Pre­dict this one at your peril

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - DANIELLAPELED FOR­EIGN ED­I­TOR

IT IS un­for­tu­nate, but hardly sur­pris­ing, that Is­rael finds it­self head­ing for new elec­tions. No Is­raeli gov­ern­ment has man­aged to make it through its full term in a gen­er­a­tion.

Still, it is a pity. Is­rael could have done with a lit­tle sta­bil­ity right now, what with the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, the threat from Iran, a soon-to-be new US pres­i­dent, talks with Syria, ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans and all the usual stresses and strains of be­ing a be­lea­guered state in the Mid­dle East.

The cliché of Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal tur­moil is that Likud leader Binyamin Ne­tanyahu is the one to ben­e­fit, as vot­ers turn right­wards into his re­as­sur­ing arms.

But Tzipi Livni may yet fox ex­pec­ta­tions. She dis­played po­lit­i­cal back­bone by re­fus­ing to ac­cede to Shas de­mands, al­though kept her squeaky-clean rep­u­ta­tion in­tact at the price of not ac­tu­ally manag­ing to stay in power. In any case, polls this week show Livni inch­ing ahead, al­though a lot can hap­pen in a three-month po­lit­i­cal cam­paign. Out­side in­flu­ence will also help make up Is­raeli minds — the mat­ter of who wins the US pres­i­dency next week, for a start, with an Obama pres­i­dency likely to make Is­raelis feel that much more in­se­cure.

The Pales­tinian armed groups have al­ways tried to make up Is­raeli minds for them — wit­ness the bus bomb­ing cam­paigns of 1995 and 1996 which, along with Labour ar­ro­gance, helped swing power to Bibi in the first place. The cease­fire with Ha­mas is due to end in De­cem­ber and a hail of Kas­sams on the West­ern Negev, or a re­sump­tion of at­tacks on cen­tral Is­rael, will push the elec­torate right­wards.

And what chaos awaits in Jan­uary, when Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas’s term of­fi­cially ends? Ha­mas has al­ready made clear it will not recog­nise his pres­i­dency af­ter that date.

The prob­lem with a Ne­tanyahu premier­ship is not that he is a right-wing Likud­nik, since pre­vi­ous of that ilk such as Me­nachem Be­gin (peace with Egypt) and Ariel Sharon (the Gaza dis­en­gage­ment) ac­com­plished as­ton­ish­ingly bold moves in their time. But Bibi has never shown any­thing like good judg­ment, let alone vi­sion.

It also does not help that Kadima does not re­ally stand for any­thing par­tic­u­larly quan­tifi­able, or that Labour is flail­ing about for a rai­son d’etre.

A pity, in­deed. There is a huge cen­trist con­sen­sus in the Is­raeli pub­lic — they are just wait­ing for a po­lit­i­cal vi­sion­ary to give them a party to vote for.

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