From Israel, a Cloudy Outlook


Being in Israel in the days just after the national elections didn’t leave me any clearer on what the next government will look like. It could be a narrow right-tilted coalition led by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, or a broader coalition anchored by Likud and Kadima, the party with the most votes.

Netanyahu most probably would be prime minister in that case, too.

But it is already clear that the Left took a beating in the polls, and that Kadima, the party founded by Ariel Sharon and now led by Tzipi Livni, was the prime culprit.

The once dominant Labor party received only 10 Knesset seats, and seemed eager to go into opposition and rebuild, licking its wounds.

It was the same Kadima that, in the last election, knocked out the Right by preaching peace negotiations based on West Bank concessions.

Instead, the settlements have grown and the party preaching peace talks came up empty; in fact Ehud Olmert became the first prime minister to go to war twice in one (shortened) term.

No one I spoke to in Israel this past week is under any illusion of imminent peace, agreeing that Israel’s potential partner – Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority – is too weak to risk an agreement with the Jewish State. The leaders of Hamas would pounce on the West Bank if that were to happen.

Several liberal thinkers said it would be a critical mistake on the part of the Obama administration to go forward with George Bush’s ill-conceived Annapolis plan, attempting to shape the framework for a detailed, future peace plan.

More realistic, the critics said, was Netanyahu’s concept of an economic peace plan aimed at bringing more prosperity to the Palestinians in preparation of a future Palestinian state.

But Bibi has been pretty vague about those details, as have been the other top candidates in an election campaign that shed little light on the top parties’ positions on the vital issues of the day, from Hamas rocket attacks to the troubled economy to a nuclear Iran.

was editor and publisher of The Jewish Week from 1993 to 2019. Follow him at