Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Gaza assault helps the hawks

Posted by Alessandro Accorsi su 21 gennaio, 2009

Vita Bekker, Foreign Correspondent

The National-UAE

TEL AVIV // Israel’s declaration of a ceasefire in Gaza was also its starting shot for a war on its political front.

The country’s national elections are due to take place in three weeks and their results are expected to be heavily influenced by the three-week-long onslaught in the Gaza Strip.

Although political parties had suspended their electioneering during the military assault to show a united front and avoid infighting, they are now gearing up for short but intense campaigns that are each aimed at reaping political dividends from the Gaza operation.

Polls made public this week point out those who have gained and those who have not from Israel’s bloodiest assault against Palestinians in decades.

Ehud Barak, the defence minister and Israel’s most decorated soldier, emerged as the biggest winner from the operation, which was supported by more than 90 per cent of Israeli Jews despite its scale of Palestinian casualties – more than 1,300 dead – and widespread denunciations abroad.

Polls show that Mr Barak’s left-of-centre Labor Party, a key part of the ruling coalition led by the centrist Kadima Party, doubled the number of seats it may occupy to 16 in Israel’s 120-member parliament from the eight seats it was expected to obtain just a month ago.

But those gains are not enough to catapult Mr Barak to the helm of the government, a spot he has coveted since serving as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. Labor remains a distant third or fourth in the race for the premiership, led by the opposition right-wing party Likud and Kadima.

The polls showed that Likud, whose leader Benjamin Netanyahu is another former prime minister, is still the front-runner, polling about 30 parliamentary seats, while Kadima – led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister – is slated to obtain as few as 24 seats, with several slots said to have been lost to Labor in recent weeks.

Pollsters warned that the results could still change dramatically because about one quarter of the Israeli public has yet to decide on a candidate.

Analysts said that even as Likud had no hand in the decision-making of the Gaza campaign because it is not part of the ruling coalition, it advanced in polls along with other hawkish movements.

“In accordance with the history that’s familiar to us from the last few decades, wars strengthen the right-wing bloc even if they are managed by centre-left governments,” Yossi Verter, a commentator in Haaretz, a left-wing daily newspaper, wrote yesterday.

Indeed, with the polls showing that the right-wing bloc may obtain a small majority of about 64 seats in parliament, a victory by Mr Netanyahu would allow him to form a government with other hardline parties rather than with the more dovish Labor and Kadima.

Ms Livni, leader of Kadima, appears to have emerged somewhat bruised from the Gaza assault despite being part of the war’s decision-making trio along with Mr Barak and Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. Analysts said Kadima has probably not yet recovered from its popularity drop after Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon, which many Israelis had accused the ruling party of handling badly, and the corruption scandals that forced Mr Olmert, the former Kadima leader, to resign the premiership in September. Mr Olmert is staying on as caretaker prime minister until after elections.

The emergence of security as a top issue for voters after the Gaza fighting has also put the Kadima leader at a disadvantage because Ms Livni is viewed as less experienced on defence matters than Mr Barak or Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu’s campaign, for example, plans to revive a slogan it used before the operation against Ms Livni in coming days: “Tzipi Livni – Out of Her League.”

Furthermore, as head of the ruling party and as foreign minister, Ms Livni would be politically most vulnerable to criticism from the Right that the operation was called off prematurely and that the army’s achievements had not been translated into a diplomatic success. Ms Livni has already faced blame for a resolution passed by the UN Security Council less than two weeks after the assault started calling for an immediate ceasefire and a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu wasted no time zeroing in on his biggest rival this week, just hours after Israel’s unilateral ceasefire came into effect, when he criticised the operation’s results and said the “job has not been completed”.

Photographed shaking the hands of wounded soldiers in a hospital, Mr Netanyahu said: “Hamas still controls Gaza and it will continue to smuggle in new missiles.”

Indicating he would act aggressively not only against Hamas but also against others perceived by Israelis as a threat, like Iran or Hizbollah, he added: “We cannot show any weakness in the face of the Iranian-backed Hamas terror and must act with an iron fist to defeat the enemy.”





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