"Forming a new government based on the votes of 431 Kadima members would be a legal farce," says Likud whip MK Gideon Saar.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the new Kadima party leader and the Prime Minister-designate, won her party's primaries on Wednesday by a scant 1.1% margin. The difference between her and Transportation Minister Sha'ul Mofaz amounted to only 431 votes, from among the fewer than 40,000 Kadima members who voted.
"A Prime Minister in Israel should be democratically elected by the entire nation," Saar said this morning, "and not by 431 party members. Forming a new government in these circumstances would be a legal farce that would strike a clear blow at Israeli democracy."
"The parties should display national responsibility, sit together and determine an agreed-upon date for new Knesset elections," Saar said.
Calls for new elections have also been heard from the Labor Party, even though it is currently a coalition member and virtually certain to join Livni's government. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon and MK Shelly Yechimovitch are the two leading Labor voices calling to allow the public to choose the next Prime Minister. Simchon is a close confidante of Labor leader Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is said to strongly favor new elections. During the Kadima election campaign, Barak came out openly against Livni's candidacy.
Livni now has 42 days to form a new government, throughout which period Ehud Olmert will remain Prime Minister, even if he tenders his resignation. Labor ministers have said that they are not in her pocket, though these threats are not being taken very seriously, while Shas is saying that it will join a Livni government only under certain conditions.
"If Livni wants a government," Shas leader and Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai said, "she must meet our demands. If money for underprivileged children is blackmail, then we're blackmailers." He also said that Shas would sit in a Livni-led government only if Jerusalem is not divided. Livni heads the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority that the PA has said are leading to the division of Jerusalem.
Livni herself said, "We have a national mission, and that is to quickly build stability in the Israeli government. We must meet various threats, and there is financial instability. This is not my responsibility alone, but also that of my colleagues in Kadima and the other parties."
Media Predictions Were Way Off
The media is licking its wounds after predicting unanimously last night that Livni had won by a 10-12% margin. The nation's top pollsters admitted that the phone polls asking voters how they had voted were open to distortion. Veteran Israeli pollster Mina Tzemach said, "There really is a problem, and we have to sit and figure out how it happened."
Yitzchak: Media Lied in Order to Help Livni
Some blamed the media not only for mistakes, but even for purposely distorting the pre-election trends in order to bring victory to Livni. "The media publicized purposeful lies," writes Yoav Yitzchak of the Hebrew-language NFC news site, "and failed their obligation to work on behalf of the purity of the democratic process. [I refer] specifically to Yediot Acharonot, Maariv, Haaretz, and Channel Two... For many weeks they have brainwashed the public, specifically the Kadima voters, publicizing again and again that Tzipi Livni is winning by 10-20%. They publicized this over and over, with the purpose of creating public opinion, possibly in the hope that the false polls will in the end bring the result that they want. By doing so, they greatly hurt the chances of the other candidates..."