On the occasion of parliamentary elections in Israel which are to be held on 28 January 2003, the International Institute for Inter-Religious, Multiethnic and Middle-East Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana has prepared the pre-election analysis. The most interesting sections are given below:
On 28 January 2003, the 16th Israeli parliamentary elections are to be held since the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948.
The parliamentary elections will take place in this delicate and sensitive moments for Israel and the region, in the light of American attack on Iraq and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein who generously financed Palestinian terrorist actions during the second Intifada when, in contrast to the first Intifada, the bombs and suicidal belts replaced the stones and peaceful protests of the Palestinians who were dissatisfied with the results of the Oslo peace negotiations.
As regards its internal political affairs, Israel is facing a serious economic and political crisis. The economic crisis has been further aggravated due to the continuation of Intifada and the re-occupation and blockade of most of the West Bank which used to be under the civil and security administration of the Palestinian autonomous power. On the other hand, the political crisis has been caused by the withdrawal of the Labourites from the government of national unity.
At the Tuesday elections, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will according to the estimations ensure its Likud party 32 to 38 parliamentary seats, which would provide the right-wing parties including Likud with 6o to 65 parliamentary seats in the newly elected Knesset.
The election campaign in Israel, starting with the internal elections in the Labourites party in October last year and in Likud in November last year, was dirty and with many low blows. Both sides tried to wash in public as much of each other's dirty linen as possible.
The loudest were the Labourites led by the new leader Amran Mitzna, accusing Likud for the fall of the government, that is to say, for their withdrawal from the government, which was triggered by their disagreement with the proposed Budget Act for 2003 and by subsequent full boycott of the voting by the Labourites representatives during the second and third reading of the bill.
The Labourites were trying very hard to make the voters forget their responsibility for the fall of government in the sensitive moments for the state (Intifada and suicidal actions, the slump in tourism and investments, the Road Map peace initiative presented by the USA, Russia, EU and UN). They presented the public with completely different reasons for withdrawing from the government, such as opposing the government policy towards the Palestinians, in order to gain the votes of Israeli left-wingers and Israeli Arabs who traditionally vote for the Labourites.
The voters are fully aware that the initiative for putting up the protective wall at the green line between the West Bank and Israel has been given by the then Labourite defence minister Benjamin Ben Eliazer and that the unsuccessful diplomatic attempts to resolve the Palestinian issue were taking place in the department of foreign affairs of the then Labourite minister Shimon Peres.
It is also obvious to the Israeli voters that the politics of the Labourites during the term of office of Ehud Barak and the withdrawal from south Lebanon have led to the second Palestinian Intifada.
The IFIMES Institute believes that Likud will win the majority of votes in the 120 member Knesset. However, this will not suffice for independent formation of the government. It is necessary to form the government of a broad coalition comprising the Labourites and ultra left-wing parties such as Shinoi and Meretz as well as the ultra right-wing parties such as Shas.
The future government will have to take up a clear position as regards the unemployment problem, the economic crisis in the state, the inclusion of orthodox religious people in the security and political issues and as regards the definitely most sensitive Palestinian issue.
As regards the national foreign affairs, the new Israeli government is expected to actively participate in the American initiative of Partnership for the Middle East and to try to find, in the framework of the initiative, the models and solutions for the reform of the Palestinian administration, incorporating the Palestinian reformatory forces and the Arab neighbours in finding the answers to the question of the status of Palestinian refugees in the neighbouring Arab states.