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2009 Elections – Labor to the Opposition

 

30 October 2008

By Yisrael Ne'eman

After the failure of Kadima faction Chairwoman Tsipi Livni's attempts at building a coalition to replace Ehud Olmert's government it is imperative that elections be called. It is expected that Feb. 10, 2009 will be the date. But of course electioneering has already begun. It is not only a question of which party will gain the most seats of the 120 in the Knesset up for grabs but who will form the coalition.

According to the recent polls Linvi's Kadima is leading former PM Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud by a few percentage points. Together they grab close to 60 seats and would need the support of one more political party to form a coalition. Should this remain the case the choice will come down to two, either the leftist Labor Party led by the present defense minister Ehud Barak or the Yisrael Beitainu faction led by Avigdor Leiberman.

The latter is considered quite to the right and has often been labeled a "racist". He advocates a territorial compromise with the Palestinian Authority based on geographical regions of Jewish and Arab residency, meaning that he would annex areas of Jewish development in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in return for handing over Israeli-Arab population centers bordering the West Bank. He sees demography as an extremely important aspect in nation state development and stability. He further believes most Israeli Arabs and especially their leadership to be anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and a threat to the continued existence of the Jewish State. He does not mince words and often accuses them of betraying the State of Israel whether from the Knesset podium, in interviews or just off the cuff. Yisrael Beitainu is expected to get close to ten seats and could certainly be a member of a right of center, secular government not to include the National Religious Party/National Union, or the haredi (ultra-orthodox) Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism or Sepharedi Shas whose coalition demands are often considered less legitimate by the general non-religious public.

Labor (19 seats at present) is expected to obtain only eleven mandates in what would be a crushing defeat. Should they join such a coalition in place of Yisrael Beitainu the government would shift towards the center while Barak and a few others would become ministers. But Labor influence would be minimal since the Likud and Kadima support virtually identical economic capital incentive programs (yes, Netanyahu is speaking about state sponsored industrial and infrastructure development) being that Kadima is a split off from the Likud and in the economic sphere both see themselves as following their ideological founder Zeev Jabotinsky.

Many Laborites erroneously believe they need to be in government to ensure "the peace process". They need to be reminded that hard line Likud PM Menachem Begin signed a peace agreement with Egypt including the Framework for Peace in the Middle East in 1979 and withdrew from the entire Sinai Peninsula as a result. In 1998 Netanyahu himself signed the Wye Accords with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat thereby agreeing to relinquish another 14% or so of the West Bank to the Palestinians. Such a right of center government does not need Labor to make peace. Israel (including most in the Likud) wants a two-state solution and if a Palestinian partner with the desire and ability to enforce such an arrangement agrees, Labor can have the great honor of supporting the government from the opposition benches. They did so in 1979 when Begin was PM and they can do so again. Labor is of no use in the next government.

Labor can best serve the state, the people and their own bygone ideology by leading the opposition and building a social democratic faction like those in Europe. That means dumping the capitalist Ehud Barak as party chairman. Labor should lead the charge to ensure workers' rights (which was began last year by assuring a pension for all workers), constructing an alternative program of state capital investment in water, transport and energy infrastructure while planning and funding educational development in our high schools and universities. The grand old party of the Left which routinely gained between 40 – 50 seats in the Knesset until the 1996 elections, will need to regroup its strength in the opposition for four years. Having betrayed their ideals while seeking power for the sake of power, both ideals and public support were lost.

After a stint in the opposition for four years or less, Israel might actually have a social democratic alternative to the present capitalist economic policies which have awarded us one of the largest social gaps in the Western world. By heading back to basics Labor can rebuild their strength and return to the principles of social justice which were so significant in building the modern Jewish State. Should the job be done correctly Labor could triple its 10% popular support in less than a decade.