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The Winner of Israel’s Elections – Is it Really a Done Deal?

25/10/2012

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will not conclude its entire term. In 3 months from now Israel is up for a general election. After a significant amount of time in which any political development from the Middle East was related to the terms “Spring” or “Revolution” – we now have a somewhat normal, and not so much historic, democratic elections taking place in our region. Or do we?

If an alien was to arrive in London the day after Netanyahu’s announcement – it would have believed, based on the British media that these elections are extremely boring, almost unnecessary, since it is pretty much over before it has even begun, with the winner already determined: The former Prime Minister is the next Prime Minister.

The Brits are hardly to be blamed for this alien’s assumption. If another alien was to arrive in Jerusalem on the same day – it would have come to the same conclusion. However, the Israeli alien, unlike its British peer, will have had a couple more days in Israel to try and better understand the situation. Unfortunately, 3 days after the announcement, our Israeli alien is probably even more confused. Why you ask? Because he has been reading Israeli newspapers! Two days after the announcement a poll was produced saying that no matter who runs against Netanyahu – his Likud party, would receive the biggest amount of seats in the Knesset, while his possible contesters – Fmr. PM Olmert, Fmr. FM Livni, Labour leader Yehimovitch and the newcomer Lapid – could receive between 10-17 seats at best. When our alien checked anther newspaper it saw the big black headline of a poll determining who could be Netanyahu’s most significant rival.

The overall sentiment is that Netanyahu is still stronger than his possible contesters – but the emphasis was on the potentially interesting rivalry which we can expec in these elections. If that wasn’t enough to make our alien feel confused – it received yet another poll the following day – declaring that Netanyahu’s possible contesters (still Olmert and Livni) could beat Likud in these elections. “But only one day passed from the previous polls, so what the hell is going on with this country?!” the alien must have thought to himself.. .well, this is pretty much the story of these elections: it is still an open game and whoever risks in declaring its outcome now – may sound foolish in 3 months time.

It is not only the different polls (and different pollsters’ questions) which come up with different results, it is also the nature of the current Israeli political map which doesn’t enable us to really understand and predict what will be the result. New (or not so new, to be more accurate) actors joining the elections, possible mergers between current and new parties, a possible front of joined forces aimed at stopping Netanyahu from being re-elected – these are all factors which make this so called predictable election completely open, unanticipated and possibly surprising. And if the recent mixture of polls is not enough to convince our aliens – or all of you for that matter – that this is an open game, I would remind you of Israel’s previous elections (2009) in which the Likud was declared the winner after it was announced that it had received up to 37 seats, but they ended up not receiving the biggest amount of votes and instead became the 2nd largest party in the Knesset.

So, open your minds and listen up – this will be a very hot winter in Israel. Other than some showers of rain – nothing is certain about the next 3 months.