Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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

Netanyahu, Livni Locked in Tight Race

Posted by valecardia su 10 febbraio, 2009


JERUSALEM, Feb. 10 — Israelis cast their ballots Tuesday to choose a new government, with polls indicating a tight race between the parties of right-wing opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Although Netanyahu held a sizable lead for most of the campaign, Livni had nearly closed the gap in recent days, polls showed. Still, with 33 parties on the ballot, neither Netanyahu’s Likud party nor Livni’s Kadima party was expected to receive more than about a quarter of the vote, meaning each would have to rely heavily on coalition partners to construct a new government.

Most analysts believe the task would be easier for Netanyahu than for Livni because of an overall rightward shift in the electorate. Netanyahu, who was prime minister during the late 1990s, has been critical of U.S.-backed negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state. Livni, who would be Israel’s first female prime minister in nearly four decades, served as Israel’s lead negotiator during last year’s talks, and has favored continued efforts toward reaching a deal.

The vote comes less than three years after Israelis gave Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a full term in office. Olmert, a Kadima member, had to step down last year amid a corruption scandal, however, and has been serving as caretaker prime minister ever since. President Shimon Peres gave Livni the chance to form her own government in the fall, but she was unable to garner the necessary support.

The campaign, which began almost as soon as Israel ended its 22-day war in Gaza last month, has been widely derided by Israelis as lethargic and devoid of debate. Most analysts predicted that turnout would be relatively low, and cold, rainy weather in Israel on Tuesday was not expected to help.

The lowest turnout for a general election in Israeli history — 63 percent — came in 2006. Initial reports from Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the turnout by midday was slightly ahead of where it was in that year.

Across Israel, millions went to the polls, although many insisted they were not enthusiastic about the task.

“I voted Kadima because it’s the least of all evils. I wasn’t excited about any of them,” said retired engineer Baruch Ziv, 78, after casting his ballot in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion. “The politicians — their ideals are gone. Money and that seat in parliament are more important.”

Others were more satisfied with their choices.

“I believe in Livni, and I want a woman as prime minister,” said Dorit Bodin, 39, after voting at a school on a wind-swept hilltop overlooking Jerusalem. “She can bring a new attitude.”

Netanyahu supporters tended to cite security as their main concern.

“We want a leader who is strong and who won’t let America and Europe tell us how to behave,” said Malka Levy, 66, who is retired from work in the archaeology department at the Israel Museum. “Since I was a child, I’ve known war. Now I want safety.”

Behind Netanyahu and Livni in the polls are ultra-nationalist leader Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who heads the center-left Labor Party. Lieberman has risen rapidly in the polls on the strength of his slogan, “Without loyalty, no citizenship.”

The cry is aimed at Israeli Arabs, who represent about 20 percent of the country’s population and are suspected by some in the Jewish community of being unpatriotic. Lieberman has proposed that every citizen be required to pledge loyalty to the Jewish state. He could be in a powerful position after the vote, with both Livni and Netanyahu courting his support to help build a coalition.

“I voted for Lieberman,” said Marina Pesachovich, 42, who is originally from Ukraine. “He is strong on defense. He knows how to deal with the Arabs in a way they will understand.”

Lieberman’s message has not been well received in Israel’s Arab communities, where many believe the candidate is deliberately stoking racist attitudes for electoral gain.

“He makes me worry about the situation here in Israel,” said Ezat Othman, a 38-year-old lawyer, after voting in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh. “Since the war in Gaza, everyone’s going to the right.”

It will be up to Peres to decide who gets the first crack at creating a new government. Traditionally, the president chooses the party that receives the most seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament, or Knesset, but he is not obligated to do so. In an interview published Tuesday in the Hebrew daily Maariv, Netanyahu, 59, warned that a Livni government would be unstable because she does not have enough support from smaller parties to form a strong government.

“Israel cannot afford superfluous domestic crises and a leadership that is like a wagon with different horses pulling it in different directions,” he said.

Livni, 50, told the paper that Israel needs “a leadership that has vision and a backbone of values and morals.” She has presented herself as a break from the allegations of corruption that have swirled around many of Israel’s leaders in the past decade, including Netanyahu.

If Netanyahu emerges as the leading vote-getter Tuesday, he could face a choice between forming a right-wing government that relies on support from Lieberman and several religious parties, or a national unity government that includes Labor, Kadima or both. Polls in Israel will remain open until 10 p.m. local time. As soon as they close, the nation’s television networks plan to release exit poll results, and the vote counting is expected to begin.

 By Griff Witte

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 10, 2009; 11:49 AM

Special correspondents Samuel Sockol and Hillary Zaken contributed to this report.




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