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Election Day!

While yesterday as all about Obama’s inauguration to the world, to many here it was simple D-day minus 1. \and now, finally, the day is HERE. Yes, i am excited. very very excited. Democracy is fragile and requires participation, consideration, engagement, dedication. And that you go vote. At least, that’s how my parents raised me… and i absolutely believe in the importance of performing your civic duty. Even when, as it happened to be true for me this year, you don’t identify a party that is perfect for you.

Can i also just say that the weather today is splendid: warm, sunny, cloudless skies… spring is in the air. and the sense of “sunday” all over the place. it’s a national holiday so unless you work in a cafe or museum, you have the dau off. and israelis spend their day off in the streets, in the cafes, with friends and family. the country is oozing energy, happiness. and today is also a time to NOT listen to the news. there is nothing to report you see. political adds are off limits, and no exit polling may be published until 10 PM tonight (the polling stations close at 10PM in big cities. Okey from 10:01 PM we will all go crazy in exit polls and pundits and news spin. but until then a blissful silence from the radio and tv allows us to talk about other things…) i am smiling just walking down the street. with a bouncy bounce in my step because i just cast my vote and made my voice heard.

So far, voter turnout is reported to be high (yeah to my fellow Israelis).

I don’t have the results, and there will be enough analyses out there later. So besides sharing and enthusing, i am below relying some of the more interesting takes/thoughts/rumours/expectations i have heard from israeli media over the past weeks. they cannot all be true, but they are indications of the complex political landscape we are navigating in. Just because i rely them doesn’t mean i endorse them or agree. but they are part of an informed debate. and that’s a thing we love here at the Gates…

A view of the voting slips used in Tuesday's elections for the 19th Knesset (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

(election notes. take one with the party letters and stick it in the envelope. Photo credits: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

  • Why did Netanyahu have Likud join with Yisrael Beitenu (YB)? Most likely, the gambit are costing Bibi mandates. Running separately would have earned Likud X number of Knesset seats and YB Y number and combined X+Y. Now, it looks like it’ll be X+Y – 5. The 5 they loose to Bait haYehudi and Otzma leYisrael. Because a considerable amount of voters vote byd efault to “whoever is to the right of Likud”. That used to be YB, now it isn’t. Bibi is politically savy, and he knows this. Some suggest, that he did it because he knew that would prompt Livni to re-enter politics (sensing she has a case for “an alternative” and Bibi knows Livni adn knows she would not join an existing party but instead start her own. And that would shatter the centre-left, thus leaving Bibi much stronger, even if 4-5 mandates smaller…
  • Why didn’t Amshalem join Yesh Atid, instead of starting his own party? Big question. and he might now regret he didn’t. fairly early on, the Am Shalem party was slated to get 3 mandates. But then a story of them not passing the threshold (of 2% = 2 mandates) began circulating. it’s been gaining traction ever since. and Am Shalem doesn’t seem to have a C.J. Cregg or a good media strategy so instead of controlling that story and ‘killing it’, a lot of people who might have voted for him are likely not to. So it became a self-fulling prophecy. unless the past few days poll-silence (since Friday no polls are allowed to be published) has created distance between the voters and the story, and those who support the party will ‘dare’ vote for it.
  • Will Lapid join a coalition with Bibi and Shas? Yesh Atid has made a big deal out of not wanting to share a coalition with Shas (since getting the Haredi population to “share the burden” is one of the party’s raison-d’etre) But the question is: If Bibi calls party-leader Lapid and says “You want to be minister of education?” (education being another core-issue for Yesh Atid) and then afterwards Bibi whispers ‘with Shas in the coalition’ will Lapid then walk away? which is more important to him? and if comprimise is a political virtue, is Lapid ready to be a politician?
  • What about peace? Likud didn’t publish a manifesto. Rumour insists it’s because the party couldn’t agree on whether Netanyahu’s so-called Bar Ilan speech from 2009 (where he endorsed the idea of two states for two people. the first time he spoke about an autonumous Palestinian state in this way) should be part of the Likud policy or not. Mina Tzemach (one of the most respected pollsters in israel. she is uber-cool) conducted a poll in December and it showed that 67% of israelis continue to support a two-state solution. And when you look at the political break-down, 57 % of “right wing voters” support it. However, the issue has been almost absent in the election.
  • What about Labor? In the above i write as though Bibi has already won. that is because i have been reading too many polls and analyses. and it really does look like he is going to win. again. So Labor might have to start thinking about how to run an effective opposition. In Israel, most of the time, a leader of Labor who looses the election is ousted immediately. (as opposed to Likud which hardly ever changes leaders) So while it is pretty certain that Labor will be the biggest party in the opposition, it is unclear if Shelly will be the opposition leader.
  • What will the coalition look like? Despite the foreign press’ take (Bibi will win and build the most right wing coalition in the history of israel) nothing is that clear. it all depends on the size of yesh Atid and beit hayehudi. and Am Shalem if there is a surprise. perhaps bibi can make it work without Shas? thus including Yesh Atid and having a centrist party.


What is certain is that after 10PM tonight, and expecially after tomorrow morning (when more reliable exit polling is avialable — the final result takes a few dates since the soldiers’ votes need to be counted) will be *interesting*

If you are reading this, and you are Israeli and haven’t cast your vote yet, let me quote Bill Baily from the West Wing: NO MATTER WHO YOU VOTE FOR, MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!