A New Era in Israel's Political Future
Do we stand on the brink of a new era in Israel's political life? Or perhaps we are victims of an illusion of power politics? Ehud Barak, a landslide winner (56%) against Bibi Netanyahu (44%) is trying to form a new coalition government. According to the law Barak has 45 days to negotiate with the parties in the new 15th Knesset. Around 79% of the total eligible Israelis went to vote or 3.4 million voters. From the eye of the bird it looks like a shift from the center to the left and decrease of the Israeli support for the right-national camp, as well.
But the experts illuminated that it was more of a vote against Bibi and not for Barak. Indeed, Barak's own party (Labor) has only 27 seats in the Knesset. But the second big party, the Likud, has only 19 seats (down from 32). The Likud is in a state of total disbelief and shock. Bibi lost has political world and resigned as a chairman. Who will be the next one to rebuild this party? Ehud Olmert? Limar Livnot? Arik Sharon? Maybe the ones who left the party will come back? Roni Milo and Dan Meridor (from the Center party)? Perhaps David Levy (form the Labor party)? Or perhaps Benny Begin will come back after Bibi's collapse!
Begin's 'National Unity Party' has only 4 seats in the Knesset. The party is in a state of disappointment. They asked: where is the Ultra National camp? Barak brings to the Knesset, famous politicians such as Shimon Peres, David Levy who left the Likud, Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai, Uzi Baram, Yosef Beilin, and Dr. Shlomo Ben-Ami. Ben-Ami, a scholar and Diplomat, has a great future in Israel's politics (he was born in Morocco). But Barak faces a problem: the decrease of the power of the two traditional big parties. The tendency in this election has been a terrible victory to the small parties and divisiveness. More parties, more splinter groups, more disintegrations of some parties in the future. Barak has to deal with the success story of Shas, Israel's Sephardic ultra-religious party. Shas had a big victory: 17 seats, almost the same number of the Likud.
Another special issue: the Russian immigrant parties. Israel B'Aliya (Natan Sharansky) and Israel Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman). This Russian ethnic block has a total of 11 seats! The 'Russian vote' is pro-right but Barak might close a deal with this 'block.' The Israeli left did well: Meretz had 9 seats (Yossi Sharid) one Nation (Labor Unions' Party) 2 seats (Amir Peretz) and the new party 'Mercas' (Center Party), whose leader Yitzhak Mordechai was a candidate for the job of Prime Minister, gained 6 seats in the Knesset - a big disappointment! This party might disintegrate because it is a coalition of ex-Likudniks, such as David Magen and ex-members of Labor such as Haggai Merom.
One must not ignore the achievement of a new party headed by the well known media personality, Yosef Lapid: 'Shinui' (change). It has 6 seats! Its platform calls for a fight against religious militantness in Israel. Israelis do not like the fact that many religious Israelis attached the credibility of the judicial system phase! As one can see Barak is able to play with numbers in order to build the coalition that he likes. For example: 27 Labor, 6 Shinui, 2 Trade Unions, 9 Meretz, 6 Center, and 11 Russian Block. This is a majority of 61. Of course, he can bring to the coalition the moderate segment of the 'Religious Block', 10 seats. The idea is to exclude 'Shas', the 'Likud' and the small Arab parties (10 seats). Barak has the option to establish a new government but the flaws of the new 'Direct election of Prime Minister' (Basic Law: Government) can cause him many troubles in the future. 'Coalition' government in Israel has always been a fragile entity. Think: an elected Prime Minister, a national new hero has only 27 seats in the 120 member Knesset.
Following is a short biography of Ehud Barak:
Ehud Barak, MK
Ehud Barak was born in 1942 in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon. Barak joined the Israel Defense Forces in 1959, and served as a soldier and commander of an elite unit, and in various other command positions including Tank Brigade Commander and Armored Division Commander, and General Staff positions, including Head of the IDF Intelligence Branch. During the 1967 Six Day War, Barak served as a reconnaissance group commander, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War as a tank battalion commander on the southern front in Sinai. In January 1982, he was appointed Head of the IDF Planning Branch and promoted to Major General. During the 1982 "Peace for Galilee" operation, Major General Barak served as Deputy Commander of the Israeli force in Lebanon. In April 1983, Maj. Gen. Barak was appointed Head of the Intelligence Branch at the IDF General Headquarters. In January 1986, he was appointed Commander of the IDF Central Command, and in May 1987 was appointed Deputy Chief-of-Staff.
In April 1991, Barak assumed the post of the 14th Chief of the General Staff and was promoted to the rank of Lt. General, the highest in the Israeli military.
Following the May 1994 signing of the Gaza-Jericho agreement with the Palestinians, Lt. General Barak oversaw the IDF's redeployment in the Gaza Strip and Jericho. He played a central role in finalizing the peace treaty with Jordan, signed in 1994, and met with his Syrian counterpart as party of the Syrian-Israeli negotiations.
General Barak was awarded the "Distinguished Service Medal" and four other citations for courage and operational excellence. Barak holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1976), and an M.Sc. in Economic-Engineering Systems from Stanford University, California (1978). In July 1995, he was appointed Minister of the Interior. Barak served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from November 1995 until June 1996.
Ehud Barak presently serves as the chairman of the Labor Party and a Member of Knesset.
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