settler Tehiya party voting against it. The first Netanyahu government was brought down in 1999 by the parties of the Right voting against him following territorial concessions he made under pressure at the Wye River summit in October 1998. So this will probably just amount to more of the same. 

Why has this occurred? With Israel Beitenu safely inside as part of the merger that created Likud Beitenu, the party's right-wing native Israeli voters have probably shifted to the Jewish Home religious Zionist party. This leaves only the core Russian electorate of Israel Beitenu to vote for the merger. So Netanyahu will be left with a party that is even more Right than the traditional Likud of the 1970s and 1980s, of Begin and Shamir, with parties further to the Right inside the coalition. This will prevent him from making any concessions--exactly what he wants.

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