soon and very soon

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Israelis go to the polls today...God bless them
Who are the players and where do they stand? Let's see:

Top 10: Acting PM Ehud Olmert, MK Shimon Peres, FM Tzipi Livni, Minister Meir Sheetrit, former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, MK Marina Solodkin, MK Haim Ramon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, Minister Avraham Hirchson
Platform: Drawing Israel’s borders according to the road map while maintaining settlement blocs, electoral reform
Campaign slogan: Israel wants to go forward (kadima), Moving forward
Previous positions: 2006 will be Kadima’s first elections
Current MKs: 19; Kadima ministers Shaul Mofaz and Tzahi Hanegbi are not MKs
Poll position: 35-45 mandates
The bottom line: Kadima, newly established by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in mid-November, started as a “cult of personality” party with Sharon at its helm. From its inception it swept the polls, but its standing became precarious when Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke. However, it appears that Kadima has withstood the initial shockwaves generated by the prime minister’s illness, as it maintains a consistent lead in the polls. Whether its experienced team can stick together in the long run, while adhering to Sharon’s legacy, remains to be seen. Leading up to the elections, Kadima leader and acting PM Ehud Olmert enforced the evacuation of an illegal outpost in Amona, apparently to prove his allegiance to Sharon’s legacy of unilateral withdrawals.

Labor - Meimad

Top 10: Chairman Amir Peretz, MK Issac Herzog, MK Ophir Paz-Pines, former Ben-Gurion University of the Negev President Avishay Braverman, MK Yuli Tamir, former Shin-Bet chief Ami Ayalon, party General Secretary Eitan Cabel (secured), MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former broadcaster Shelly Yehimovic, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior
Platform: Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Two state solution, pro-fence, pro-unilateral withdrawals, evacuation of settlements (likely to support hanging onto major settlement blocs in any future deal). Social-economic: With the former union leader at its head, Labor will move left on the social-democratic scale. Peretz wants to raise the minimum wage and enable a free market economy but with certain constraints that would ensure that the competition won’t turn the market into a “jungle.”
Campaign slogans: “Olmert, what are you afraid of? Why don’t you fire Hanegbi?”
“Because the time has arrived” (ki hegia hazman)
Previous results: 2003: 19 mandates (with Meimad); 1999: 26 mandates; 1996: 34 mandates; in the 2001 elections for PM only in 2001, its leader Ehud Barak lost to Ariel Sharon by a wide margin
Current MKs: 18
Poll position: 19-24 mandates
The bottom line: After a steady fall in the polls since Peretz’s election, the party jumped back following the primaries and the emergence of its attractive top 10 list. The party should focus on the strength of its team and not on Peretz as an individual, otherwise Labor could fall in the polls back into the teens


Top 10: Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, MK Silvan Shalom, MK Moshe Kahlon, MK Gilad Erdan, MK Gideon Sa’ar, MK Michael Eitan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, MK Dan Naveh, MK Yuval Steinitz, MK Natan Sharansky
Platform: Under Netanyahu, Likud turned to the right, focusing on its opposition to unilateral withdrawals from Palestinian territories. It is not likely to give up any territory except, possibly, several isolated settlements. Netanyahu said he would be willing to make “real” concessions but did not elaborate. The party stresses Palestinian reciprocity, fighting corruption.
Campaign slogans: Strong against Hamas (Hazak mul haHamas), The Likud is renewing itself (haLikud mithadesh)
Previous positions: 2003: 38 mandates; 1999: 19 mandates; 1996: 32 mandates (with Gesher and Tzomet). In special 2001 prime ministerial elections then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon beat Ehud Barak in a landslide.
Current MKs: 26
Poll position: 11-16 mandates
The bottom line: Netanyahu’s repeated message that Kadima and Labor would set Israel’s borders, more or less, along the 1967 borderline, could generate quite a bit of votes. He may also benefit from Hamas’s rise to power. His relatively unattractive team, however, could harm the Likud’s performance.


Top 10: Chairman Eli Yishai, Yitzhak Cohen, Amnon Cohen, Meshulam Nahari, Ariel Atias, MKs Shlomo Benizri, David Azulai, Yitzhak Vaknin, Nissim Ze’ev, Ya’akov Margi
Platform: Helping the poor, supporting Sephardi ultra-Orthodox causes
Previous results: 1999: 17 mandates
Current MKs: 11
Poll position: 7-12 mandates
The bottom line: The party lost the potential to attract new voters on social or ethnic issues when Labor elected Peretz and on right-wing issues when Likud elected Netanyahu. Yishai wants to bring in a dynamic new name to refresh the list, but as long as his name is not Arye Deri, the party will fall in the polls.

Yisrael Beitenu

Top 10: Avigdor Lieberman, Yuri Shtern, Yisrael Hason, Yosef Chagal, Estherina Tartman, Stas Miseznicoff, Sofa Landver, Yitzchak Ahronovich, Robert Iltev, Alex Miller.
Platform: Trading the Palestinians land in the Galilee heavily populated by Arabs for expanded settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria
Current MKs: 3
2006 campaign slogan: Who fill fight the raging crime on the streets? Olmert, Netanyahu, Lieberman “nyet, nyet, da” (no, no, yes in Russian) respectively.
Poll position: 5-7
The bottom line: Lieberman believes that his party will be the surprise of the election, like Shinui in 2003. Using the slogan, “nyet, nyet, da” (no, no, yes in Russian), he will try to persuade Russian immigrant voters to back him instead of Kadima or Likud. Lieberman’s platform of drawing Israel’s border in a way that will minimize the number of Arabs in the Jewish state could attract support from many native-born Likud and National Union supporters. It is unclear how Yisrael Beiteinu will be affected by the decision of its former partner, the National Union, to run together with the NRP.

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