Monday, January 13, 2003
A friend chastizes me for putting too much trust in Ha'aretz polls. So, okay, there have been other polls - the last Yediot poll (taken before the Jan 9 Ha'aretz poll came out) showed Likud with 28 or 29 seats, versus 27 in the Ha'aretz poll. Now there's a new batch of polls that show a very modest recovery for Likud to the low-30s.
More important, and this is what I have been stressing, Labor has not been gaining at the expense of Likud. Ha'aretz is the only poll showing Labor really gaining at all, and even they show only a 3-seat gain in the last month for the Labor-Meretz-Arab bloc. The extraordinary corruption scandal in Likud has driven Likud voters to Shinui, National Union and Shas - breaking Likud's coalition into its constituent parts. This, if it is manifested in actual election results, will have significant implications for Likud's ability to govern in three ways. First, Sharon badly wants a unity government, and the weaker Likud's share of the vote, the weaker Likud is in negotiations with Labor on that unity government. Second, if Likud does really poorly - even, or especially, if the Right as a whole does well - then Sharon may be deposed after the election, leaving Bibi in charge of the party and a greater likelihood for a Right-religious coalition government. Third, however, since Shinui and Shas will not sit together, the stronger the two of them jointly get, the harder it will be to form a narrow government of the Right.
That's still the story from a horse-race perspective. From a long-term perspective, though, the Likud scandals are evidence that (a) the party is not structured like a serious governing party, and badly needs to clean house; (b) Israeli democracy needs fundamental, structural reform, something not on the agenda of any center- or right-wing party.
Finally, I realize that I have not harped on the Labor-party scandals. This is not because I don't think they are serious. The Ginossar scandal is particularly horrifying. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Yossi Ginossar is an Israeli businessman with high Labor connections who was used as a go-between for negotiations with the P.A. He was essentially involved in helping Yasser Arafat funnel money into secret Swiss bank accounts and create shell companies to hide his embezzlement, was paid handsomely for his efforts by Arafat even as he continued to negotiate on behalf of the Israelis. Plus he paid kickbacks from his profits to various P.A. officials to ensure his continued employment in this capacity. And we know that a major financing route for terrorism is precisely through this kind of embezzlement. Ginossar is, in other words, a traitor as well as a thief. Categorically different from anything alleged in the Likud. But this shouldn't detract from the fact that Likud is now riddled with figures from organized crime and that Sharon's own son was possibly running a protection racket to get votes.) I haven't harped on it because I don't have anything interesting to say about it. But that doesn't mean I think it's acceptable for the Left to win this election, as should be clear from prior commentary on the subject.