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Short Takes
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Short Takes

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Joys of Parliamentary Coalition Politics!

Once the Knesset fixed the date for the next election the jockeying within and among the parties commenced. The major parties need to hold their own version of party primaries/caucuses; new parties are being formed; old and former allies are reuniting, breaking-up, or playing hard to get; and the list bargaining takes off.  Independent pollsters already have all sorts of data from snap polls which are either meaningless, shifting daily, and are based on probable voters who do not really know yet what their choices will be.

The Likud list may run alone or be joined by another list or two (HaBayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beitaynu) or these two party leaders, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman may well prefer only to join a right wing coalition after the elections or Lieberman may even toy with joining Labor.  Labor (Herzog) and HaTenuah (Livni) sharing power may not satisfy the voters because they want one leader and not a two-headed hydra which already cannot agree on who should be the Prime Minister. The charedi parties—Ashkenazi and Sephardi—may well not agree to run together as a bloc. At the end, within both groups one or more of the parties may not agree to join with the other faction.

Serious Issues in the Midst of Campaigning

Netanyahu enjoys the pleasure and the risks of running a country while seeking re-election during a period of increasing public anxiety. Not that Israel ever enjoys a true respite from tension from an array of sources, but meeting the U.S. Secretary of State in Rome to discuss possible serious forthcoming international deliberations is certainly a heightened moment in this early stage of the campaign season. From Bibi’s perspective he can demonstrate a more forthcoming approach to the U.S. Government with whom he certainly has created a persistent hostility, or he can try to demonstrate to his hardline friends at home that he promises that his re-election will guarantee a continued tough approach to non-Republican friends in Washington. It will also enable him to demonstrate to his mega-supporter Sheldon Adelson and others that he is content to push the Obama Administration around even more now than ever given the wider support he expects to receive from the new Congress.

Silly Time

The best part of this phase of any Israeli election campaign is the absurdity of it a totally democratic yet totally non-functional electoral system; plus the seriousness with which so many observers take it. Analysts and pollster have a field day as the politicians maneuver. (Americans have a similar period between presidential primaries, during the conventions, and in the pre-Labor Day period.) Eventually it will all settle down, but in a country of over seven million would be prime ministers and at least as many generals, there is no one without an outspoken opinion as to as what is right for the country and they are sure that their view is what will be the outcome. Reporters and columnists for all the media; print, electronic, and on-line are creating a continuous stream of stories out of pure speculation, possible leaks, and wishful thinking; most of them are based on very thin whole cloth–at best.

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