Israel's Elections - The Obama Connection

Analysis: Did Obama convince Livni to try a comeback? Why that quick ceasefire?

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Rochel Sylvetsky, A7 Man. Ed.,

Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum
Israel news photo: Flash 90

There are only a few days left until the final lists must be submitted for the January elections in Israel.

Parties and candidates, mostly on the left-of-center, euphemistically called "Center" since Ariel Sharon's Kadima used the adjective for his now-ailing Kadima party, have been sprouting like mushrooms.

Israelis may be feeling that some ambitious and opportunistic people simply wake up one morning and decide to run for Knesset, because it's easy to get on a new list, especially if you have a recognizable name. Some of those candidates must be hoping that voters don't remember anything more about them besides their name, and some have nothing for anyone to remember.

Hey, you guys, one wants to say, running this country is serious business.

Obama certainly thinks so. That may be the real reason that Obama snatched a clearer victory in Gaza from our Prime Minister by forcing an early ceasefire, when a few more days of pounding Gaza weapons stores, tunnels and terrorists would have made a big difference in Gazan perception of Hamas' strength and bolstered Bibi's image.

Obama did not want Netanyahu to go up in the polls by doing what Israelis wanted him to do. The look on the Prime Minister's face when announcing the ceasefire on TV told it all.

The point Israel had to make in Pillar of Defense is that people who don't have an air force should not launch rockets at Israeli civilians, but it was stopped just short of being definitive on that one.

The ground troops were a real possibility, a threat, or maybe a waste, since Israel was not going to level Gaza as General Sherman did to the South in the Civil War.

That ceasefire move, however, backfired on Bibi-bashers, as polls showed that Israelis seemed to have moved to the right of the Likud in reaction to it -- and the votes for the Likud list subsequently proved that to be the case.

Now, it is quite possible, considering Rahm Emanuel's diatribe against the PM as reported on Channel 2 TV, that Obama is interfering more obviously as Israeli elections get closer.

It is also quite possible that Obama is behind Tzipi Livni's attempted comeback as a self-proclaimed alternative to Netanyahu. Otherwise, her move is a rather inexplicable gesture and one about which the other leftist and center-left parties, who offered her spot 2, are furious as each will be the source of any Knesset seats she gets.

Livni, the lackluster head of the new party named for herself, probably didn't need much persuasion, as Israeli politicians are often sore losers. After all, she was ousted as head of Kadima and also failed to agree to join Netanyahu's coalition, a blessing to Netanyahu who was all set to make the mistake of his political life. She left the Knesset after her defeat in Kadima's internal elections, but that means nothing in Israel.

All in all, the left, once lauded for sticking together -- a claim which once made the religious Zionists green with jealousy -- has broken into fragments, while the religious Zionists and the right have formed two blocs. And Obama will probably have to live with Prime Minister Netanyahu for another term.