Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Election Results in Israel

The results are more or less in for the election in Israel and it does not look good.

Big winner of the night is Likud, though this is not the Likud of the past but a more hawkish party than before. They are up to 27 seats, possibly 28, from 12. I have been concerned about Benjamin Netanyahu for years.

Yisrael Beiteinu also did well in the election, going from 11 seats to 15 and are the third largest party in the Knesset. One of their big planks in the election was to require an loyalty oath from all citizens - a measure seemingly aimed at disenfrancising non-Jewish citizens of Israel. While I am not certain they are facists, they certainly seem to be tribalist and economically interventionist, both of which are normally part of facist party platform.

The biggest loser on the night was GIL, a pensioners special interest political party. They surprised everyone in 2006 by winning 7 seats in the Knesset, last night they were shut out.

Labor continues to decline, they went in with 19 seats and have come out with 13.

Kadima has remained roughly where it was before the election. As have Shas and the Arabic parites.

Who can form a government? You need 61 members of the Knesset to form a government. Clearly Likud and Kadima are the leaders of the opposing sides. Labor seems will be willing to continue working with Kadima. Likud seems to be able to rely on the support of Yisrael Beiteinu. This leaves things at Livni with 42 and Netanyahu with 43.

The 13 seats held by Meretz and the Arabic parties are not going to side with Likud, though may not agree to a coalition with Kadima either. If Livni can get Meretz, Balad and Hadash to support her, she is at 52 seats, though I am not convinced this is highly likely. Certainly the pure Arabic parties have never been in government.

The 12 seats held by the three religious parties are more likely to go with Likud and leave their coalition at 55 seats.

It all comes down to Shas. Can Likud bring Shas into a government? Shas was in the Olmert Kadma government but could not come to terms with Livni. Shas has enough seats to make Livni or Netanyahu Prime Minister. Shas is in a strong position to demand a lot of either side to support them in a coalition.

I would lay the blame for the early elections on Shas as they made rather unreasonable demands of Livni to remain in the coalition.

I believe that a Kadima lead government would be of benefit to the region while a Likud lead one would cause more problems. On the other hand, Netanyahu is nationalist enough that he might be able to pull off some sort of settlement with the Palestians without having his political standing destroyed.

Close to 20% of the population of Israel is Arabic, but their role in the politics of the nation has not been as strong as it should be. Only the Druze, who only number about 120 000 in Israel, have managed to have a have a political weight in proportion to their population. Kadima, and Likud before the Kadima split, have had Druze members of the Knesset.

With 20% of the population and a pure list PR electoral system, the Israeli Arabs should be able to have about 20 to 25 members of the Knesset. The best the Arabic Israelis have done is 13. The nationalism or religion is a defining factor in the majority of political parties in Israel. This means that there is little or no space for others to be part of a party.

Long term Israel needs to become a secular state and not allow political parties that are based on religion or ethnic origin. Major parties like Likud, Labor and Kadima need to make sure that there are Arabs on their list, every fifth person. Israel also needs to make sure Arabs are in the civil service at levels equivilant to their part of the population and all Israelis need to serve in the military on the same basis. The exemption from conscription of the Arabs does not build a stronger secular state.

Israel needs to eventually see an Arabic Prime Minister and an Arabic head of state if the country is to transition into a more stable and inclusive secular state. The US elected Obama, BC and Alberta have both had Jewish premiers, these are in signs that externalities such as race and religion are not relevant to governance.
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