ISRAELIS PREFER A RIGHT-LEANING GOVERNMENT OF NETANYAHU, LAPID AND BENNET
The new national elections confirmed that the majority of Israelis espouse centrist political views with a notable right-wing trend
The new national elections confirmed that the majority of Israelis espouse centrist political views with a notable right-wing trend f supporting parties with neo-liberal economic and neo-conservative political agenda (the Likud-Israel Beiteynu list -31 seats), but moderated by an emergence of the new parties, which share in common the Third Way ideology in the aftermath of the "social justice" protest movement in the summer 2011: Yesh Atid (19 seats) of Yair Lapid and HaTnua(The Movement)-7 seats, of Zipi Livny, a former Foreign Minister in the government led by Ariel Sharon's Kadimah (gaining only 2 seats in these elections). While the Avodah (Labor) of Shelly Yachimovitch improved its national standing by gaining 15 seats, it is highly unlikely to be able to garner enough support to form a Center-Left governing coalition
The biggest surprise of the recent Israeli elections was an electoral surge by the leader of the "Yesh Atid" - Yair Lapid, a staunchly secularist liberal middle-aged political novice. But many Western liberal political analysts of Yair Lapid, 49-year-old former TV anchor Lapid, seemed to miss an important political fact from his biography, namely that he is a son of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice in the government of Ariel Sharon, Yosef Lapid. Yair Lapid, a traditional Zionist, is well-known in Israel as a popular author of thrillers, theater and television scripts, and books for children, competed for the votes of Israelis with average incomes. His party, Yesh Atid stands for "There is a future" in Hebrew, was founded only nine months ago. It became an immediate sensation, expressing a deep public disgruntlement with domination of the ultra-religious Shas and Yehadut haTorah parties in Israeli politics. The ultra-religious parties for decades extracted special privileges for their supporters, such as exemption from military service, heavily subsidized housing, medical insurance and religious education networks. The broad masses in Israel, whose young serve in the Army (males -3 years and unmarried females -2 years), en masse voted for this new party because they wanted to express their frustration with the traditional Right-Left political division and to break the stranglehold the ultra-religious parties, which they were able to sustain on the issues important for exclusively for them since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Thus, Yesh Atid received an unexpected second place in national polls and will be a major coalition partner, gaining important ministerial portfolios such Foreign Ministry, Treasury and Housing in the new government. As the result, Yair Lapid emerged as the kingmaker of the next Israeli government. The main outlines of Yair Lapid's political agenda became clear from his "acknowledging" Bibi Netanyahu as the next Prime Minister of Israel on the Election night, January 22. In his pre-election interviews, Lapid emphasized the domestic issues: affordable housing, reform of education and adoption of Constitution as a part of broad governmental reform. On the foreign policy issues, Lapid expressed support for the "two-state" solution and for renewed negotiations with the Palestinin Authority. At the same time, in several media appearances, the Yesh Atid leader indicated that he supports continued building in several settlement blocs,namely Gush Etzion, Maaley Adumim (south of Jerusalem) and Ariel, which according to him, will become a part of Israeli sovereign territory at the final stage.
The revelation of Yair Lapid's support was reciprocated by Bibi Netanyhu's phone call on the same night even before all votes were counted. The morning after the elections, Benjamin Netanyahu stated that in forming government, he will listen to the voice of the people by putting at the top of his agenda affordable housing and an "equal share of responsibilities", a reference to lifting of exemption for ultra-religious Yeshivah students. The Prime Minister concluded that he will form the "widest possible coalition" reflecting needs of all sectors of society. HaBeit Yehudi (The Jewish Home), a nationalist religious party, led by a young and dynamic millionaire and high-tech businessman, Naftali Bennet, will serve as a third pillar of the new Israeli government coalition. The question remains about Shas, a Sephardi ultra-religious party, joining the coalition?
Benjamin Netanyahu has two months to form a new government. The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, has 120 seats. In order to form a government in Israel, a leading party, with an approval of the President, is required to create a coalition with at least 61 mandates in order to represent the majority in Knesset. According to a poll commissioned by the newspaper "Maariv", 41% of voters want to see in the government coalition in addition to Netanyahu and Lieberman, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet. Both Lapid and Bennet vigorously advocated their commitment to solving social problems of the population of Israel. Both politicians have declared their readiness to enter into negotiations with Netanyahu's regarding a coalition agreement for the future government.
The following are the most likely compositions of the government coalitions to emerge from the January 22 Israeli elections:
According to the Maariv survey, the results of which were published in the afternoon on January 25, a coalition of Likud, Yisrael Beiteynu - 31 mandates, Yesh Atid - 19 mandates, the Jewish Home "- 12, Shas - 11, total of 73 of the mandates in the Knesset, supported by 21% of all respondents and 23% Likud-Yisrael Beiteynu voters.
The second version of the government's most narrow coalition: Likud, Yisrael Beiteynu (31), Shas (11) and Yesh Atid (19), 61 mandates in the Knesset, supported by 23% of all respondents and only 12% of voters Likud-Yisrael Beiteynu.
The third option of a narrow coalition with Likud, Yisrael Beiteynu(31), the Jewish Home (12) and Yesh Atid (19), only 62 of the mandates in the Knesset, supported by 38% of all respondents and 41% of voters Likud-Yisrael Beiteynu.
All three scenarios clearly indicate an overall right-wing trend in the Israeli public in these elections, despite the Yesh Atid's centrist position. The foreign policy agenda of the upcoming government will be a topic of separate analytical article, but what leaves little doubt, is that the bilateral relations with Turkey and their dismal status will remain one of the foreign policy priorities for the new government in Israel, irrespective of its composition.
Alexander MURINSON - Analyst, Strategic Outlook
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