Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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

Israelis Vote in Volatile Contest for New Leader

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 10 febbraio, 2009

JERUSALEM — Israeli voters went to the polls Tuesday with public opinion polls showing many still wavering until the last minute in deciding whom to support.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party has led in all the recent polls, with the centrist Kadima Party, led by Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister, following close behind. The narrowing of the gap between them in the last few days injected a measure of energy into what had been a largely listless campaign.

But with little certainty or excitement about the results in a nation weary of its politics, hopes rose in recent days that before leaving office, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might cut a deal for the release of a captured Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

The return of the soldier, who was seized by Hamas and other Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid and taken into Gaza in June 2006, would close a circle for the Israeli government, which came to power that May, and would burnish the reputations of Mr. Olmert, who is unpopular and is often criticized as weak and corrupt, and those ministers who seek to replace him.

For American foreign policy, the elections have seemed particularly important, given how early they are arriving in the administration of President Obama, who has signaled a different approach to the Middle East from his predecessor’s. But the uncertainty over who might win, and whether any new coalition would be more centrist or right wing, has made it difficult to forecast directions in the friendship between America and Israel.

For months, Israelis assumed that a victory for Mr. Netanyahu was a foregone conclusion, based on successive opinion polls. But in the final days of the campaign, the election became too close to call.

The leading candidates, Mr. Netanyahu and Ms. Livni, appealed to their natural constituencies not to waste votes on smaller, special interest parties.

Mr. Netanyahu, who had been somewhat vague on policy in the hope of attracting the widest possible support, made a pitch to the right, visiting the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday and pledging not to hand the region back to Syria, from which Israel seized it in 1967.

Likud urged Israeli conservatives not to give their votes to Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu, a hawkish party that rose to third place in recent polls; Likud warned that every vote that did not go to Likud would only benefit Ms. Livni.

Based on similar logic, Ms. Livni, who led negotiations with the Western-backed Palestinian leadership of the West Bank over the last year, appealed to voters in the center and on the left.

Mr. Olmert, who was accused of corruption and was pushed to resign from office — partly by Ms. Livni, who replaced him at Kadima’s helm — belatedly endorsed her candidacy late Sunday.

“It will come as no surprise when I say that I support Kadima and hope Tzipi Livni will be elected prime minister,” Mr. Olmert said, describing her as “the candidate who can lead the state of Israel to peace.”

Regardless of the erosion of the Likud Party’s lead, recent polls suggest that the right-wing bloc in the new Parliament is likely to be much stronger than the center-left bloc, which would make it easier for Mr. Netanyahu to form a governing coalition.

Both Mr. Netanyahu and Ms. Livni have stated a preference for a national unity government, possibly including the Labor Party, which is led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak; it had the fourth largest following in recent polls.

In all, 33 parties are running in the election, though many of them have little or no chance of passing the threshold for representation in Parliament, 2 percent of votes cast. Among them are two green parties and others fighting for the rights of divorced fathers, against organized crime, and against banks’ greed.

In a bizarre combination that was intended to attract attention and votes — and that some have found distasteful — Holocaust survivors joined forces with alumni of the Green Leaf Party, who advocate legalizing cannabis. The cannabis advocates endorse the survivors’ rights to more benefits. The survivors endorse the younger generation’s right to get high.

Whoever wins Tuesday’s election, the negotiations for forming a governing coalition are likely to take weeks.

It is during that time, alongside an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire for Gaza, that Israeli officials hope to reach a formula for the release of Corporal Shalit.

Mr. Barak said Sunday that a “supreme effort” was being made for the soldier’s return. Hamas has demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners from Israeli jails, including some convicted of deadly terrorist acts.

Rafi Eitan, a cabinet minister who was recently asked to join the small government team working on the Shalit case, told Army Radio on Monday that it was “very likely that the entire process involving Hamas and Gilad Shalit will mature during Olmert’s term.”

Mr. Olmert has cautioned against undue expectations, calling recent Israeli news reports of an imminent deal “exaggerated and damaging,” and urging “due caution regarding all that is said.”

Corporal Shalit’s family, which has been critical of government inaction in the past, issued a statement on Monday saying it believed the current government was “working with full determination to fulfill its obligation — to bring Gilad Shalit home before the end of its term.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/11/world/middleeast/11israel.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast

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