February 15, 2009

Israeli elections 2

To return briefly to the subject of Israeli elections I thought i'd provide a number of links. I would like to emphaise i'm linking because I find the articles interesting (particularly in the political analysis/ reportage)-not because I necessarily agree with them at all-as one can see from the degree to which they contradict each other.

Israeli politics is very polarized and virulent and Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem post(a right wing Likudnik) column's are an excellent example of that and that is one reason why I include her column- . I also think though that her two fold interpretation of the election is a very reasonable one (that it is a victory for kadima among the left and the right among swing voters). Her assessment that particular in Israel itself a government that includes "leftwing" parties can command more power to take hawkish stands strikes me as a very strong one. Both assessments are also supported by this Haartz column by Yitzak Laor. Laor's normative views are very far removed from Glick's but (with the exception of the disputable role he gives to the poltical power of "street action") his assessment of the election is very very similar.

A rather different take was taken by Shmael Rosner (of the Jerusalem Post but writing in the center-left New Republic- an american media outfit which tends to take centrist positions on Israeli elections). He see's the victory as a defeat for ideology- with likud being fundamentally a centrist party that shares a broad consensus of distrust of the Palestinian authorities and a willingness to concede peace. In a sense he disagrees with Glick/ Laor on the degree to which Likud is willing to compromise. My feeling is his right-but that does not mean he will not be proven wrong in practice in the sense the Likud may find any actually suggested deal unacceptable.

I think very powerful arguments are made by former US assistant secretary of state (and a big supporter of Israeli territorial concessions) Walker that in fact Netanyahu is far more "pragmatic" and willing to make concessions than the Glick/ Laor axis suggests ( on a factual note technically it should be noted Began was willing to hand over parts of the West Bank to "Palestinian" control just not Palestinian authority-but new local government authorities). Here incidentally is an article in 1999 (when Netanyahu was defeated for reelection) by Daniel Pipes- very much a hawk in Israeli taking Walker's view of the last Netanyahu government in a stronger form-as a leader whose tough rhetoric blinded rather than revealed his actual course of policy.

Finally one news story and one post. This interesting report by an Israeli (who I assume backs Kadima from Halevi's previous writings) on the Israeli city of Acre-where both Yisrael Beiteinu and the openly Arab Nationalist party Balad (which has seats in the Knesset) are very strong. I think the reporting sheds light on at least two things- firstly that leaders never mind voters on both sides are not necessarily simple stereotypes of bigotry but in fact can have a real appreciation of individuals on the other side and are motivated by fear more than anything else. Secondly it helps show the way in which Balad and Yisrael Beiteinu feed off each other politically.

Finally the power of Israeli hawks and other groups unpopular with the international media is often credited/ blamed on Israel's proportional representation system. I've always regarded this as a flawed analysis and I think Matthew Yglesais here gives some reasons why-the notion large minorities do not matter in a first past the post system is absurd. I think it should be noticed opposition to PR has often been a cause of the Israeli "hard right"!


Vino S said...

On the topic of the israeli election system, it seems that many of the parties have significant geographical concentration of their voters. As such, even a move to first-past-the-post would lead to a multi-party parliament rather than a 2-party duopoly.

This article illustrates the point: http://fruitsandvotes.com/?p=2453

Different parties came 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc in different areas. In Kiryat Shamona, Likud came first; in Katzrin YB came 1st; in Nazareth Hadash came 1st; in Jerusalem Likud came 1st fairly closely followed by UTJ etc.

First-past-the-post would thus still leave a multi-party parliament _and_ would cause the extra problem of fairly disproportionate results.