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What Today’s Election Means

If Israel has voted for change today it is not for change of the political map – it’s for a change of the political system. Whatever one might think about the outcome of this election, it is clear to most observers that this can’t continue: political parties should not rule with less than one quarter of the mandates. A Prime Minister can’t seriously make policy when he (or she) has to compromise with so many parties over so many issues just to maintain his coalition.

Israel has not voted for any of the parties. It did not vote for any of the ideologies. It did not vote for something – but rather against: those voting for Livni voted against Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu. Those voting for Israel Beiteinu and Avigdor Lieberman voted against the ruling elites.

But they also voted against the political system. Lieberman made a name for himself as the scary candidate promising to change the relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. However, Lieberman has many other important items on his agenda and one of them is the need to change the system and give the Prime Minister more power (those fearing him tremble when they think of the prospect of a more powerful Prime Minister Lieberman). This longstanding desire for system change is the tempting promise Kadima is now dangling in the hope that Lieberman might grab the achievement he can get – the achievement he’ll be able to take credit for.

The speakers of Kadima have a simple message to Lieberman: with Kadima and Labor you can have this success – with Netanyahu you can’t. Netanyahu, they say, is committed to other parties, namely, the religious parties, and will not be able to implement such change. One Kadima Minister went even further, suggesting that Lieberman join the coalition until this change is completed, and promised that another election round will be scheduled when this is done.

Labor’s Ehud Barak also dedicated a significant portion of his election night speech to the need to better the system. Of course, that’s a more understandable position when it comes from a losing party. Yet again, Kadima and Lieberman, both on the winning side of this day also sing the same tune – and I think they will have another important supporter: the public.


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