Clearly, the two big winners tonight are Amir Peretz and Avigdor Liberman. Both Labor and Yisrael Beitenu far outperformed expectations. Labor probably already has its eye on the Prime Minister’s office in the next election, but it depends how far Peretz can get with his social-welfare policies and how well the public ends up receiving them. Everyone wants more money for social-welfare until it starts wrecking the economy. If Peretz goes too far, it could come back and bite him the next time around.
As for Yisrael Beitenu, its clearly taken the rightwing vote which was traditionally the Likud’s. Everyone disaffected by the withdrawal from Gaza seems to have taken it out on Likud more than any of the other parties. Eleven seats for a party which won its biggest victory just a few years ago is an astounding collapse. It has to be placed at the feet of Bibi Netanyahu, who seems to have developed the worst political instincts of any politician in Israeli history. Even when he does the right thing, he does for the wrong reasons. Nobody trusts him, even the people who agree with him. You never know in this country, but his political career is probably over. Its too bad, he’d make a good spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.
Kadima has to be a little disappointed with the results. They should have gotten five or six more seats, but a lot of that can be put down to the absence of Sharon. On the other hand, it could be said that the only reason they got that far was the party’s association with Sharon, a memory that may have passed by the time of the next elections. Clearly, Olmert was not an attractive or charismatic leader. Personally, I’m much fonder of Tzipi Livni. She talks a little weird, but she’s intelligent and a relatively straight talker. Plus, it’d really piss off the anti-Israel left if we had a female Prime Minister.
But all that’s for the future. At the moment, its fairly clear that Kadima will form the coalition, Olmert will be Prime Minister, Amir Peretz will have a major cabinet seat and Shas will probably get in somewhere. A coalition with Yisrael Beitenu might happen, but I don’t see it lasting if Olmert intends to go ahead with his withdrawal plans, which Labor will demand of him. Shas may end up being left out of the coalition in favor of some of the smaller parties, but who the hell knows at this point? Its definitely going to be an interesting few weeks over here.