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21 2011

Israeli Politics 101 – Part 3

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

In Canada, it’s a slam dunk --- win the most number of seats in an election, and your party automatically gets a chance to try to form the government. In Israel, not so. The president will call upon whichever party leader he believes has the best chance to create a working coalition. And in the last Israeli election, that wasn’t the first place party. That party is called “Kadima,” --- the Hebrew word for “Forward.” It was created in 2005 by former Likud leader Ariel Sharon, and some other disaffected Likud and Labour members of the Knesset, who thought a moderate and centrist, rather than more ideological approach would be useful in Israeli politics. Now, for two consecutive elections, Kadima has won the largest number of seats: 29 in 2006, and 28 in 2008. In 2006, Kadima did form the government under Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert. But despite topping the seat count in 2008, Kadima did not form a governing coalition. And here’s part of the reason why. Remember, Israeli elections aren’t about the economy. They’re decided on two other axes: Hawks vs. Doves, and Religious Jews vs. Israeli Arabs.  Political scientists are trying to fit Kadima somewhere onto that template but can’t. “They’re not hawkish, but not dovish either,” says Hebrew University political science professor Reuven Hazan. “They’re not religious, but not secular either.” Hebrew University political science professor Reuven Hazan Unlike the Hawks, Kadima doesn’t want to hang on to the West Bank or Gaza Strip, believing those territories’ traditional use as buffer zones against invading tanks and soldiers is no longer necessary. That’s because Israel’s enemies now fire missiles from hidden locations, deep inside the territories. Being a centrist party, can Kadima create a bridge from the Hawks to the Doves?  That question remains, as Israelis ponder their choices leading up to the next election, expected some time in 2013, if not earlier, since most coalition governments never last the full four-year term. In our next post, we’ll follow-up on Kadima with one of its star MKs.

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