January 5, 2006

After Arik

Hatched by Dafydd

Although I hope Ariel Sharon recovers fully, I highly doubt that will eventuate. Unless a literal miracle occurs, Ariel Sharon is gone from Israeli politics, even if he eventually makes a full medical recovery: it's unlikely that he would be able to tolerate the enormous stress of being the prime minister of Israel, especially at such a time.

So the world must face the question of what comes after Arik. As I see it, there are only three plausible choices:

Scenario one:

  • The party that Sharon founded, Kadima, wins the election anyway, and Sharon's deputy PM (and former mayor of Jerusalem), Ehud Olmert, who followed Sharon into Kadima, becomes the new prime minister. This is possible, and a "snap poll" indicated that at this point, that is a very strong possibility:

(If Shimon Peres seizes the leadership of Kadima, most predict that will simply kill the party. Despite the sympathy vote mentioned below, nobody really wants Peres back as prime minister, not Likud, not Labor, and not the Israeli people.)

A snap poll Thursday showed an Olmert-led Kadima would still win 40 of 120 seats, similar to the results under Sharon. Under former Prime Minister Shimon Peres [who quit the Labor Party to join Kadima], the party would get 42 seats, according to the Channel 10-Haaretz poll. The number of people polled and the margin of error were not given.

Actually, we now have half this missing information; according to Haaretz, for whom the poll was conducted:

The survey covered 650 people representing the general public, and was conducted less than one day after Sharon suffered a severe stroke.

But Israelis are still in shock, and such polls at this time are completely meaningless. As even Haaretz acknowledged,

The impact of the survey is limited, as it was conducted in the eye of the storm, at the height of uncertainty, polling a public awash in sympathy for Sharon, who is fighting for his life. Anyone who said Thursday they would vote for Kadima was still saying they would vote for Sharon, even though it is clear he will no longer head the party he founded just weeks ago.

The prevailing assumption among Kadima members is that their party will lose altitude in the polls over the coming weeks and the only question that remains is: Where will it stabilize? A senior Kadima official said Thursday that the victory line for the party was 30-32 seats. According to him, if Kadima gets 32 seats on March 28, it will form the next coalition and the party's leader will be prime minister.

As the election won't be held for almost another three months, the electorate will have plenty of time to grow disenchanted with a Kadima that isn't led by Sharon -- especially one experiencing a leadership fight between Olmert, Peres, and perhaps others in the brand-new party. To the voters, as I understand it, Kadima was Sharon, and Sharon was Kadima; separate them, and the party does not necessarily inherit the mantle of destiny. I suspect that 32 seats is wishful thinking, and seats that would have gone to Kadima under Sharon but don't will mostly go to Likud.

Even if Kadima does poll enough to form the next government, it would be well advised to ally with Likud, not Labor... and not with the tiny religious and other parties that make strange demands out of proportion to their size, once they realize how vital their presence in the coalition is (and who often get in a snit and pull out without warning, collapsing the government).

Scenario two:

  • Kadima could collapse, with all the top officials returning to the parties whence they came, and either Likud or Labor winning the election.

This is already being pushed by Likud and Labor, who are trying to woo back their lost lambs. But it's unlikely that Kadima will recieve no support, and it will likely still be a player that cannot be dismissed (except in a "grand coalition" of Likud and Labor... which would be hard to pull off right now, considering how far apart they are on the central, even existantial issues of the day.

Scenario three:

  • One of the other "players" in Israeli politics -- likely Benjamin Netanyahu -- might offer to join Likud to Kadima and run on a joint ticket, in exchange for keeping the major Kadima players in the cabinet and sticking to at least the core of Sharon's agenda: accepting fait accompli of the pull-out from Gaza and even engaging in a partial pull-out from the West Bank.

There are sound strategic reasons for removing Israeli settlers and the troops that guard them from hard-to-defend locations where they are surrounded by literally millions of hostile Palestinians, who focus their perpetual rage upon the local Israelis. I have articulated these before: notably, scarce resources are not eaten up defending the settlers; and with the thousands of ready-made hostages gone, the entire region becomes a potential target, allowing a much more aggressive and vigorous response to terrorism than would be practical if Israel were still in occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The advantage of this approach is that it would result in the greatest continuity at a time of the greatest danger to Israel: the imminent development of nuclear-tipped missiles by Israel's worst enemy, Iran, at a time when Iran is ruled by a Supreme Leader who allows a Holocaust-denying maniac like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to literally threaten to "wipe Israel off the map." The advantage to the members of Kadima and Likud is that it allows them to remain in control: Sharon may have left Likud, but he certainly did not join Labor... the aged Shimon Peres, the highest-ranking Laborite in Kadima, was already halfway out the door when Sharon rescued him.

Labor outpolled Likud in that "snap poll," but that is because Kadima sucked up all the oxygen in the room; what that vote really shows is the weakness of Labor. The Baptist Press has a more complete accounting:

According to a poll released Jan. 4, Kadima would win 40 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, while Labor would win 19 seats in the balloting and Likud 14, with the remainder split among other smaller parties that might have provided Sharon enough support to form a government without needing Labor or Likud on board.

The poll shows that if, as expected, most members of Kadima would vote Likud (Sharon's former party) if Kadima were not available (they're Arik Sharon fans), that means Labor is close to the weakest it has ever been; Sharon left Likud because of looming leadership fights between him and Netanyahu, not because Sharon was shifting to the left.

I don't know if Likud and Kadima can smooth out their differences, but I believe they should try: it's the most likely route to stability and strong action against Iran, if necessary... while any alliance with Labor invites the sort of disaster exemplified by Ehud Barak's offer to give the Palestinians nearly everything they wanted in negotiation in exchange for empty promises. This was a negotiating posture that so smacked of weakness that the greedy Palestinians rejected it and commenced the Second Intifada instead, thinking they could just bully Barak into giving them the rest -- probably including (at least in Yassir Arafat's mind) all the Jews voluntarily marching into the sea to drown.

If Kadima is Sharon, and Sharon is out of the picture, then Kadima's only viable long-term survival option is to ally with one of the more established parties; and of the two, only Likud can actually attract most of those who defected to Kadima. And even then, only if Likud is willing to embrace at least some of Sharonism, instead of fighting viciously against it, as they have done for years now.

Sharon's plan seems to have worked, at least in the short run, which is more than any of the Likudnik hardliners expected of it. I think it worth pursuing; after all, Likud's intransigence has only a marginally better track record than Labor's appeasement.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 5, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM

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Tracked on January 6, 2006 9:10 AM


The following hissed in response by: stackja1945

Why not have real elections in what is called Palestine? I note scepticism at “The Myth Of Palestine” http://www.allthingsbeautiful.com/all_things_beautiful/
Iraq held real elections. Why cannot other Arabs hold real elections? Then with someone who really represents the Arabs they may just see Israel as a partner. Why must Israel always be asked to do something? Again Iraq held real election, why does this cause problems with other Arabs?

The above hissed in response by: stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 2:18 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Netanyahu is the political winner in Sharon's tragic situation. I am not sure if that equates to winning for Israel, unless Iran does in fact move to act on its nuclear power.
I am starting to wonder some out of the box questions: Would the awesome destruction of nuke weapons make even the mad ilsamofascist mullahs of Iran go to a static policy, a la cold war?
After all, North Korea has had nukes for over 5 years now, and they have become only more open. The only world tyrant whoever wanted to initiate a nuclear exchange that we know of was castro back in 1962.
The point of the digression is this:
Netanyahu is not a man of stalemate. He will pre-empt Iran and fo after their nuke weapon assets....long after Iran has spent incredible resources to make those assets very resistant to attack.
Is it more likely that even the islamofascists will find themselves, when they finally own the object of their desire, entrapped by the implications of actually using the power their desire has given them?
I am not speaking of a Czechoslavakia, where the west rolled over on Hitler's demands or a Munich style appeasement. I am talking here of what did work: a cold war on a regional basis.
It may be in fact moot, and the events on the ground may drive this. My first desire is to see Iran bombed so far back the mullahs find themselves the invited guests of lymch mobs all across Iran. But most nations tend to rally when the homeland is attacked (all except modern democrats, obviously). We cold find out that even very anti-mullah forces in Iran, IOW the majority, rallies around the flag if we cooperate in an attack on the flower of the national pride, the nukes.
Which brings in Netanyahu: I frankly don't seem him as acting but rather reacting. Where Sharon realized that Israel's best interest was in leaving the Pals to wallow in their social implosion of death cults and suicidal hatred, Netanyahu seems fixated on diong what the demographics of the region make highly dubious: win long term by smashing the many enemies Israel faces.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 4:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: reliapundit - the astute blogger

lookit: there's a simple difference between the parties in Israel on the disuted territories.

likud wants to unilaterally keep them.

labor would give it all back - within the context of negotiations.(with Hamas it looks like!)

kadima would keep some and return some, and do so uniliaterally if necessary.

within this broad framework it is absolutley clear where the majority of the electorate stands: with kadima.

75% of the Israeli electorate has had enough with negotiations, 75% of this 75% wants to withdraw from as much disputed territory as necessary to maintain Israel as a Jewish state; they don't want to "rule" over any more Arabs. This 50% is Kadima's support.

Likud is MUCH much better on economic/domestic issues, which are almost as critical for Israel's survival. Bibi and Natan Sharnasky would each make great PM's on this front. Better than anyone else; indeed, the Likudniks who joined with the Laborites to form Kadima are in effect postponing any forward progress on domestic issues as the price to pay for unilaterally ending the Arab-Israeli dispute according to Sharon's plan.

Which means that if Olmert is elected PM - which is likely, and if he is able to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank and finish the fence, that then he will face the hard domestic issues, and THEN Kadima will fall apart. this will be in the winter of 2007-8.

During unilateral withdrawal Mofaz and Peres will be the two key Olmert allies: Peres to handle the foreign press and the Arab nation's reactions, and Mofaz to implemnent the withdrawal which will foment MORE unrest than did the Gaza withdrawal. ALSO: it will incentivize the enemy - who, seeing it as weakness, as a result of their terror - they will step up attacks - both from lebanon by Hizb'Allah and from gaza by Hamas.

(These terrorists may even try to wage a huge terror campaign, as they did during the Peres-Netanyahu contest - which led to the election of Bibi.)

Olmert will succeed ion his major aims but ata cost: he will be mortally damaged politically. Livni will get the Kadima nomination. Sharansky wil get the Likud nomination and be elected PM in 2008.

The above hissed in response by: reliapundit - the astute blogger [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2006 10:02 AM

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