Black­mail, threats and a pol­icy or two

The par­ties set out strate­gies in what they ex­pect will be a close-run elec­toral con­test

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

IS­RAEL’S RUL­ING party, Kadima, will try to run its elec­tion cam­paign on the prom­ise to re­form Is­rael’s shaky elec­toral sys­tem. Kadima spin-doc­tors are plan­ning to lever­age the break­down in coali­tion talks with Shas to por­tray party leader Tzipi Livni as a no-non­sense stateswoman who will not give in to black­mail.

Ms Livni’s fail­ure to se­cure a coali­tion, de­spite spending over a month ne­go­ti­at­ing with the po­ten­tial part­ners, led her ri­vals within the party to crit­i­cise her anony­mously as weak and in­de­ci­sive. Her al­lies acted quickly to quash th­ese al­le­ga­tions, prais­ing the For­eign Min­is­ter for not giv­ing in to the de­mands of Shas and ac­cus­ing its leader, Trade Min­is­ter Eli Yishai, of black­mail.

“We have seen over the last weeks how prob­lem­atic the cur­rent elec­toral sys­tem is,” loy­al­ist Kadima MK Shlomo Moula told the JC. “And we will be promis­ing the pub­lic to push through a com­pre­hen­sive pro­gramme of re­form as soon as we are re-elected. Livni has proved now that she can­not be ma­nip­u­lated or threat­ened and peo­ple will un­der­stand what kind of a prime min­is­ter she will be.”

Elec­toral re­form will be a use­ful plank for Kadima to build its plat­form on, since Ms Livni’s diplo­matic plans, which in­clude a sig­nif­i­cant ter­ri­to­rial com­pro­mise with the Pales­tini­ans, are un­pop­u­lar with many Is­raeli vot­ers.

Shas leaders were quick to counter the charges of black­mail, say­ing that they had made clear from the start of the ne­go­ti­a­tions that they would stand res­o­lutely on two con­di­tions: a re­turn of child ben­e­fits to the lev­els of five years ago, and a com­mit­ment that the gov­ern­ment would not ne­go­ti­ate the fu­ture of Jerusalem.

“All the polling we have car­ried out shows that our vot­ers don’t want us to sit in a gov­ern­ment that will not com­mit it­self to th­ese two things, Shas se­nior ne­go­tia­tor At­tor­ney David Glass told the JC. Shas, cas­ti­gated by the right for sit­ting in the cen­tre-left coali­tion, will now try to con­vince its con­stituency that it has stead­fastly cam­paigned for the in­tegrity of Jerusalem.

Labour and Likud now need to come up with a man­i­festo for the short cam­paign un­til elec­tions in Fe­bru­ary. Labour is lan­guish­ing in the polls, fail­ing to cap­i­talise on its leader, Ehud Barak, serv­ing in the nor­mally pop­u­lar post of De­fence Min­is­ter, and wrong-footed by agree­ing to sit in Ms Livni’s coali­tion, only to have the rug pulled out be­neath its feet by Shas. Mr Barak’s an­swer so far has been to try and cap­i­talise on the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, say­ing that his party would pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive to the “swin­ish cap­i­tal­ism” that has char­ac­terised Is­rael’s fi­nan­cial poli­cies.

Likud, the main op­po­si­tion party, af­ter lead­ing in the polls by a wide mar­gin for the last two years, have slipped be­hind Kadima in this week’s polls. They will por­tray leader Binyamin Ne­tanyahu, a for­mer prime min­is­ter and fi­nance min­is­ter, as the only pair of safe hands to take care of Is­rael’s econ­omy at such a pe­riod and ac­cuse Ms Livni of reck­lessly han­dling the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity.

PHOTO: AP

I’ve tried: Tzipi Livni shrugs af­ter telling Pres­i­dent Peres last Sun­day that she had failed to form a gov­ern­ment

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