This might be the craziest election cycle in the history of Israel. It is short, but not a week passes without shifts and changes in the political landscape – today, it was Defense Minister Ehud Barak resigning from his post to pursue new horizons. Barak is the cat with the seven lives, perhaps even more, but his next incarnation will not be a political one - or so he says.
In fact, it's been a while since it became clear that his political future might be in doubt (I have witnesses in Los Angeles to whom I said 10 days ago that Barak's political career is probably over). Netanyahu could not give him what he really wanted – a place within the Likud Party and another term at Defense. His party, Atzmaut (Independence), wasn't taking off. Going back to the Labor Party wasn't an option. So a dignified departure seemed like the appealing choice.
Our Israel Poll Trends tracker was updated today. But our statistician in chief, Prof. Camil Fuchs, keeps having to make alterations to the graph. True, Benjamin Netanyahu began this cycle as the most likely candidate to lead the next coalition and is still likely to keep his job as prime minister – the Likud-right-religious political bloc is at 69 mandates, according to Fuchs. All other things, however, are moving quickly: parties form and crumble, alliances are shaped, old rivals find common ground, ideologies become blurred. If the Israeli public is somewhat cynical about the motivations of its leaders, it should be forgiven. If it is somewhat confused, it should be patiently tolerated.
Think about the following duos:
Netanyahu and Lieberman: With all other parts of the puzzle moving, their merger now seems like an island of stability and calm. Barak, by deciding to make his dramatic announcement today, somewhat helped the Likud Party to make even the primary debacle go away.
Livni and Olmert: Today it seems that Olmert and Livni will not be running together. Or maybe they will? One thing is for sure: wearing the mantle of decision-maker is becoming tricky for the two politicians who can't seem to make up their minds (Livni will probably announce Tuesday, see more about her in our Poll Trend tracker).
Yacimovich and Lapid: The Labor Party is another island of relative stability and is ideologically coherent. Yacimovich is going to be the big winner in these elections. Her slogan was written for her by her rivals: one real party against the many ad hoc job seekers. Lapid will be the big loser. If one wants a makeshift, incoherent, centrist-in-the-sense-that-it-has-no-clear-agenda, Ashkenazi, upper middle class party – if one wants the new incarnation of Kadima, without the heavyweights Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres - one will vote for the new Livni party.