The elections in Israel appeared to give the public just what it wanted: an expected result, but with a few intriguing twists and surprises that seem to shift the balance of power to the center-left. The right wing shrunk.
The Vote In Israel
A Post-Election Analysis from Jerusalem
Posted: March 29, 2006
The Kadima Party won just 29 out of the Knesset's 120 seats, far less than the 35-40 they had hoped for, and analysts are saying this will make the next government under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shaky and not likely to last the four years until the next scheduled election.
In Israel, the main emotion being shown by the political parties is the joy over the other's loss. Labor was delighted to have kept 20 seats. Shas, which is desperate to get back into any coalition, came out the third largest party with 12 mandates, together with Likud.
(99.5% of votes counted)
National Religious Party
|United Torah Judaism
|United Arab List /Arab Renewal
|National Democratic Assembly
The Likud, winning just 12 seats, was the biggest loser. It had been the dominant party in Israel for the past three decades and analysts predict this collapse will likely mean the end of Binyamin Netanyahu in Israeli politics.
The Arab parties were unexpectedly successful with all three getting in for a combined total of 9 mandates, up from 8 in the 16th Knesset.
A total of 12 parties will be in the 17th Knesset. The voter turnout in this lackluster campaign was 63.2%, the lowest in Israel's history, (the last election in 2003 recorded 68 percent). This cost the larger parties seats. A good number of their votes cast were protest votes including many young Israelis who voted for the unknown Pensioners (Gil) Party that unexpectedly won 7 seats. Pundits were interpreting this as a deflation in the ideologically charged desires among many citizens for any given position, be it peace-making, economics and social justice.
The Kadima Party achieved two of its three main goals. It sought to gain control of the government. It did. It wanted to destroy Likud. Done. It planned on having wide support. But it ended up with only 29 seats. No government in Israel's history was able to rule long with just 29 mandates. Ironically, Kadima was set up mainly to deal with government stability. The ramifications of the Kadima plight are that they had expected to be a large party that told the other potential coalition partners "If you don't want to join us then we don't need you." That has changed. This coalition will cost them more than they thought. Labor and Shas will likely demand and win senior ministry portfolios in their negotiations to enter the government.
One of the big winners was the Yisrael Beitenu Party headed by Avigdor Lieberman which won 11 seats. Lieberman, who lives in the settlement Nokdim, has taken a huge step in becoming the leader of the nationalist camp. There were even reports of a fight brewing with Netanyahu over who would be the "leader" of the opposition should his party be left out of the coalition. Lieberman is an enigma. Many analysts believe Olmert will opt to leave Yisrael Beitenu out of the coalition because he cannot rely on Lieberman's support for his declared plan for unilateral border building. But others argue that Lieberman is ideologically flexible and could end up in the government.
Which brings up a very interesting and final point. Olmert presented the election as a referendum for his platform to continue unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, known as the "Convergence Plan" - and despite Kadima's weaker-than-expected showing, there is no potential right-wing blocking majority that can effectively stop this plan from being carried out.
In fact, it must be noted that some 95 of the newly elected members of the Knesset have come out in favor of territorial compromise for peace. This highlights the remarkable contrast with the results of January's Palestinian Authority legislative elections, in which Hamas – a party committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, and anti-Semitic to its core – got the majority of seats.
This analysis was prepared by Arieh O'Sullivan, Director of Communications, ADL Israel Office.