Yesterday was election day in Israel. Israel is a multi-party democracy and no politician can reasonably hope to lead the government there with a majority of his or her own party members alone. So the trick is to find enough common ground between different parties to form an effective governing coalition. As analyzed in the Jerusalem Post, it appears that the Likud party, led by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is in a better position to put together a coalition government than Tzipi Lvini of the Kadima party, despite the fact that it appears Kadima earned one more seat than Likud.
A Likud-led government in Israel can be expected to take a more aggressive line than one led by Kadima on issues like relations with the Palestinians and the Arab nations surrounding Israel, expanding Israeli settlements into majority-Palestinian areas, and flexing the IDF’s muscle as a predicate to diplomacy. Given that a Kadima government got drawn in to a war in Gaza and didn’t pull any punches when it did, that’s saying something.
I’m sure that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton would much rather see Israel led by Kadima. But I wouldn’t anticipate that. The recent wars and Kadima leaders’ inability to bring them to decisive Israeli victories is a significant problem; about all that Lvini had going for her was war weariness. So we will have to deal with the allies we have rather than the allies we might have wanted to have had going forward.
Personally, I think a “peace throuigh strength” platform is one that fundamentally works — while I’m not so dismissive of Palestinian politicians as to rely on the bromide that “all they understand is force,” it’s a simple fact that pretty words and conciliatory gestures on the part of any diplomatic actor anywhere are devoid of meaning unless there is also the possibility that those diplomatic acts could be substituted by military ones. We care about Russia’s diplomacy not because of the moral gravitas of Russia’s position in the world but rather because Russia has a hell of a big army and a hell of a big navy. Israel similarly gains diplomatic leverage not because people accept the right of the Jews to have their own state but rather because whether you accept that right or not, the IDF will kick your ass if you don’t at least tacitly acknowledge their existence.
So, the pendulum swings back the other direction in Israel, and the world must react accordingly.