May 28, 2008

A Tale of "Two" Parties

Hatched by Dafydd

One of the reasons I hate -- the internet "news" website founded by Andrew Brietbart, developer of the Huffington Post -- is that it's more than biased; it's clumsily and stubbornly leftist, often not even pretending that the right might have a point. Or even exist!

In this piece on embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, we learn that Olmert's defense minister -- former Prime Minister Ehud Barak -- has called upon Olmert to resign in the wake of numerous credible allegations of bribery and four separate and ongoing police investigations of the PM. If Olmert refuses to quit, Barak says that he will pull Labor out of the coalition and force early elections.

It's the most serious career crisis Olmert has faced since becoming prime minister, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- founder of the Kadima party, which won a plurality in the last elections -- lapsed into a coma following a stroke.

But one fascinating omission struck me as I read the article: Nowhere in the piece does Brietbart even so much as mention the right-wing Likud party... which is notable because every, single poll in Israel indicates that, in the event of elections anytime soon, Likud will be the new plurality party -- and might even become Israel's first ever majority government.

(The Alignment party, a.k.a. the Labour Alignment, held an absolute majority of seats in the Knesset for a year or so after the 1967 Six Day War. But Alignment was itself a coalition party, formed by the merger of Mapai, Labour Unity, Rafi, and Mapam -- and the majority came from the seats formerly held by the latter two parties. So the claim that Alignment was a "majority party" deserves at least an asterisk: It never actually won a majority of seats in an election as itself.

(If Likud were to win a majority of the Knesset seats, it would be the first time in Israeli history that a single party actually won a majority of seats in an election.)

In fact, it almost appears that Breitbart is unaware that there are three major parties in Israel, not just two: Kadima, Labor, and Likud. (Plus a host of minor parties that come into play whenever one of the majors seeks a ruling coalition, which is after every single election.)

For example, here is Brietbart on the potential effects of the threat:

Labour secretary-general Eitan Cabel said that if Kadima does not oust Olmert and elect a new party leader, Labour would move to set a date for early elections within two months.

Without the support of Labour's 17 MPs, Olmert's coalition government would lose its parliamentary majority in the 120-member Knesset....

Several members of Olmert's Kadima party have already let it be known they would be willing to accept the premier's job, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter.

This rather makes it sound as if either another member of Kadima will take Olmert's place -- or else new elections will put Labor firmly in charge!

The odd thing is that, by so studiously ignoring Likud as if they didn't exist, Brietbart manages to avoid telling its readers a critical point that changes everything about this story: Since Barak knows that new elections would mean a Likud government (not Labor) headed by his old archrival, Benjamin Netanyahu, he is extremely unlikely actually to do what he threatens... and since Olmert also knows that, he is equally unlikely to take the threat seriously and resign.

By contrast, here is the AP article on the same threat:

If Labor Party leader Ehud Barak carries out his promise to withdraw from Olmert's fragile coalition, new elections could usher in a government opposed to current peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria....

He promised to consider cooperating with a new leader from Olmert's Kadima Party, but vowed to pull Labor out of the government "soon" if Olmert doesn't step aside. Without Labor, Olmert would lose his parliamentary majority, and new elections would probably be forced two years ahead of schedule.

Polls forecast a poor performance for Labor if elections are held now. Polls have signaled that hard-line opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of Olmert's peace overtures, would win. That could deter Barak from following through on his threat to bring down the government.

Before posting this, I gave Breitbart another chance: I went to the main site, found the newest article on this news item, and read it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they had actually updated the story to include discussion of other parties. They added these two paragraphs:

The premier also faced pressure from leftist parties even though in the past they have supported governments involved in the peace process.

"I am fully in favour of negotiations with Palestinians and Syria, but Olmert cannot from a moral point of view carry out such discussions following the damaging testimony by Morris Talansky," said Ran Cohen of the Meretz party.

Well, I'm glad we've got that sorted out! So now we know that, in the event of early elections, Ehud Olmert will be followed by Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, or Avi Dichter of Kadima; Ehud Barak of Labor -- or perhaps Ran Cohen of Meretz-Yachad (or one of the other four Members of the Knesset from that party).

Reason number 523 why we should not treat Breitbart as a real news source.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 28, 2008, at the time of 3:55 PM

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