Thursday, February 12, 2009

Israeli elections: And you think OUR system is screwed up?

Tuesday's general election in Israel has resulted in the biggest political mess in the country's turbulent political history.

The short version is: Kadima (center) won 28 Knesset seats, Likud (right) won 27, upstart Yisrael Beiteinu (waaaayyyyyy right) won 15, and venerable old Labor (left) has 13.

A party has to have 61 seats to form its own government.

Obviously, we are in for a right-leaning coalition of some variety. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Kadima) may be able to pull a workable coalition out of her hat, but the smart money says she will be stonewalled by Avigdor Lieberman (head of Yisrael Beiteinu), and it will fall to Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud to rally the righties and take over the Prime Minister's office.

This ain't good news, folks.

Netanyahu is a blowhard. He's a snakeoil salesman who will escalate the confrontation with the Palestinians, probably piss off Obama, and won't get us one step closer to a solution. He's going to be beholden to Shas, the ultra-Orthodox, ultra-right party, as well as to former protege Lieberman, who's fascisti are more secular but no less fanatical. Abbas is now a lame duck, as the Palestinian populace will likely react to Netanyahu's confrontationalism by swinging more towards Hamas. Just as Iran was able to make W. look like an idiot (not that hard to do, I'll admit), they will run circles around Netanyahu, as his ideology leaves him with few options.

Oh Ariel, how we miss you! Now the Olmert chickens have come home to roost. Even successful prosecution of the recent adventure in Gaza cannot erase the dissatisfaction of the 2006 Lebanon/Hezbollah fiasco.

All this doom and gloom is predicated on Netanyahu being able to form a government. He may not. Israeli politics are so splintered, so muddy, and so crowded with parties, it's become almost unworkable. Livni was given the opportunity to form a government back in the summer and was unable to do so. Power is so fragmented that no one is able to effectively marshal a majority. There have been five general elections in the past 10 years, and no one has the moral or political clout to move their agenda forward in any meaningful way.

What's the answer here? I mean, short of Ariel Sharon rising miraculously from his vegetative state and retaking the reins? Hell, I have no idea. The Israelis have to sort this for themselves. But sort it they must. This is no time for political chaos, and yet that's exactly what we have.


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