Israeli Elections: Divided Message On Withdrawal – Economic Issues Highlight
March 29, 2006

Left-right Split 52-51
Kadima Gets Only 23% of Vote

New York – In yesterday’s Israeli elections, the electorate sent a divided message on future unilateral withdrawals and the forced expulsion of Jews from Judea & Samaria, while economic and domestic issues were probably more dominant than in any election in 30 years.

There was virtually an even split between the left of center pro-withdrawal parties and the right of center anti-withdrawal parties with the left gaining 52 seats while the right gained 51 out of the 120 Knesset seats. The left of center party Kadima’s support dropped precipitously in the last few weeks winning only 28 seats (23% of vote) after being well above 40 seats only a month ago.

It’s important to note that in the last two weeks Kadima’s Ehud Olmert made a major public issue of promoting a substantial unilateral withdrawal from Judea & Samaria and giving it to Hamas in addition to a forced expulsion of Jews from there. In the last week of the election campaign, Olmert also repeatedly declared that he would not permit any party into his government who would not accept these conditions. The more Olmert emphasized these points, the more his support fell.

The irony of Olmert’s threat of excluding anti-withdrawal parties is that even if one includes all the leftwing parties (Kadima, Labor, Meretz) and the Pension party, it still only gives Olmert 59 seats, 2 short of a majority. He will need to bring in one right wing, anti-withdrawal party to form a government, either Shas, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu, Likud, National Union – National Religious Party, or United Torah Judaism. (This, of course, assumes he won’t bring in the anti-Zionist Arab parties).

Only this morning, Eli Yishai, a leader of Shas, Israel’s third largest party (after Kadima and Labor), clearly stated that Shas will not accept any further unilateral withdrawals. And a leader of Kadima, Meir Shitreet, stated that the issue of disengagement and unilateral withdrawals is not on the agenda. He said that Kadima will concentrate on economic and domestic issues.

Another message one can derive from these election results is that economic and domestic issues played the largest role in determining the outcome in the last 30 years, possibly greater than the issue of concessions to the Palestinian regime. The fact that the Pension party gained seven seats instead of the expected one, may well have been due to Netanyahu’s economic policies which reduced government monies to the lower middle class Israelis. These Netanyahu economic policies also likely dropped Likud to their surprising 11 seat result. The Labor party also ran their campaign almost entirely on economic and other domestic and labor policies, not on land concessions to Hamas.

Other points that should be noted is that the hard left party of Meretz dropped to only 4 seats while the hard right parties of Lieberman and National Union rose to 21 seats.

Another surprising fact is that this was the lowest voter turnout in Israeli history indicating the voters frustration and despair over the apparent belief that whether there are major unilateral land giveaways and expulsions or not, peace will not be achieved with the Hamas/PA regime devoted to Israel’s destruction.

ZOA President Morton A. Klein said, “With an even split between right and left, there was clearly no message by Israelis to unilaterally withdraw from more land, let alone a mandate for such a move. Former Prime Minister Sharon himself repeatedly said before his stroke that there would be no more concessions of any sort unless and until the Palestinians fulfill all of their obligations to Oslo and the Road Map, and Sharon made this statement before the Islamic terrorist group Hamas came to power. In fact, Uri Dan, a well-known Israeli journalist and decades-long friend of Sharon, recently wrote a column saying that Olmert’s withdrawal and expulsion plan from Judea and Samaria would never have been proposed by Ariel Sharon.

“In addition, we must understand that the Sharon/Olmert Kadima party benefitted from sympathy for Sharon’s tragic medical condition, from antipathy toward Netanyahu’s economic policies, and from loyalties by Likud voters to the fourteen Likud members who switched to Kadima. Virtually none of this sympathy had much to do with the withdrawal plan.

“If the Israelis really wanted withdrawal to proceed, Olmert’s support would have strengthened in the last few weeks, not dramatically weakened.

“Finally, to see a split between the right and leftwing parties in light of the fact that virtually the entire major Israeli media supported Olmert and major land concessions shows additional weakness of the left and the withdrawal policy.

“The ZOA strongly urges that if Ehud Olmert decides on more unilateral land giveaways to the terrorist Hamas/PA regime, and the forced removal of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea & Samaria, a referendum should be strongly considered.

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