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Israeli Election: Possible Scenarios

With a couple of hours until the polls close across Israel, this is the best analysis I have seen so far of the possible scenarios. The author is Yossi Alpher, the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, and a former senior official with the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency. Alpher writes a weekly column for Americans for Peace Now. This is a portion of his recent (February 9) column:

"Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud seem likely to lead the next governing coalition. Labor and Kadima will have to decide whether to join an ostensibly centrist coalition under Netanyahu, who himself presents views that are actually more moderate than most of his party, or to abandon Netanyahu to the right wing and religious parties, thereby placing Israel on a potential diplomatic collision course with the Obama administration as well as neighboring Egypt and Jordan that might well generate new elections within two years.

One intriguing alternative being bandied about by Kadima is for it to lead a coalition with Labor and Yisrael Beitenu. This scenario assumes both an unlikely Kadima victory over the Likud and the possibility that Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman would agree to shelve his pseudo-fascist ideology in return for the secular legislation he demands on personal status issues for his Russian immigrant constituency. But as we saw when Lieberman briefly served in the outgoing Olmert government, he would ultimately remain loyal to his right wing voters, thereby guaranteeing an unstable coalition.

All of these scenarios are virtually dictated by the grim prospect that the four leading parties--Likud, Kadima, Yisrael Beitenu and Labor--will end up with somewhere between (in descending order) 25 and 15 mandates. Four medium-sized parties whose philosophies encompass nearly the entire spectrum of secular Zionist views are a recipe for lack of governability, to say nothing of lack of a viable peace process.

Once again we are reminded that the Israeli political system, while offering ultra-democratic representation to the most isolated minority and sectarian views, is ill-suited for the task of governance, and particularly for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, this election featured an unusual emphasis on personalities over issues, thereby to some extent alienating the public and ensuring a low voter turnout. Only Lieberman chose to stake out an easily recognizable (albeit repugnant) position on the Palestinian issue, and this may account for his almost certain electoral gains."

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