Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Yow! Well, the impossible seems to be happening: the latest Ha'aretz poll shows Likud winning only 27 seats. One more week of this and Labor will "win" the election. (Of course, victory would be short-lived, because even if they became the largest party in the Knesset, it will be impossible for Labor to form a coalition government other than National Unity - they cannot bring Shas into a "peace" coalition, Shinui won't join a purely left-wing government, and the country would revolt if it tried to form a government on dependent on the Arab parties anyhow.)
I admit, I'm totally disgusted with the Likud. Not only because of corruption - which has tainted Labor as well, though not quite on this scale - but because the party has been exposed as fundamentally un-serious and unprepared to govern. This has always been the problem for Likud: as a Populist party, a party of the "outs" of society, it has a very hard time behaving like a governing party ought to.
The polls have been consistent: the country wants leadership that is above partisanship in time of war, wants a firm hand to fight terror, is against unilateral withdrawal under fire, but is very open to a final settlement that gives up most of the territories and removes settlements. That was basically where Sharon was positioning himself, whether he believes it or not. But the obvious unfitness of his party to govern is destroying it at the polls. Meanwhile Bibi is going around sounding like Arieh Deri, hinting at conspiracies and the like.
Shas is rising again, and Shinui is surging. Since no government can form a coalition with both Shas and Shinui, this means the next Knesset will either be a National Unity government or will be totally ungovernable. But Mitzna has said he will not serve in a National Unity government with Sharon, and Shinui has declared (and Shas has intimated) that it will not join a left-wing government. If Sharon cannot form a purely right-wing coalition - and he doesn't want to do that in the first place, remember - then NO PARTY will be able to form a government. If Shas-UTJ gets about 20 seats, and the left (Labor, Meretz, Arab parties) gets 40 seats, and Shinui gets close to 20 seats, and Shinui refuses to join a left-wing government while Labor refuses to join a Sharon-led government, then I think no one can form a plausible government. Sharon could maybe form a coalition where Likud was virtually an equal partner with the Haredi parties and the far-right, but such a coalition would be highly unstable and wildly unpopular. Or he could form a minority government coalition with Shinui and Yisrael B'Aliyah, beg Labor to join (they refuse) and dare the far right to join Labor in bringing down the government. That would probably be the smarter electoral strategy. But it would probably fail, and we'd have another round of elections immediately after this one.
The other possibility, of course, is that, if Likud loses outright, Sharon's successor would join a National Unity government led by Mitzna and composed of Labor-Likud-Shinui. Not impossible, I suppose. But wildly unlikely. Sharon's successor would be far more likely to push Likud to the right - it would, after all, probably be Netanyahu - and even if by some fluke a moderate took over, the Likud leadership is skewed rightward, and would never stand for sitting in a Mitzna-led government.
I hope Fuad is happy with the mess he made.
Israel's democracy is badly broken. They need constitutional reform - heck, they need a Constitution - NOW. This cannot be deferred until the Messianic Age or until the terrorism stops, whichever comes first.
If I were voting in Israel's upcoming elections, I would still vote for the party and the party leader I most admire: Natan Sharansky's Yisrael B'Aliyah. But I wish more than ever that someone of his caliber were running Shinui, because Shinui is the only party who will win this next election. Which, if no one can form a government, may well be followed rapidly by another election; Tommy Lapid has no hesitancy about voting no-confidence.