615AM Wednesday: Yeah. Pretty bad.
But by Wednesday morning official results had stretched to a decisive five-seat lead for Likud of 30 seats, making it almost certain that Netanyahu would serve a third consecutive term as prime minister.
But Netanyahu appears locked on a collision course with both Palestinians and the international community after disavowing his previous support for a two-state solution made in a speech in 2009.
Netanyahu’s return to power on the back of his unequivocal opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state – a key policy of Washington and the EU – seems certain to exacerbate his already difficult relationship with the US administration of Barack Obama during the president’s final two years in office.
930PM: This long, comprehensive article from The New York Times explores the possibilities. Bottom line, though: For those of us who really want to see real, lasting Mideast peace, and who understand that a peace-oriented Israel and a Palestinian state are necessary precursors to that, this has been a bad day.
730PM: Votes are being counted, but the actual totals are unlikely to matter much unless the exit polling turns out to be substantially wrong. Basically, the top two parties, Likud and Zionist Union, tied. Each will try to build enough of a coalition with other parties to form a government without the other. The odds of either being able to do that in such a way as to form a strong, stable, lasting governing coalition may not be great, to say the least. I’ll post more updates on Wednesday.
350PM: This could be unfortunate, from the perspective of those of us who want to see Israel’s hard right (Likud) to at least have its power diminished. It’s from the Haaretz liveblog linked below.
After the ballot boxes were closed at 10 P.M. Tuesday, exit polls showed the two main contenders, Likud and Zionist Union, were neck and neck with 27 Knesset seats each, with a slight lead for Likud.
President Reuven Rivlin said he would work for a national unity government.
930AM: Overall turnout is now roughly in line with the last election. There are anecdotal reports of higher turnout among Israeli-Arab voters.
630AM: Haaretz has a liveblog, which indicates that at mid-morning turnout was 20% higher than in previous elections. Also, Election Day is apparently a national day off from work in Israel, which is something the U.S. should also do.
I haven’t tried to do this with an election in another country before, and I don’t know when good data might be available, what with the time zone difference and all. Maybe in the U.S. we’ll have some initial idea by mid-to-late afternoon. But it could be days, even weeks, before everything shakes out. Israel has a parliamentary system, where a government is formed based on seats won. I don’t think that anybody anticipates Netanyahu & Co. going gently, no matter how the seat count turns out.
The Palestinian-Israeli bloc, made up of what the Israelis call “Arab Israeli” parties and the Communist Party, now looks as though it could be the third biggest party. If the Palestinian-Israelis, who are 20% of the population, are able to do that well, they could well decide to back the Zionist Union of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, bringing the latter in striking distance of the 61 seats they need…
But such a government might well be willing to settle the Palestine issue with Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestine Authority, pulling Israel back from the brink of declining into full Apartheid and international isolation. Livni has said she’d be willing to use police to remove some Israeli squatters from the Palestinian West Bank. Of course, that is a thorny and intractable problem and the hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters are a powerful lobby against peace, so there is no guarantee a new government can have more success than the old.
While Livni is no liberal (she would rotate the prime ministership with Herzog if they won), and will watch the negotiations with Iran like a hawk, she is in the end a pragmatist, and Obama would probably see an end to Israeli direct interference in his negotiations with Iran.
On the other hand, if Netanyahu wins, likely he will continue policies that make it unlikely for Israel to survive another half century in the region. Israel’s economy is fragile and a third of its trade is with Europe, with which Israel also has extensive technology transfer. Growing European boycotts over the Israeli scuttling of the peace process and determined colonization of the West Bank will begin to bite.
I saw a note yesterday to the effect that Livni said she would yield the prime-minister’s office to Herzog, full-time. Apparently that has since been reneged upon.)
Israel doesn’t have compulsory voting, or anything like that. As with the U.S., only hard-line reactionaries can be counted on to turn out in force in every election. Also as with the U.S., this often (including right now) means “leadership” that is far more conservative than the public at large, with awful results.
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