Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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

Israel: Hardline nationalists savour pre-election boost in polls

Posted by claudiacampli su 2 febbraio, 2009

Times

Israeli politics are set to take a sharp turn to the right at next week’s general elections, with hardline nationalist parties surging ahead in polls in response to the war in Gaza.

In a measure of the resurgence of the Israeli Right, the hawkish party Yisrael Beitenu may even squeeze out the Labour Party to take third place in the vote on February 10. That would mark a distinct shift in the political landscape. Labour was Israel’s founding party and ruled for decades before slowly losing out to new right-wing parties such as Likud in the 1970s.

Likud is expected to take about 30 seats in the 120-member parliament, making its leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister for a second time. Labour may trail fourth with 16 seats after what is set to be a neck-and-neck race with Yisrael Beitenu, whose tough, uncompromising rhetoric resonates with a population increasingly disillusioned by a series of failed peace talks and an increasingly belligerent Hamas.

The centre-right Kadima party, founded by the former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and led by former Likud members tired of the party’s lurch to the right, is expected to take second place. It currently heads the coalition that has been brought down by corruption allegations against Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Prime Minister, and by deep rifts between the party’s new leader, Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister, and her senior coalition partner, Ehud Barak, the Labour leader and Defence Minister.

Yesterday Mr Olmert hardened his tone on Gaza, threatening “harsh and disproportionate” retaliation in case of more rocket attacks. Later in the day, rockets were fired into southern Israel, wounding three people. Israel responded by bombing the Gaza-Egypt border area where Hamas smuggles in weapons through tunnels and a security headquarters in central Gaza. There were no reports of casualties.

Mr Barak’s crushing offensive against Hamas in Gaza has boosted his party’s standing but it may not be enough to see off Yisrael Beitenu and its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, a Soviet-born hardliner who has broken out of his traditional support base in Israel’s large Russian community and hit the mainstream.

Mr Lieberman – hailed by supporters as the Jewish Vladimir Putin but dubbed a racist by his critics – lives on a settlement in the West Bank and has angered Israel’s Arab MPs by referring to them as “fifth columnists” for the Palestinian cause.

According to Uzi Landau, a veteran Likud MP who crossed over to Yisrael Beitenu, that unflinching stance is capturing more support in Israel. He spoke of a “significant disillusion” among Israelis over past hopes of reaching a peace deal. “They had much faith in the Palestinians but they have seen that the more you make concessions, the more you have terrorism,” he told The Times. Both Mr Netanyahu and Yisrael Beitenu have said that the Government made a mistake in ending the Gaza war before Hamas had been eradicated.

Mr Landau believes that Likud will opt for a government of national unity rather than one based solely on right-wing national-religious parties, which means wooing Kadima and Labour into government. While inclusive, such a coalition would be fractious and could break down rapidly, leading either to new elections or to a cobbling together of a hard-right alliance.

Mr Netanyahu has already rejected talk by Kadima of cutting the number of Jewish settlers and dividing Jerusalem with a new Palestinian state. “I will not keep Olmert’s commitments to withdraw and I won’t evacuate settlements,” he said last week.

He has also promised an unflinching line against Iran’s alleged nuclear programme and believes that Israeli forces must stay in the West Bank to prevent Hamas from toppling the Fatah-led administration there.

In the running

Likud Israel’s main right-wing party, set to win the February 10 elections and form a new coalition led by Binyamin Netanyahu, the hawkish former Prime Minister

Kadima Splinter party of Likud founded by Ariel Sharon and inherited by Ehud Olmert. The new leader, Tzipi Livni, is struggling to shrug off the tarnish of corruption allegations around Mr Olmert

Labour Israel’s founding party, now floundering in polls, although it has enjoyed something of a comeback over its handling of the Gaza war by its leader Ehud Barak as Defence Minister

Yisrael Beitenu Founded by Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right leader, as a party for Russia’s large immigrant community in Israel, it has espoused a hard line towards any peace settlement

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