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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 9-Feb-2009
Israel poised to elect Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister in move to the right

Web Log - February, 2009

Israel poised to elect Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister in move to the right

Israel's historic connection to Russia plays an increasing role in Tuesday's election.

Israel election poll results, as of 7-Feb-2009, for 10-Feb election <font size=-2>(Source: Haaretz)</font>
Israel election poll results, as of 7-Feb-2009, for 10-Feb election (Source: Haaretz)

It was over three years ago, in January, 2006, that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke. He lies in a coma to this day, while his major and most controversial accomplishments -- the construction of the security wall surrounding Israel and the Israeli evacuation of Gaza in 2005, continue to loom as major issues, as Tuesday's election approaches.

The security wall keeps suicide bombers from entering Israel, but it doesn't prevent Hamas militants from shooting rockets over the wall into Israel.

And much of the world was shocked by the ferocity of Israel's attack on Gaza in December and January, with hundreds or perhaps thousands of bombs targeting Hamas leaders, suspected weapons depots, and underground tunnels, from one end of Gaza to the other. Much of the world has condemned Israel for this "overreaction" to the Hamas rockets.

This has caused Israelis themselves to become more convinced that a negotiated solution is impossible. They're not sure what the solution is, but few people believe that there are ever going to be "two states side-by-side" as proposed by President Bush in the Road Map to Peace in 2003.

They believe that a much tougher approach is required, but they're not sure what. They're grasping at solutions. The current Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is head of the centrist Kadima party, the party that Ariel Sharon formed several months before his stroke. But Olmert is thought to have bungled the 2006 war against Hizbollah in Lebanon, and his ratings have never recovered. The major left-wing party, Labor, is also suffering in the polls, as liberal policies toward the Palestinians fall into disfavor.

So the expected winner on Tuesday is Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party. Netanyahu has promised not to give in to the Palestinians -- by giving up land on the West Bank -- or the Syrians -- by giving up the Golan Heights.

But the real change in Israeli attitudes is shown by the increasing popularity of another candidate, Avigdor Lieberman, and his Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our home") political party. Lieberman is called a "far-right racist" by those who don't like him, because of his anti-Arab rhetoric.

Lieberman questions the loyalty of Arab citizens of Israel, and has proposed deporting Arabs who cannot pass a loyalty test.

Lieberman has expressed the view that a much larger imposition of force must be used against the people of Gaza. "A real victory, can be achieved only by breaking the will and motivation of Hamas to fight us, as was done to the Japanese in the last days of world war two."

I assume that the last statement refers to the use of nuclear weapons against Hamas. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, that kind of approach could only achieve the desired result when everyone is exhausted, at the climax of a genocidal crisis war that had already been going on for several years. In the present context, such an action would immediately trigger worldwide condemnation and major retaliation by most of the nations in the Mideast.

Perhaps his followers don't believe Lieberman really means it. Maybe they just like hearing him say it, and they believe that just by saying it, Lieberman can convince Hamas to stop sending rockets into Israel.

Lieberman was born in the Soviet Union in 1958, and emigrated to Israel in 1978. Overwhelmingly, his supporters have been among the large community of Russian-speaking voters, mostly Russian emigrés and their children.

When Lieberman makes statements related to things like nuking Hamas, it's thought that he's actually emulating Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is very popular in Russia because of his own extremely confrontational statements.

It seems to be working for Lieberman, because not only has it made him popular with Russian-speaking Israelis, but his popularity is spreading to a wider audience of Israelis who are concerned about security.

Lieberman's success is causing other candidates' campaign to target the Russian-speaking voters as well.

Israeli Army Minister Ehud Barak, who is also running for Prime Minister, promised to try to "Putinize his image." It's thought that the entire election is undergoing a "Russification."

It's not surprising that Russia and Israel have a love-hate relationship (PDF).

On the one hand, Jews have often suffered enormous discrimination in Russia. As depicted in the Broadway play, "Fiddler on the Roof," many Russians emigrated to the Palestine area in the late 1800s, giving the initial impetus to a Jewish state.

On the other hand, Russians have a deep spiritual connection to Jerusalem.

When the Roman Empire fell 406, the Eastern Roman Empire, centered in Byzantium (Constantinople later, and Istanbul today), became the second Roman Empire. When Constantinople fell in 1453, Moscow assumed the mantle of the Third Roman Empire. In 1472, Ivan the Great married a Byzantine princess and assumed the title of Tsar, and thus became the first Tsar of the new Tsarist Russia. ("Tsar," or "Czar," was derived from the name of the Roman Emperor Caesar, as is the German word "Kaiser.") Thus, Ivan would be not only the head of Russia, he would also be head of the Orthodox Christian Church -- and never part of the Roman Catholic Church.

As guardians of the true, original, and "orthodox" Christian faith, the Russians considered themselves protectors of Jerusalem, the source of the Orthodox Christian faith.

Russia became an atheist state with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and rejected all connections with the Russian Orthodox Church, including its protection of Jerusalem.

But by 1948, when Russia's Awakening era was in full swing, Russia became the first country to recognize the new state of Israel.

With the current revival of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, the spiritual connection to Jerusalem is returning as well.

At the same time, both Russia and Israel face the common enemy of Islamist terrorists -- from Chechnya for Russia, and from Gaza for Israel. The connection between Russia and Israel is expected to strengthen as the Clash of Civilizations world war approaches.

For those who, like me, need a scorecard to follow Tuesday's election in Israel, here's one from Haaretz:

Blocs based on latest Haaretz-Dialog poll:

The right-wing bloc: - Likud (headed by Benjamin Netanyahu): 27 seats - Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our home" - a far-right pro-transfer party headed by Avigdor Lieberman): 18 seats - Shas (Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party headed by Eli Yishai): 9 seats - National Union-Habayit Hayehudi (coalition between two right-wing parties, the long-standing National Union and fledgling Habayit Hayehudi [the Jewish home]): 6 seats

The left-wing bloc: - Kadima (centrist party established by Ariel Sharon and now headed by Tzipi Livni): 25 seats - Labor (headed by Ehud Barak and formerly Israel's dominant party): 14 seats - New Movement-Meretz (latest incarnation of the left-wing Meretz): 7 seats - Hadash (Jewish-Arab party formerly known as a communist party): 3 seats - United Arab List-Ta'al (a union of two predominantly Arab parties, the United Arab list and Ahmed Tibi's Ta'al): 3 seats - Balad (predominantly Arab party whose name is a Hebrew acronym for National Democratic Assembly): 2 seats

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Israeli Elections thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (9-Feb-2009) Permanent Link
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