Nahum Barnea
Ynetnews (Editorial)
July 21, 2011 - 12:00am,7340,L-4098448,00.html

Some politicians talk about elections next fall, on the eve of the US elections: these are the optimists. And there are others, who talk about elections sooner, in the spring. One way or another, the election year is underway.

This is the prevalent estimate these days around the government table, among top party officials, and among top government bureaucrats. This estimation affects the conduct of politicians. We see it in every issue which the political establishment touches, ranging from cottage cheese prices through the housing problem and to Knesset votes. There is no longer a government and a Knesset and a coalition and an opposition. All we have is a bunch of primaries candidates who will do anything, and that means anything, to be elected.

Avigdor Lieberman is usually the first minister to drill a hole in the coalition ship. Based on his conduct last night we can assume that this time too he will remain true to tradition. He insisted on bringing up to a vote the proposal to establish a Knesset commission that would probe leftist NGOs. He knew in advance that he would lose the vote, yet this did not deter him. The opposite is true: The objective was to embarrass Netanyahu in the eyes of rightist voters.

In order to ensure that everyone gets the message, Lieberman convened a press conference where he portrayed Netanyahu – without mentioning him by name – as a weak politician, prone to pressure, and frightened by media and global criticism.

Lieberman is capricious: Anyone understands why he gets upset, yet at times even he cannot explain the timing. The humiliating ritual he subjected Netanyahu to the other night can be understood in the context of elections, and a war between him and Likud for rightist votes.

Yet Lieberman is only one actor in a broad front. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai sees what’s happening between Lieberman and Netanyahu and asks himself, why should they determine the election date based on what’s convenient for them? Why not me?

Feeling the changing atmosphere

Yishai went a long, interesting way this past year, from the edge of the Right to the Center of the political spectrum. The impasse in the negotiations and the damages to Israel following the UN vote in September concern him. The social situation is bothering him. Aryeh Deri’s appearances may bother Yishai too. All of the above makes Eli Yishai an element that is no less whimsical than Lieberman in respect to bringing the elections forward.

The ministers and Knesset members also feel the changing atmosphere. All the ministers who were absent during Wednesday’s vote did so because they were scared to encounter difficulties: Likud ministers didn’t want to vote against the proposal and be punished by rightist Likud members, yet they were scared to vote against Netanyahu and be punished by him. They were so scared that they went home.

Shas’ Knesset members went home because they didn’t want to reward Lieberman, but they also didn’t want to vote with the Left. Even HaBait HaYehudi (the former National Religious party) MKs preferred to run away.

A total of 54 Knesset members delivered a speech during the debate, yet the prime minister chose to remain silent. He muttered the word “against” during the vote as if he just swallowed something spicy.

The miserable vote on the commission of inquiry is just another indication of the approaching election season. No less significant indications are emerging at junctions where the government is supposed to make decisions. The housing problem, which threatens to push away Likud’s young voters, cannot be resolved quickly. Any decision taken by the government on subsidizing apartments will ultimately only benefit haredi families: They are larger and poorer. In the absence of a solution for the middle class, Netanyahu issues press released every day.

The same is true for the price of dairy products and for dozens of other issues.

The government’s top bureaucrats got the message: Those who can, desert, and those who stay on are frustrated. The Netanyahu government did (or didn’t do) what it could. Now it’s on the way to the polling stations.


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