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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Israeli Elections: Another Problem for Obama

Yesterday’s elections in Israel can and are being spun in two different directions. On the one hand, Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party, which is committed to the pursuit of a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, narrowly (and somewhat surprisingly) outpolled Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud, theoretically giving her the opportunity to form a government. On the other hand, right-wing parties as a whole gained strength, and the big winner was Avigdor Lieberman’s hyper-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which eclipsed Labor, the long-time governing party of the country, to become the third largest electoral bloc.
Today, in fact, Livni and Netanyahu are in hot pursuit of Lieberman’s support, since either leader can obtain the chance to put together a government with a majority of Knesset members on board. Lieberman’s party, among other things, favors the disenfranchisement of “disloyal” Israeli Arabs, and is adamantly opposed to any negotiations with Hamas.
At present, there are three possibilities for Israel’s next government: a right-wing coalition led by Netanyahu (the most likely outcome); a Kadima-led coalition that includes Lieberman’s party (which would definitely come with a veto over any possible talks with Palestinians); or some sort of “centrist” coalition (presumably led by Livni) that includes both Kadima and Likud but excludes Yisrael Beiteinu.
Any of these three scenarios would likely paralyze any Israeli movement towards new negotiations with the Palestinians or with Syria, while increasing the odds of unilateral action towards Iran. Livni’s personal victory notwithstanding (and remember that she was until recently a Likudnik herself), the Israeli political center has clearly moved to the right by any meaningful measure. This is obviously not good news for the Obama’s administration and its aspiration to jump-start new land-for-peace negotiations.
UPCATEGORY: Democratic Strategist

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