The 2009 Israeli Elections
A briefing by Allen Roth
February 12, 2009
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Allen Roth is the founder of One Jerusalem, an organization dedicated to "maintaining a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel" and educating government officials around the world about the legitimacy of Israel's claims to the city. He is also a former senior advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu. On February 12, two days after the Israeli election, Mr. Roth addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call.
Stationed in Jerusalem and having closely followed events leading up to Israel's pivotal parliamentary election on February 10, Allen Roth was in a unique position to analyze the early results. With a voter turnout of approximately 65%, Israelis gave Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima Party a slight edge over former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party.
But as Ross pointed out, the larger story is that the right — led by Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and United Torah — went from having 50 seats to having 65, more than enough to form a governing coalition. This is a huge move, especially considering how the center-left — led by Kadima and Labor — had dominated just two years ago.
Despite Likud appearing to come up short against Kadima, Roth noted that the overall strength of the right-of-center bloc makes Netanyahu the man of the hour. He will soon be asked to form the new government of Israel once official tallies are released on February 18.
Roth discussed how many voters seem to feel that Kadima "has no defining ideology," but is rather "pragmatic." Noting that the number one issue for Israelis is national security, he explained that many voters believe these challenges can be best addressed by a Netanyahu-led government.
For instance, Netanyahu has consistently stated that his greatest concern is stopping Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, a concern that has widespread support from the majority of Israelis, regardless of political affiliation.
Roth also described Netanyahu as a man who takes ideology — both Muslim and Jewish — very seriously: while he will strive to stomp out radical Islam, so too will he attempt to revive the idea of Zionism, including by reintroducing it in Israel's educational curriculum. That Netanyahu evoked Zionism four or five times on election night is further indicative that he plans on promoting Zionism and that most Israelis are sympathetic to this approach.
In short, according to Roth, "the feeling here is that the right won a tremendous victory."
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism
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