Thu, Mar. 30, 2006
Result Creates Potential for New Political Dynamic
good news out of the election in Israel is that a political party that
adamantly identified itself as centrist -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
Kadima Party -- won the most support. This is a remarkable and unprecedented
accomplishment for a new party, founded only last November by former Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon.
The results suggest
that Israelis are equally disenchanted by the Pollyannas on the left and
the doomsday voices on the Israeli right.
True, voters failed
to create a stable, centrist majority -- something that has eluded Israel
for most of its history. Kadima won only 28 out of 120 seats in the Knesset.
But the movement toward the center creates the potential for greater political
cohesiveness and vindicates Mr. Sharon's vision of giving Israelis a new
choice on the ballot that could escape the limits and dogmas associated
with the once-dominant Labor and Likud parties.
The voters, apparently,
agreed. After the experiences of Oslo and the intifada, the electorate
seemed to say, it was unlikely that either of the former leading parties
could bring salvation. Mr. Olmert is likely to form a government coalition
with the help of dovish and religious factions in the Knesset. Mr. Olmert
has also said that only parties that agree to Kadima's Sharon-inspired
plans for a withdrawal from the West Bank will be asked to join the coalition.
In his victory speech, the Israeli leader made it clear that he preferred
negotiations over unilateral action, but said he would not wait indefinitely
for a Palestinian partner.
meanwhile, are busy creating their own government. The contrast with political
developments in Israel could not be greater. In voting for Hamas, Palestinian
voters turned power over to extremists whose party explicitly rejects
the legitimacy of the state of Israel. The leaders of Hamas, surprised
at the outcome of the election they won, clearly are not ready to govern
and, therefore, still cling to terrorist slogans and ideas.
Rhetoric not enough
Now that they are
faced with the reality of having to feed the hungry and pick up the garbage,
they must deliver. Hamas will discover soon enough that rhetoric won't
do the job. Mr. Olmert and his party will give Hamas some time -- perhaps
a year -- to decide whether it is ready to renounce violence and enter
into negotiations before Israel starts unilateral withdrawal. The ball
is now squarely in the Palestinians' court.