Israeli Elections: The Morning After

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This morning, we know that Ehud Olmert will be the next prime minister, and that Binyamin Netanyahu’s chances of ever again being prime minister are close to nil. Throughout the campaign Olmert and Netanyahu traded sharp and personal jabs, accusing the other of blind ambition and a lack of fixed principles. Both had a point.

With respect to the issues, the Israeli electorate marginalized the so-called hard Right. Yisrael Beiteinu (12), NRP/NU (9), and Likud (11), together garnered only 32 seats, or a little over one-quarter of the Knesset. And neither Likud nor Yisrael Beiteinu ruled out the possibility of further territorial withdrawals. The lessons of the Gaza withdrawal have been reinforced: the religious Right and settler communities no longer enjoy the sympathy and support of the Israeli population.

But even though Olmert campaigned on an platform of further withdrawals, it is unclear that the elections provided him with the mandate he sought. Polls show that most Israelis oppose further unilateral territorial withdrawals. Even some of Olmert’s closest security advisors within Kadima, such as former Shin Beit head Avi Dichter, oppose further moves along the model of the Gaza withdrawal. In Dichter’s view, Israeli troops would have to remain behind even after dismantling settlements to prevent those areas from become launching pads for attacks on Israel’s populous central region.

Furthermore, it is far from clear that the government has the manpower or the funding to carry out the evacuation that Olmert has proposed. He has not hinted where the money would come from to compensate 80,000 settlers (more than ten times the number in Gush Katif) and carry out the evacuation. Meanwhile, former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said last night that he does not believe that any Israeli government has the forces to remove 80,000 highly ideological and determined settlers from their homes. He is not the first to reach that conclusion.

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6 Responses

  1. Charles B. Hall says:

    ‘With Kadima, Labor, Meretz and the new “Gil” Pensioners party, you have 59 seats’

    It is now up to 61. That is a majority:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/700780.html

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Aryeh,

    The foreign countries would not necessarily provide support for the specific policy you outlined. But they would support whatever policy they decided on, and the new government would follow it. The recent disengagement appears to have been an Israeli initiative! It appears to me that the initiatives in the near future will come from the outside.

  3. Aryeh says:

    Bob, I think you’re way off on this one. I don’t see US and French troops fighting people in Itamar and Elon Moreh. And I don’t see them paying IDF to do it either. Last time Sharon wanted to get $3 billion for the disengagement and then Katrina happened. TI don’t see any US administration giving him the billions it would take. Of course, they could dispense with resettling people and just bulldoze their houses and leave them on the street. But I don’t think that’s going to happen if only because it’ll make them fight so much harder.

  4. YM says:

    With Kadima, Labor, Meretz and the new “Gil” Pensioners party, you have 59 seats,
    which is not enough to form a government. I don’t think that either Shas or UTJ would agree
    to unilateral withdrawl: Shas wouldn’t go for it the last time, and UTJ entered the coalition
    when it was clear that it was going to go through regardless.

    I think Kadima is going to have a very hard time – I don’t see a coalition of 61 that
    supports unilateral withdrawl here. Interestingly, there are more than 61 votes for
    unilateral withdrawl, but only because the arab parties would vote for it from outside the
    government. Kadima is going to be forced to have one coalition to approve the prime
    minister, form the government and pass the budget, and a separate coalition to approve
    the withdrawl.

    I don’t think this goverment is going to last very long. Man plans and G-d laughs.

  5. Ben Chorin says:

    Jonathan,
    I think you’re overestimating the magnitude of what happened yesterday. See http://benchorin.blogspot.com/2006/03/well-something-happened-in-yesterdays.html

    “Ben”

  6. Bob Miller says:

    We should expect the new government to do its utmost to comply with all wishes of its international partners, whether or not there is a voter mandate, and whether or not there appears to be any practicality. No government declarations to the contrary will have any meaning. If money or manpower to implement an imposed policy is lacking, the countries pushing the policy will gladly provide it.