Israeli 2003 Election:
by Gad Nahshon
Israelis decided to reinforce the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He is again the 'King of the Jews' who wishes to change history. His Likud party doubled its power in the Knesset (compared to 1999).
The attempt by the pro-left Israeli media to smear Sharon and his son Gilad and Omri, did not have influence on the Israeli voter. As a matter of fact, Omri Sharon was elected to the Knesset. This great Likud victory saved the face of the party because its veteran politicians, Ehud Olmert, Reuven Rivlin, Zeev Boim, and Abraham Hirshenzon were also elected. Sharon can easily build a right coalition with majority of 69 M.K.s. This election produced a new star - Joseph Lapid - the leader of Shinue (Change) party. The party tripled its power in the Knesset. Lapid is a pro-right politician, an ex-journalist. But his dream is to achieve a separation of religion and state in Israel. Lapid is the new 'star' of the 2003 election. His chairman is Modi Zandberg. This is an Ashkenazi elitist party with many lawyers, mostly liberal. Some are even Dovish on the Israeli-Arab issues. Their political rival is Shass.
The religious parties managed to survive. Shass lost a third of its power. Its prestige is in decline. Many of its followers moved back to the Likud. Shass is an ethnic party: Sephardim. It looks like these ethnic parties are shrinking. This election means a disaster to the Israeli left. The Labor party might even split between Doves such as Gen. (Res.) Amaran Mitsna, its front runner, and Fuad Ben-Eliezer, or Efraim Sneh. The Labor lost more than a third of its traditional supporters who moved to Shinue. Meretz, Israel's leftist-dovish party lost almost half of its supporters. Its famous leader, Yossi Sharid, announced his retirement in response to the election's disaster. Yossi Beilin and Yael Dayan, who left the Labor party, could not save it from disaster. They lost their seats in the Knesset.
The disaster of the Israeli left symbolized the rejection of the Oslo Agreements and ideas. And Peres, perhaps, will never come to power again. Israeli public views 'Oslo' as a terrible mistake and stupidity of leaders who were entrapped by the P.L.O.'s terrorists. Sharon will have 28 days after he sees the Israeli president Moshe Katsav. Then he can ask for additional 14 days for negotiation with the various parties. He declared his wish to establish a government of 'national unity.' He is looking to build a strong coalition. There are 13 parties in the 16th Knesset. His great personal achievement in this election gives him strong power and leverage and he does not have to fear Bibi Netanyahu who has strong support inside the Likud.
The Likud leadership views Bibi as the next Prime Minister to follow Sharon. It should be noted that the turn out of voters in this election was the lowest of past election history. 47 million were eligible but only 68% went to vote. Israeli average is 78%. One an a half million voters did not go to the ballots. Perhaps the reasons are: Israeli-Arabs, Olim, and Israelis living abroad (Yordim) did not vote. The following are the final results of this January 2003 election for the 16th Knesset: Likud - 38 (seats); Labor - 19; Shinui (Joseph Lapid's party) - 15; Shass - 11; Meretz - 6; One Nation (Unions Labor's Party, Amir Peretz-Histadruth) - 3; National Unity (Avigdor Liberman, Benny Alon's party. His father Gen. (Ret) Zeevy, 'Gandi,' was murdered October 2001 by Palestinian terrorists) - 7; National Religious Party (Mafdal) - 6; United Torah - 5; Yisrael Baliyah (Natan Sharansky's party but he retired from politics. It is a Russian Olim party) - 2; United Arab List - 2; Hadash (Arab-Jewish pro-communist party) - 3; and Balad (Arab party) - 3.
One can see that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has many options for establishing a strong, effective government.
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