With the vote on 99.5 percent, Kadima had a less than expected 28 seats. Labor held at 20 seats, and Shas rose to 13, making the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party the third largest faction in the Knesset.Netanyahu made a surprisingly good, somewhat teary-eyed speech on television last night, pledging to rebuild the movement, but he’s always been better at speaking than anything else. Likud may be on the way to breakup and replacement by Yisrael Beitenu or a new rightwing coalition.
Ironically, Shas’s showing may make it easier for Olmert to form a coalition, if he can bring in Shas, Labor, and Gimlaim as a social justice coalition, he can edge out Yisrael Beitenu and avoid a stalemate on the issue of territorial compromise. One thing is certain: this was a bad day for capitalism in Israel. All the parties dedicated to the welfare state and its expansion did surprisingly well, and Peretz will likely claim some sort of a mandate for his economic policies. Of course, Israel was born a socialist country and old habits die hard. The question will be whether Peretz tries for a return to Old Labor’s hard-core statism or a Third Way-style option in the Tony Blair tradition. Nonetheless, I shall have to face my professor’s unfortunate gloating today, never a good sign. Well, vox populi vox dei.