Ron Nachman was a founder of the city of Ariel in 1978, when a group of dedicated pioneers, with the blessing of the government, set up the first tents. A member of Likud, he later gave up a career in the Knesset to become Ariel's first mayor, and held that title until last week, when he passed away after a long battle with cancer. His funeral was today.
Credit: AP:/Moti Milrod
Nachman's dedication to developing the land of Samaria -- and to the city of Ariel -- was well known in Israel. He is being mourned by many. The Yesha Council today saluted him as: "a Zionist settlement pioneer in his body and soul and an unstoppable builder of the Land of Israel."
Well, two more days until Israel's election. Wish I had something really intelligent to say by way of analysis. But unfortunately, this campaign has not lent itself to this, as it has focused as much on personalities as on the genuine issues of the day.
And, unfortunately, while I am able to say that there is little to report regarding the election, the media, struggling with that same paucity of solid material, resorts to providing nonsense information in place of news. Tzipi Livni (head of the party named after her) had an argument with Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) when they found themselves riding on the same elevator. Gasp! What a revelation.
The betting remains that Binyamin Netanyahu will form the next coalition, but nothing is a certainty. Besides which, there is still the major question of which factions will be in that coalition.
Israeli law forbids election polls in the days immediately leading up to the election. So, we've seen the last of those polls -- although there have been a huge number, with almost daily ones in the last weeks. From one to the other there have been some notable differences, but by and large Likud-Beitenu (the merged Likud and Yisrael Beitenu list) is expected to be the largest winner, by far -- although the current predictions of between 32 and 37 mandates are all less than what had been anticipated when they merged their lists. And the "right wing and religious" parties are expected to form a majority of the newly elected Knesset. Habayit Hayehudi -- an "up and coming" party -- is predicted to have some 14 mandates.
Yesh Atid is also making a quite respectable showing for a new party.
Part of the problem in predicting what will happen is the very large number of "undecideds" that remain this late in the game. If a significant number of those who haven't decided yet which party to vote for all vote in one direction, it could throw all predications off.
Let me re-cap once again with regard to what we'll be seeing. After the election results are in, President Peres will meet with heads of each party and ask whom they recommend to head the next government, i.e., form the coalition. As party heads provide their answers, the number of mandates (seats) that they represent is noted. Ultimately, Peres will select the person with enough factions saying they support him/her so that it is assumed s/he will be able to form a coalition -- i.e., have more than 60 seats in the 120 person Knesset. (This presumption is not always accurate -- last time, Livni, who then headed Kadima, was asked first and failed to form a coalition.)
Three major left-center parties -- Tzipi Livni, Labor (headed by Shelley Yachimovich) and Yesh Atid (headed by Yair Lapid) -- had said they were going to form a coalition after the election, and agree to all tell Peres that they wanted someone else (whom they had in mind has never been quite clear), These three parties would not, even with the most optimistic of election results for them, constitute a count of more than 60 mandates. They would likely bring in other parties such as Meretz and Kadima (which scarcely exists), and, still lacking sufficient mandates, lure a heredi party such as Shas into their camp -- a party that would agree via a prior arrangement not to recommend Netanyahu.
This is all speculative theory. First, the three left-center heads do not get along. It's not just Livni and Bennett in the elevator who have had harsh words for each other. They have harsh words for each other when they're not in an elevator. And second, for this to happen Shas would have to be more attracted to this group, and what they offered in return for coalition support, as compared what Netanyahu would offer.
So...we can assume it will likely be Netanyahu.
I am going to go out on a limb here and make my own prediction as to what the new coalition will look like (and yes, I'll eat my words if I'm wrong):
Netanyahu and his Likud-Beitenu list heading things up, with Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, likely United Torah Judaism, and, from the left, Yesh Atid. This would bring the coalition well over the number required.
Too often during this campaign Likud-Beitenu has focused on attacks against Habayit Hayehudi, its natural ally in many respects, rather than the left-center. It has not been pretty. It's because, as I've written before, Bennett, who is greatly popular, threatens Netanyahu, and there is the feeling that Likud-Beitenu has gone down in the polls as Habayit Hayehudi gains. But in the end (is this wishful thinking?), it's hard to imagine Netanyahu won't include this faction, which IS its natural ally in many respects.
Yachimovich says she will not join with Netanyahu, and, not only is Livni also saying this (although she might change her mind at any moment), it is well known that Netanyahu is not inordinately fond of her. At the same time, Lapid is dropping hints that he might join a Netanyahu coalition. And so, of the three left-center, it is Yesh Atid I would expect to join.
Could Netanyahu still bring in Livni as well? Yea... Especially if he wants something resembling a unity government in the event that he acts against Iran. The trick would be to get "two state solution" Livni in the same government as Bennett (see more below on this).
With regard to bringing in coalition factions with diverse positions: One of the stumbling blocks in forming a coalition is that the haredi parties want military exemptions for those studying in yeshivas, while the left-center, including Lapid, is pumping for universal draft. The negotiations for establishing a coalition of factions with diverse positions require considerable political skill -- not to say compromise on the part of the various players in order to be in the governing coalition.
One of the issues that has been raised in various contexts during the election is that of women's rights; especially has this been the case since many of the undecided voters are reported to be women.
There are countless social issues, with all parties giving at least lip service to them -- improved education, reducing poverty in the nation, etc.
A major dividing line between parties has to do with "negotiations for a two-state solution." We've got Meretz at the far left, calling for negotiations according to the "Saudi Peace Plan," which is a recipe for Israel's destruction. And at the other end of the spectrum there is Otzma leYisrael (Strength to Israel, with Arieh Eldad), which says that Jordan is the Palestinian state.
It is on this issue that Likud-Beitenu and Habayit Hayehudi diverge. Naftali Bennett has come out against a Palestinian Arab state and calls for annexation of Area C. PM Netanyahu says he will govern on the basis of his Bar Ilan proposal for a demilitarized Palestinian Arab state.
I still believe that this is political posturing -- he knows that there can be no negotiations now (he has said so) and that his parameters will not be acceptable to the Palestinian Arabs, who demand nothing less than everything -- refugee return, Jerusalem, etc. etc.
Netanyahu is very different from Livni, for example, who clambers passionately for that Palestinian Arab state, which will make the world happy with us (she thinks). He says he'll keep building in Jerusalem and the major blocs no matter what the world says.
And yet his position diverges from Bennett's. Bennett, however, would never refuse to join the coalition because of this; on the contrary, he hopes to strengthen Netanyahu's back.
There are 34 parties running in the election. A good number of them will not make it past the 2% cut off for seats in the Knesset and will disappear from sight.
Here in Israel you don't have to register to vote. Every citizen receives a slip in the mail entitling him or her to vote at a designated place. Soldiers, who can vote at any polling place, have begun voting.
Before I leave this subject, I cannot resist this question: Other than in the current situation, has anyone ever heard of someone starting a party and naming it after herself? Tells us a whole lot.
Now here's a position from PM Netanyahu that is worth repeating. He has met with a group of Senators visiting in Jerusalem: John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Christopher Coons (D-Del.).
And he told them:
"Building in Jerusalem is not the world's problem; a nuclear Iran is the world's problem. The problem is not building in Ariel and it is not building in Jerusalem. The problem in the Middle East is Iran's attempt to build nuclear weapons, and the chemical weapons in Syria and the Islamic extremism that is spreading in Africa and threatening to inundate the entire region.
"History will not forgive those who allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. This was, and remains, the main mission facing not only myself and Israel, but the entire world." (Emphasis added)
I do not believe this is electioneering. I am convinced that he believes this, and that this was a message for the American government.
Can he believe this and not structure a coalition that will permit him to deal with the problems most effectively?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.