Analysis: The Right still believes it has majority support

The parties entertained a host of reasons to explain the fact that collectively, they won only 33 out of 120 mandates.

right wing protest 298 (photo credit: AP)
right wing protest 298
(photo credit: AP)
Just like the Gaza settlers, who believed their communities would be saved by a miracle and that the soldiers would stop at their front doors, defeat has not shaken the deep faith of the right-wing parties that they represent the majority of the nation. The parties entertained a host of reasons to explain the fact that collectively, they won only 33 out of 120 mandates in last week's general elections. They rejected only one: the possibility that they might represent a minority of the population. Israel Beiteinu MK Yuri Shtern, whose party got 11 seats, said the elections were a referendum on the economy and not on the ideology of the Right. Part of the reason the Right garnered few votes, he said, was the "extreme insensitivity of [Likud Party chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu toward social distress. This made [voters] antagonistic to the Likud," and therefore to the right-wing parties in general, he said. These protest votes went to Kadima, Labor and the Gil Pensioners Party, he said. To make matters worse, Shtern said, the elections were boycotted by the "ideologically motivated population on the right" because they were upset with the entire political system. National Union-National Religious Party MK Arye Eldad said it was the Right's leadership and not its ideas that had failed. But he didn't clarify his remarks by naming names. "I do not think the Right failed and I can not say the Left won. If you identify the exact number of seats in the Knesset that are clearly for the Right and clearly for the Left, it's almost equal," he said. As members of the opposition, he said, his party would work to bring down the Olmert government. If the right-wing camp changed its leadership, it could become the ruling party in the next election, he said. In the previous elections in 2003, people voted for the leader and not the idea, Eldad said. "They were not Left or Right, they trusted [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, which means that leadership is much more meaningful to an Israeli than the political plan," he said. The voters were unenthusiastic about all of the leaders in this election, Eldad said. Kadima - with 29 mandates - had very poor support for a party that wanted to lead the nation, Eldad said. He said Sharon's actions in the 2003 election, when he promised to keep Gaza during the campaign but withdrew from it once in office made sticking to ideology confusing for the voters. "When he disappeared, they remained perplexed. The results of the election are really a sign that people didn't know what to vote for," Eldad said. Likud MK Natan Sharansky, whose party garnered 12 mandates, said voters no longer understood which party was on the Left and which was on the Right. Former right-wing politician Olmert was planning to unilaterally withdraw from territory while left-wing politician Meretz head Yossi Beilin opposed Olmert's withdrawal plan because he didn't believe in unilateral moves, Sharanksy said. He blamed the Likud's poor showing on disengagement. "It was very difficult to make the voters believe that the Likud would be a major obstacle to a bigger disengagement. Protest votes from the Likud went to Shas and the Pensioners," Sharansky said. He was among those in the Likud who left the Sharon government to protest disengagement. As such, he had no difficulty declaring his opposition to joining a government that would once again make unilateral concessions. With Olmert talking about withdrawal, the Likud's place was in the opposition, Sharansky said. In the future, he said, the Likud had to very clearly define its ideology for the public and to stick to it, he said. "It was the main Zionist party and it can return to be the leading Zionist party," he said. NU-NRP MK Tzvi Hendel told Channel 1 he believed the right wing has done well in the election. In the 2003 election, he said, the National Union and Israel Beiteinu combined had only seven mandates. The National Religious Party had another six, giving a total of 13. This time around, the combined total for all three parties came to 20, a gain of seven seats, he said. However Peace Now spokesman Ya'ariv Oppenheimer, who was No. 57 on the Labor Party candidates list, said he was surprised by how little support the right-wing parties received. He said he had expected the NU-NRP to get 15 seats as opposed to the nine they actually received, because its MKs spoke on behalf of the settlers. "We can learn something from the low support the orange party got in the recent election," he said. Neither the Left or the Right received a majority, he said. "I do not know if the views of the Israeli public are moderate" but, he said, the lesson he learned from this election was that the voters "are willing to withdraw from the West Bank, one way or another." He said this was why the Left was satisfied with the recent election and the Right was not.