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The Election Outcome - What it Means

By Michael Freund
3/29/2006, 12:00 AM

The results of Israel’s elections are in. As I predicted in yesterday’s posting, the polls proved to be inaccurate, and Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party came in with 28 seats while the right-wing and religious parties did better than expected.

It will take some time for the dust to settle, and for the demands of the various factions to become clear. But at this stage, it is worth noting the following key points regarding the outcome:

1 - Olmert did not receive a mandate for further withdrawals. His Kadima party got fewer than a quarter of the votes, which is hardly a ringing endorsement by the electorate for his plan to uproot thousands of Jews from their homes.

2 – The anti-religious left was nearly wiped off the political map. In the outgoing Knesset, Shinui and Meretz together had more than 20 seats, or over one-sixth of the parliament. In this week’s balloting, Shinui was erased from the political scene, and Meretz dropped to just four seats. This is a stinging slap in the face to these two parties, whose platforms focused on making Israel into a more secular, and less Jewish, state.

3 – The electorate is growing increasingly disenchanted with “politics as usual”. With 28 seats, Kadima may be the leading party, but this is among the smallest number of mandates ever to be held by the largest faction in the Knesset. A loud and clear protest vote took place, with the joint National Union-National Religious Party receiving just 9 seats, and the Likud getting a mere 11. Votes flowed in large numbers to Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (13 mandates) and the Pensioners’ Party (7 mandates).

Obviously, Israelis are tired of being duped by politicians, who promise one thing before the election only to carry out something entirely different afterwards.

And frankly – who can blame them?