Yoni Tidi was my guest on the program tonight, and predicted a weak and short lived government in Israel, as well as the sunset of Likud.
So the polls are closed, and the story is: Oy. Exit polls say the new party founded by Ariel Sharon did the best, winning around 30 seats. But since last week it was projected to win 40 seats or more, the results have to be a huge disappointment for the party, Kadima, and its head, Ehud Olmert. The left-wing Labor party won somewhere between 20 and 22 seats, and you’ll hear that this was a huge triumph, but really, it only represents a gain of one or two seats and doesn’t mean a lot. A right-wing party, Yisrael Beitenu, is dominated by Israelis of Russian origin, and it seems to have won more seats than the traditional Right-wing party, Likud.
Likud was humiliated, winning somewhere between 11 and 14 seats. It is headed by Bibi Netanyahu, the Tasmanian Devil of Israeli politics. The horrid irony of this whole election is that if Bibi hadn’t decided to challenge Ariel Sharon — the most popular politician in Israel’s history — last fall for leadership of Likud and almost pull it off, Sharon wouldn’t have left Likud to form the new Kadima party. Had Bibi just been patient and less greedy, he would have been in place when Sharon was felled by his stroke. He would have gracefully taken up leadership of Likud due to Sharon’s incapacitation, and would have sailed into the prime minister’s seat for a second time. Instead, he has been squashed like a bug, brought down by his own hubris. It is highly unlikely Bibi will ever rise to power again.
As for what happens now, Kadima will be asked to form a government. And if Kadima succeeds, it will be a very weak government. And there will probably be another election by the end of 2007.
It appears top me that Hamas controls Israeli politics to a degree greater than any Israeli leader. If violence returns or even if Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel and Kadima is other than completely strong in its response, I expect a new force will arise in Israeli politics, as no people will allow weakness to endure at a political level in a time of war.