Forging a coalition is, without a doubt, the most difficult part of the election process in Israel.
Israel’s paradoxical approach to abortion — the procedure is illegal unless approved by a committee, which gives the go-ahead to 98 percent of the requests — could radically change if a Knesset member has his way.
With Israel headed for new general elections, supporters and opponents of Tzipi Livni are putting a very different gloss on her failure to form a governing coalition
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Tzipi Livni has called for new general elections in Israel, saying she failed to form a coalition government.
Livni says she does not intend to be dragged into a long coalition-building process. If in about 10 days she believes the chances of forming a government are not high, she says she will lead a move for new elections herself.
Nearly 30 political parties are vying in Israel's Jan. 28 general elections. According to the latest polls, about 15 parties stand a chance of getting at least 1.5 percent of the vote, the threshold for getting at least one of the Knesset's 120 seats.
Israel's political landscape has, over the past decade, been transmogrified by the growing strength of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party Shas (Sephardic Torah Guardians). But the conviction and recent jailing of party leader Aryeh Deri has only fortified Shas' power among an electorate of largely disenfranchised Middle Eastern Jews; the party currently holds 17 seats in the Knesset, just behind Likud. The American Jewish community, which had not previously taken much notice of Sephardic Jewry, has been shaken by the Shas phenomenon. Last week, Hebrew Union College invited Dr. Zvi Zohar, one of Israel's most astute observers of the socio-political scene, to give a lecture in Los Angeles on what many now perceive to be a permanent feature of Israeli politics.
Ovadia Yosef, the Shas spiritual mentor and former Sephardichief rabbi of Israel, is a gold medalist among insulters. The mediahere monitor his Saturday night sermons, broadcast live on Shas's pirateradio station, for his latest news-making tirades.
As sure as death and taxes, Israelis can count on a coalition crisis every year in the last week of December. It happened three times to the Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu, and no one was surprised that this month it happened to his Labor successor, Ehud Barak.
During the wild victory party in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Election Night, a chant went up in the crowd: "Just not Shas!" Ehud Barak heard the same chant when he spoke early this week to a gathering of campaign activists. A booth with a fax machine in Kikar Rabin has already sent more than 20,000 faxes to Barak from his supporters, who urge him not to invite the meteoric Sephardic fervently Orthodox party into his governing coalition. Thousands of e-mails have been sent to Barak with the same message.
The tens of thousands of happy secularists who danced Election Night away in Rabin Square may have thought they'd "taken back the country" from the right-wing and religious, but according to all the signs, incoming Prime Minister Ehud Barak has a surprise in store for them.