Politics: Myths and facts about a dizzying week
Likud goes to Right? Center-Left goes to pieces?
TZIPI LIVNI announces the formation of new party Photo: Nir Elias/Reuters
After a week in which the Likud elected its candidates, Ehud Barak left politics
and Tzipi Livni came back, veteran Jerusalem Post pollster Rafi Smith found that
Israelis are more confused than ever.
In a poll he took Tuesday and
Wednesday, he found a dramatic rise in the number of undecided voters. As many
as 20 percent of the 500 people questioned for the poll had not made up their
minds about what party to vote for in the January 22 election.
the reason Israelis are so perplexed is that many questions remain unanswered.
It is still unclear how many centrist parties will run, whether former prime
minister Ehud Olmert will decide to enter the fray, or whether Livni, Yair Lapid
or Avigdor Liberman will bring in a surprising celebrity candidate at the last
minute who can turn the election upside-down.
All these questions will be
answered by next Thursday when all parties must submit their lists of candidates
to the central elections committee. But there are also key questions about the
events of the past week that can already be answered now, and the truth is not
as clear as it may seem.
Newsweek Magazine, which is set to publish its
last print edition next month, had a regular feature on “Conventional Wisdom,”
which it defined as “an informal distillation of the ever-changing thinking of
Beltway pundits and the chattering classes.”
The following is
conventional wisdom and whether or not you should believe it:
CW: The Likud
moved to the Right
False. It cannot be denied that a Likud list that has Danny
Danon sixth and Moshe Feiglin 14th is clearly right-wing. Tzipi Hotovely
becoming the party’s top woman also solidifies the party’s right-wing
But the Likud was also right-wing the day before the
election. Everyone elected Monday to the party’s top 20 slots was elected last
time too, except for Feiglin and Tzahi Hanegbi, who replace Bennie Begin, Dan
Meridor, Michael Eitan, and Moshe Kahlon.
Begin, a fierce opponent of
creating a Palestinian state, was undeniably right-wing when it comes to the
Land of Israel, despite the reputation he earned otherwise because he favored
carrying out Supreme Court decisions on unauthorized outposts.
Meridor is gone, but his replacement, Tzachi Hanegbi, comes from Kadima and is
Eitan, who was a strange bird in Likud, was not re-elected,
but neither was Kahlon, a former aide to Uzi Landau who was one of the so-called
“Likud rebels” who protested the Gaza Strip disengagement.
the day after Likud primaries are always “the Likud moved to the Right.” But the
truth is that since former prime minister Ariel Sharon took Likud doves with him
to Kadima, the Likud has been right-wing, and unless they change how they select
the party’s MKs, it will stay that way.
CW: Moving to the Right is bad
for Netanyahu politically
False. Normally, winning elections in Israel requires
ruling parties to move to the Center of the political map, where most of the
undecided voters are. Not this time.
There is already too much
competition in the Center- Left for the ideologically unaffiliated and
chronically confused. Netanyahu doesn’t need those people.
He needs to
follow the lead of Livni in the last election, who cannibalized her base on the
Center-Left, That enabled Livni to claim a right to the premiership, because she had formed
the largest party.
Netanyahu formed a partnership with Yisrael Beytenu
because he wanted to build the largest possible party – and that, for many
reasons, remains his goal. The main reservoir of votes available to him now is
voters to the Right of Likud who would have voted for Yisrael Beytenu had it run
alone and are now considering voting for Habayit Hayehudi or for former National
Union MK Arye Eldad’s Strong Israel party.
That’s why Feiglin is a huge
political asset for Likud.
Netanyahu would be wise to take advantage of
what he brings to the party.
CW: Netanyahu lost the Likud primary
Had Netanyahu been able to build his list of candidates by himself, Begin and
Meridor would have been in realistic slots. They are not.
and Limor Livnat would have been in the party’s top 10. They are
Economist Shlomo Maoz, rather than Petah Tikva political activist
Uri Farej, would have won a slot reserved for a candidate from the Dan
Netanyahu is lucky that his former aide, Ophir Akunis, is still
in the Knesset, chosen by Likud members over candidates who have far more to
When it comes to the diplomatic issue, the prime minister would
undoubtedly have preferred a more dovish list that could have helped him make
concessions if the Palestinians changed their tune.
Now, evacuating any
outpost, no matter how illegal, will give him a huge headache.
an extra day to the Likud primary backfired
Neither true nor false. The Likud
lost a massive amount of money by adding an extra day of voting following
computer glitches, but it also saved money by avoiding lawsuits from disgruntled
Only 7% of the electorate voted on the second day, but the
turnout on the first day ended up being higher than in the last Likud primary,
so this was no surprise.
Channel 2’s Amit Segal revealed Wednesday night
the results of the first day’s voting, which were saved in case of more computer
The results indicated that Begin still would not have made it
into the Knesset.
CW: The Center-Left parties should unite
political analysts in Israel wrote this week that Labor, Yesh Atid and the new
Tzipi Livni party should run separately to maximize their votes. Polls showing
Likud and Yisrael Beytenu winning fewer seats together than they did apart
support that conventional wisdom.
But if they do that, no party will come
close to the amount of seats Likud-Beytenu will win.
The only way for the
Center- Left to compete was to form a mega-party with Olmert, Shelly Yacimovich,
Livni, and Lapid, who each have their strengths, and with the outside support of
former IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gaby Ashkenazi.
voters would think they are potentially choosing an alternative candidate to
Netanyahu for prime minister. The end result would be a whole larger than the
sum of its parts and a party that could ask President Shimon Peres to enable its
leader to negotiate with the haredim and form a new government.
instead of uniting against Netanyahu, Livni, Yacimovich, and Lapid will be
attacking each other.
Netanyahu’s associates said he loves watching the
Center- Left spar with itself.
CW: Livni’s return is good for advancing
False. Since the Center-Left parties will not run together, Netanyahu will
undoubtedly be re-elected. Therefore, advancing peace requires making
Netanyahu’s next government as moderate as possible.
The only party on
the Center- Left that can definitely join Netanyahu’s next coalition is Yesh
Atid, which has been weakened the most by Livni’s return. Labor, which may or
may not join, has also been hit.
Any party led by Livni has no chance of
joining a Netanyahu-led coalition, so any vote for her party is a vote that
makes the next government more right-wing.
By that logic, the worst thing
that happened this week for the cause of peace was the departure of Ehud Barak,
whose party’s mandates went to Labor and Livni.
Barak had a moderating
presence on Netanyahu’s current government, and he would have done the same with
his next one.