Israel’s remarkable election, which is likely to yield a government short on longevity, may have pushed old warhorses of realpolitik into twilight, opening the door for fresh and younger faces to emerge. “This is a moment of inflexion where the old guard is fading out, but a new one is yet to fully emerge,” says Barak Ravid, diplomatic correspondent of Haaretz newspaper. Sharing his views in an upscale café — the haunt of artists, writers and ponytailed cinema buffs — he added: “We experienced a similar phenomenon after the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The Labour Party managed to win then by a thinner margin in the 1974 elections, but those polls really set the tone for the assertion of Likud, which subsequently became an extremely formidable force.”
From his perch in East Jerusalem’s picturesque Wadi Jose, Mahdi F.Abdul Hadi, head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), also observed that the elections were a turning point — a paradigm shift — in Israeli politics. “The 1.5 million supporters of Avigdor Lieberman (leader of right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu) have failed in their project to eject Arabs out of Israel. The elections also showed that the half-million settlers in West Bank and East Jerusalem are also not the future. Finally (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu was bluntly told by the electorate that he no longer is king,” said Dr. Abdul Hadi.
The deep ideological contradictions among the parties, inhibiting the formation of a common coalition platform, are likely to shorten the life-span of the new government. Consequently, Yair Lapid, the star performer of the elections, whose party Yesh Atid managed to grab 19 crucial seats may have already begun to position himself as a Prime Ministerial candidate for the next elections, says Mr. Ravid, the journalist. Despite the offer of several plum ministerial posts by Mr. Netanyahu in the next coalition, Mr. Lapid could prefer the less controversial foreign minister’s portfolio, rejecting offers of finance or defence minister where he would be under the scanner to show hard-to- achieve short term results.
However, some of his well-wishers say that if he chose to turn really creative, Mr. Lapid could team up in parliament with the Tzipi Lvini, whose Hatnuah party won six seats and Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima that managed two. With 27 seats under his command then, the charismatic former television presenter could strike a bargain with the Likud-Beiteinu combine of Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Lieberman, and become deputy prime minister. The portfolios of foreign and defence minister could go to Ms. Livni and Mr. Mofaz. Unless severely jolted by the Obama administration in its second outing, the emerging government in Israel is unlikely to revive peace talks with the Palestinians unilaterally. Many liberal Israelis are of the view that fresh life can be breathed into the moribund peace process only if two strategic decisions are taken: there is a formal declaration against construction of additional settlements, and more area in the West Bank is committed for the formation of a viable Palestinian state. But sceptics say that with the Prime Minister handling the Palestinian issue, such an initiative appears remote, so long as Mr. Netanyahu is at the helm.
Some analysts opine that four years of general “stagnation” under Mr. Netanyahu, when he seemed out of tune with the hopes and aspirations of the young middle class, went a long way in triggering the demand for change. The 2011 protests which turned the trendy Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv into an encampment of the aggrieved, was in itself a demonstration of a simmering middle class revolt, which most old world politicians failed to grasp. “These protests may re-ignite, with larger consequences if the new government remains unresponsive,” observed Dani Abrahimi, a Tel Aviv based former computer engineer-turned-avid Indophile.
The elections were also a blow for the established center-left Labour Party, which, in terms of seats, plummeted to a third position after Mr. Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Mr. Ravid attributes its poor showing to some pretty shocking tactical blunders during the election campaign by the party’s leader Shelly Yachimovich. “Ms. Yachimovich told Channel 7 radio—which is settlers’ radio that had once railed non-stop against former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of the architects of the peace process-- that the Labour party was not a left-wing party.” The rival Meretz party pounced on the unexpected opportunity, and swiftly coined a catchy slogan: “Left-wing comes home.”