Israeli Elections 2006

On December 8, 2005, Israeli President Moshe Katsav disbanded the 120-seat Knesset and ordered national parliamentary elections for Tuesday, March 28, 2006. In order to better understand the upcoming elections and their implications for the peace process, Brit Tzedek is offering our constituents a number of resources:

  • A town hall conference call with Akiva Eldar, chief political columnist for Haaretz, on Sunday, February 26 at 3pm EST. Click here for details.

  • A chart describing the major political parties across the spectrum, their leadership, current and projected seats, positions on the peace process, etc. Click here for A Guide to the Perplexed - Israeli Elections 2006

  • Short bios on the top five leaders of the Kadima, Labor, Likud and Meretz Israeli Political Parties. Click here

  • A Fact Sheet on the Israeli electoral system Click here

  • A town hall conference call live from Israel with Brit Tzedek CEO Diane Balser and Washington Representative Rob Levy (forthcoming)

  • Commentary from key Israeli pundits and political leaders (forthcoming)

  • An analysis of the election results by Brit Tzedek board president Marcia Freedman (forthcoming)

  • A special section on Brit Tzedek's website including all the above materials and more... Click here
Israeli Elections

Israel has already endured four political shockwaves in recent months:
  • On November 9, Labor union leader Amir Peretz upset elder statesman Shimon Peres to take over the leadership of the left-wing Labor Party (Peres subsequently left the Labor Party).

  • On November 21, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon abandoned the right-wing Likud Party (of which he was a founding member) to form the centrist Kadima ("Forward") Party.

  • On January 4, 2006, just when things appeared to be settling down and it seemed likely that Ariel Sharon and Kadima would win a landslide victory in the coming election, Sharon suffered a massive, debilitating stroke. With Sharon's incapacitation, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert became Acting Prime Minister and has assumed control over the still-amorphous new party, raising many questions about its future.

  • Finally, on January 25, 2006, the Palestinian legislative election resulted in a surprising victory for the Palestinian militant group Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) over the longtime ruling secular Fatah Party. This has raised anew concerns for Israeli security, since Hamas is committed to Israel's destruction and has supported the use of suicide terrorism against Israel.

For now, the political choice appears to be between Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu. That is, between a partial unilateralist withdrawal (with continued occupation of those Palestinian lands that have not been evacuated), and entrenchment in the status quo - not as an interim condition, but as an actual policy goal. If the current polls hold up, the most likely scenario appears to be a victory for Ehud Olmert, who will then lead a Kadima-Labor coalition which will attempt to implement a series of unilateral withdrawals from a large portion of the West Bank.

If that is the case, however, it is important to note that Olmert will face an even more difficult task politically than Sharon did in Gaza. To follow in his mentor's footsteps, Olmert will have to evacuate many more angry, ideologically committed settlers from more settlements, covering a much larger swath of land in Israel's biblical heartland. Olmert's decision to uproot illegal settlement outposts in Amona and Hebron suggests he may be willing, perhaps more willing than Sharon, to confront the West Bank settlers.

Ironically, if Olmert is successful in this, Ariel Sharon's greatest legacy may prove to be breaking the back of the settler movement he once fostered and in the process establishing a precedent for unilateral withdrawal from much of the occupied territories.

Real peace, however, can be achieved only through negotiated, mutually accepted compromises. We must hope that the next Israeli government will pave the way for negotiations that could lead to the secure and lasting peace most Israelis and Palestinians dream of.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
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