Israel’s upcoming election, writes Chuck Freilich, may not bring about the “historic” political realignment that some pundits are predicting. But the rhetoric emerging from the various parties does suggest that changes are afoot:
The old division between hawk and dove, left and right, has lost much of its meaning in Israel, both on socio-economic and on foreign-policy issues. . . . The left has come to share much of the right’s skepticism regarding the Palestinians’ willingness to reach an agreement, while the intifada and endless rocket fire have led to far greater appreciation of the right’s emphasis on security needs. On most socio-economic issues the differences between the Israeli left and right have not been great for decades, and voters are tired of the old party system and the government’s ongoing inability to provide answers to their needs. A realignment of Israeli politics has been brewing for years, and indeed began with the previous elections.
Labor had an uninterrupted run of 29 years in power. Likud has enjoyed a longer run, but one that has been repeatedly interrupted with center-left governments. Today, Likud is a spent force, with polls predicting seats in the low 20s, just one of a few mid-sized parties. Labor’s Isaac Herzog united with Tzipi Livni to form a new and fresh-looking party, which is expected to vie with Likud for a similar number of seats and possibly the premiership. Netanyahu will likely still be the premier, because of coalition mechanics, but the gloss is off and he is nearing the end of his tenure. His decision to call new elections after just two years speaks volumes. The next government is unlikely to demonstrate much greater longevity, further feeding the demands for electoral reform.