Photo: AFP
Olmert at Western Wall
Photo: AFP

Elections 2006: Israeli earthquake

Make no mistake about it: These elections most dramatic in years

Take everything you've heard for the past several weeks and chuck it straight in the garbage. Tonight it became clear: This election was dramatic, perhaps the most dramatic we've had here for many years. It was nothing short of a political earthquake.


As expected, Kadima won the largest number of seats. Ehud Olmert will apparently put together and head the next government. A man who just a year ago was one of the most unpopular politicians in Israel has become prime minister, riding on Arik Sharon's shoulders, while Sharon himself lies unconscious in a Jerusalem hospital.


Who would have believed it? Who could have predicted? Drama, you remember?


Real surprises


But the real surprise, the real story here, is the Labor Party, the Pensioners Party, the Likud and Israel Our Home. These parties provided the real drama tonight, the story everyone will talk about tomorrow morning round the office coffee machine.


They did what no one believed they could do: They surprised us, and how. Some good surprises, some bad.


The Likud, for example, has completely disintegrated. The electorate took its revenge on the party that has become the filthiest political body, the most hated party in the country.


In light of the initial exit poll results, we can stop talking about the past and start talking about the future. Starting tonight, we can talk about the next coalition, about the government that will run the country for the next few years.


Even before polls closed, Kadima was talking about foregoing major government ministries. No more arrogant pride in Kadima, but rather, waking up to reality. Kadima now has to reconcile itself to the results that have been made sharp and clear: The Labor Party and Amir Peretz, who placed social and economic issues at the fore of this campaign, will determine the future character of Israel.


Labor will not sit idly by the government table. It will join the government as a senior partner, with major portfolios, and Amir Peretz is the first person since the late Yitzhak Rabin to strengthen the Labor Party.


Rising stars


The Likud, on the other hand, has been thrown in the garbage by the Israeli public. Tonight's results were terrible for the party that has run the country since 1977. Many people will point the finger at party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu for the party's failure, but he is not the only guilty party.


The entire Likud, with the way it conducts its affairs, with its attitude to Arik Sharon, with its haughty arrogance, made itself an unwanted entity to the Israeli public. This is absolutely clear.


The Pensioners Party, who tonight became the biggest surprise of the elections, is a protest party. As bizarre as it may seem that an old folks party could have some relevance for legions of young people around the country, it has actually happened. Tens of thousands of Israelis who couldn't bear to vote for the same people who have made politics disgusting voted for the retirees. The Pensioners could yet find themselves sitting in government.


Last but not least is Israel Our Home, which tonight became the new Likud, Israel's new right-wing party. Israelis, headed by new immigrants, came out in droves to put their faith in Lieberman. Tonight, strange as it may seem, Lieberman is seen as more pragmatic than the Likud.


פרסום ראשון: 03.29.06, 02:50
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