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A king, a martyr, and a bunch of rabbis

by Shmuel Rosner

February 10, 2012 | 3:31 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)

My take on Israel’s current political scene was published Tuesday by the IHT/New York Times, and you can read it in full here. The point I was making is quite simple: Netanyahu is the current and the next Prime Minister of Israel, as there are no available alternatives even for those unhappy with him.

Once Likud’s equal, Kadima is now just one of three mid-size parties jostling for Israel’s center-left. The Labor Party, which was thought dead and buried, has been gaining ground under the new leadership of the populist leader Shelly Yachimovitz. The media star Yair Lapid is forming a new centrist party. It still has no name and no clear agenda, but it intends to compete for Kadima’s prospective voters. Add two other middling parties to the mix — the ultra-religious Shas and the blunt-talking right-wing Israel Beitenu — and you’re looking at a new parliament with only one possible ruling party.

Four more political comments related to the happenings of this soon-ending week:

  • The hard-core left opposition party, Meretz, picked its new leader this week. Meretz has three seats in the current Knesset and is predicted to get 3-6 seats in recent polls. It is hard to envision any scenario in which Meretz is part of the next Israeli coalition.
  • The Comptroller’s Carmel fire investigation might have an impact on the Shas Party. Shas leader Eli Yishai is going to have to deal with harsh criticism. This might make him the next Shas “martyr,” as Yair Ettinger argues, or it could ease Aryeh Deri’s anticipated comeback to Israel’s political arena. In some political polls, Deri’s new party will not get more seats than his former one.
  • The modern-Orthodox parties are yet again negotiating a merger of all factions, but ideological differences remain a problem, and some well-known moderate rabbis are said to be tilting towards supporting other parties, among them Yair Lapid’s centrist party.
  • Netanyahu keeps denying that elections are near, but no one seems to believe him.

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