In the Arena

Election Day

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It was supposed to rain, and it may still–but a fierce wind is blowing, which is no metaphor: not much is likely to change in the Israeli election taking place today…unless, of course, Avigdor Lieberman’s neo-racist, anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu party comes in first. Not likely, but not impossible: Lieberman was the only candidate throwing any heat in the last days of the campaign. 

Indeed, an interesting dynamic seems to have taken hold: On the right, Bibi Netanyahu is losing altitude–pretty rapidly–because Lieberman is gaining. On the center-left, Tzipi Livni is gaining altitude because the supporters of the Labor and Meretz parties are scared that Netanyahu will win and seem to be drifting toward Livni. 

It is not impossible that Livni’s Kadima party will win more seats in the Knesset than Netanyahu’s Likud. After that, it’s all bad news: the right-wing coalition will probably have more seats than the left and may be able to form a government. More likely, there will be a coalition of center-right that may well include Kadima, Likud and Lieberman’s party. 

I would say that this is an exciting election because of its closeness and uncertainty, but no one in Israel seems very excited. They are faced with familiar choices who have failed in the past–Netanyahu, Bara[ooops-c]k–or uncertain ones (Livni) or populist resentment (Lieberman). No more analysis from me, though, until we get some results.

Update: The rain started pelting Jerusalem at about 4 pm–at that point, the turnout was 42%, a fairly impressive amount unless Israelis were following the weather reports and decided to vote early. Meanwhile, here’s Marc Lynch on how the Arabs have been seeing the Israeli election. First exit poll results will be available at 3pm Eastern Standard Time.