Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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

Now it is time for electoral warfare in Israel

Posted by claudiacampli su 21 gennaio, 2009

Times

After 22 days of war in Gaza Israel is about to embark on another brutal three-week conflict — only this time the battlefield is political.

The country holds a general election on February 10 that pits the Defence Minister against the Foreign Minister in a battle to succeed the outgoing Prime Minister — a perpetually feuding troika that ran Operation Cast Lead. But the likely winner of the vote will be Binyamin Netanyahu, a man who played no role whatsoever in the prosecution of the highly popular offensive against Hamas.

“Bibi” and his right-wing Likud party led the opinion polls even before the fighting, but they are now exploiting a widespread feeling amongst Israelis that the Government ended the war too soon. “We have a strong people and a strong military that dealt a harsh blow to Hamas, but unfortunately the work is still not done,” Mr Netanyahu, 59, said after the ceasefire

“Hamas still controls Gaza and will still try to smuggle weapons into Gaza…We cannot show weakness against Hamas and its Iranian supporters. We need a strong, unwavering, persistent hand until the threat is eliminated.”

This is more than mere opportunism. The hawkish Mr Netanyahu has long called for the destruction of Hamas, and in 2005 he resigned from Ariel Sharon’s Government over its decision to withdraw from Gaza — a territory he labelled “Hamastan”.

Polls suggest that Likud will win about 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, up from its present 12, with the centrist Kadima party dropping from 29 to about 25 and its junior coalition partner, the leftist Labour party, set to win 14.

Even more than Likud, the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party is arguing that the ceasefire was premature. “The soldiers succeeded, but the politicians failed. They didn’t let the army complete the operation,” Avigdor Lieberman, its leader, told the Haaretz newspaper. “What was achieved here? Zip, nada.”

Polls suggest that Yisrael Beiteinu will win 14 seats, up from its present 11; with the support of small religious parties, that would give the right-wing bloc a majority of about 10.

The prospect must be galling for both Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister and Labour leader, and Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister and head of Kadima. They masterminded the war against Hamas with Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, who is stepping down over allegations of corruption.

Mr Barak’s support has been boosted by the war, but only by enough to save the once-great party of David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir from electoral oblivion. Although he backed the war with reluctance and pressed for its swift conclusion, Mr Barak, 66, is Israel’s most decorated soldier and widely credited with the success of a military operation that laid the ghost of Israel’s failed attempt to crush Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. “Barak is Mr Defence and a man who proved he can keep his cool under pressure,” said a Labour party official.

Support for Kadima and Ms Livni — she also pressed for a quick end to the war — has fallen. She is seen as inexperienced and was blamed for some of Israel’s diplomatic failures, notably the UN Security Council’s vote demanding an immediate ceasefire. Likud is thinking of reviving a campaign poster showing an exhausted Ms Livni beside the words: “Out of her league.”

Ms Livni, 50, can expect little support from Mr Olmert, having publicly demanded his resignation as Kadima party leader after the Lebanon war, but she will not go down meekly.

She will emphasise that Mr Netanyahu, as Prime Minister, freed Hamas’s spiritual mentor Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from prison in 1997, and missed a chance to assassinate its present chief, Khaled Mashaal. She will also argue that he lacks judgment and caution. “The public doesn’t just want a strong leader, but a smart leader who knows when to attack and when to stop,” she said this week.

Yesterday’s Jerusalem Post reported that the Kadima campaign has also been collecting disparaging remarks about Mr Netanyahu from Hillary Clinton, the new US Secretary of State, and her husband Bill who, as president, was infuriated by Mr Netanyahu.

The war may be finished, but Israelis will not lack for bloodsport over the next 21 days. One ceasefire merely ended another.

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