Following Tzipi Livni’s pull out from negotiations to form a new government–when Orthodox parties demanded too high a price–two new Israeli polls have confounded the common wisdom that opposition leader Bibi Netanyahu would win any new election. The polls show Livni and her Kadima party with a slim lead of two or three seats over her rival:
A poll by the Dahaf Research Institute showed Livni’s Kadima Party winning 29 of parliament’s 120 seats, the same number it has now, and Netanyahu’s Likud taking 26 if elections were held today. A TNS Teleseker survey gave Kadima 31 seats to Likud’s 29.
Labor comes out on the losing end reducing its mandate from 19 seats to 11 in the survey. These results bring into strong question the continuing viability of Labor as an independent party and Ehud Barak’s continuing leadership of it.
It should be noted that Israeli election polls are notoriously volatile and can change radically between now and the expected February election. But the possibility of a trend in Livini’s favor is notable.
I admire the principled position she has adopted in which she has lashed out at the political-financial blackmail (in the form of child welfare stipends demanded for large Orthodox families) foisted on her by Shas and another religious party. In addition, Shas attempted to extract a pledge that Livni would not negotiate the status of Jerusalem in negotiations with the Palestinians. She flat out rejected this demand, which is truly an admirable position:
There are prices one can pay, and prices others are prepared to pay but which I’m not prepared to pay at the expense of the State and its citizens–and then only to be prime minister of a paralyzed government…
The time has come to ask the public whether an Israeli prime minister can be compelled to announce that there is an issue which she refuses to negotiate?
As I wrote above, I admire the tone of wounded political pride which she adopted in addressing these issues. It projects an image of a future prime minister who demands maximum flexibility in resolving the nation’s problems; and who rejects having her hands tied by backroom deals in the Israeli equivalent of smoke filled rooms. Pragmatism and not ideology is what the next PM will need if she is to succeed. Livni, so far, appears headed in the right direction.
She, of course, is taking a calculated gamble in calling Shas’ bluff and going to elections. She could lose and make Netanyahu king. Or, like a good poker player, she could go all the way with the cards she’s been dealt and turn them into a winning hand by strength of will. I wish her well in the endeavor.