Herzog and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The bottom line is that there is no clear winner. A tie between Netanyahu and Herzog is a victory for Netanyahu - after trailing in the polls in the last weeks. The United Arab list is also a winner but it looks like the big winner is Kahlon who has been given the chance by the electorate to be the king maker. Kahlon has the power to decide who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel. While it is true that he is a son of the Likud party, it is not so clear that the Likud headed by Netanyahu is the party that he want to keep on the throne.
It seems a very likely possibility that both Kahlon and President Rivlin will push for a so-called national unity government with Likud and Labor rotating for Prime Minister - two years each. While the public usually loves the idea of a national unity government, from my perspective it is nothing more than a government of paralysis unable to address the major issue facing Israel - the relations with our neighbors - mainly the Palestinians. This is the real tragedy of the outcome of these elections. Israel is trapped by itself in its inability to pull itself out of the control of millions of Palestinians, continuing to deny them their freedom and right to a state of their own, next to Israel. This is a blow that may prove to be too hard to recover from.
Israel will get a period of temporary relief from international pressure with a national unity government. But the Palestinians will most definitely continue and even increase the pace of their international diplomatic strategy. If the national unity government refrains from building more settlements, the slowdown of international pressure on Israel will last longer. If it continues to build, in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, Israel will face the international pressure as the Palestinians continue to stride forward with more international recognition of the State of Palestine and of course with its steps towards dragging Israel into the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The Palestinians will probably focus their efforts of the issue of the illegality of settlements and much less on war crimes accusations against Israeli leaders and officers.
The Israeli national unity government will be forced to stand unified in defense of Israel regardless of the differences of opinions within the government. Yet it is difficult to envision much more of a common agenda for the two main parties within one government, particularly after the hit each other so viciously during the campaign. I guess that is the "art" of politics.
One last note as an immediate response to the elections - the level of racist incitement and hatred in this campaign has surpassed anything that we have witnessed until now. I am bewildered at some of the expressions of hatred that have been voiced mostly by Benyamin Netanyahu in his despicable calls for his supporters to vote today because the "Arabs were being bussed in to vote in mass". I can't imagine a statement like that being made in any other Western democracy, except by the right wing extremist fringes.
Likewise, in a normal western democracy Avigdor Lieberman would be brought up on criminal charges for some of the statements that he made against the Arab citizens of Israel. These statements are a disgrace to Israel and its people and citizens' voices should be heard loud and clear in their condemnation. And more importantly, the arm of the law should come down on with full force.
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