Just the briefest of looks at the polls in the run up to this election, should make anyone on the Right of the Israeli political spectrum smile and relax. It seems that however you cut it, the Right-wing bloc has a discernible lead, and that the elections are therefore just a question of how big the different parties will be rather than who will have the opportunity to form the next government.
This not only a flawed assumption, it is one against which history carries a stark warning.
There is a real possibility, not only that the Left, led by Yechimovich, could be offered to form a coalition, but even if Netanyahu is appointed as Prime Minister once again, the division of support on the Right will prove detrimental to his ability to form a stable and efficient government.
This is history’s lesson. In 1981, 1984 and 1988, the division of the nationalist vote by smaller parties such as Techiya, Tzomet and Moledet meant the Right ceded power to the Left.
By 1992, the division on the Right led to the Left returning to power entirely and Rabin taking office. Crucially, Danny Dayan, the outgoing head of the Yesha Council has posted a video online, saying that he was one of the key architects in bringing down Shamir’s administration. He acknowledges the result was the arrival of Arafat, the Oslo Process and the murder of Israelis by Palestinian terrorists. He says that the Right made the same mistake in 1999 when Netanyahu lost to Barak due to the divisive role of the National Union, which in turn lead to Barak’s willingness to divide Jerusalem and cede Judea and Samaria at Camp David, and then the Second Intifada.
This time Dayan is urging voters on the Right not to repeat this mistake.
Dayan is not alone. Zvi Hendel is a name that anyone in the national camp knows well. Founding father of Gush Katif, evacuated from his home in the Disengagement and one of the long time leaders of the National Religious Party (the precursor to the HaBayit HaYehudi) and the National Union over recent decades. He too has said the only way the Right will succeed and protect the Land of Israel is with a large Likud-Beytenu majority and is urging people to vote ‘Machal’, at the ballot. (Click captions for English subtitles)
It was precisely because of this concern, and out of a desire for unity that Likud and Yisrael Beytenu took the decision to run on one list, as the leaders of both factions have stated firmly, “A vote for a smaller party, weakens Israel.”
And what of the chance for a Left wing bloc taking power? There can be little doubt that President Peres would seize the chance to appoint a Left-of-Center administration. With anything like 20 mandates for Labor, 10 each for Livni and Lapid and we could see them together with parties like Am Salem, Meretz, Kadima and Shas easily outnumbering Likud-Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi.
Indeed there have been media reports supporting this, claiming that if Labor were to reach 25 seats, they will indeed get the presidential nod.
The only way to prevent this is to ensure that the President has no ability to turn to anyone else but Netanyahu, as the head of the Likud-Beytenu list, to form the government.
I have heard many say that voting for the other parties on the Right will ensure that the government will not ‘veer to the Left’ or ‘buckle under international pressure’. This is to my mind – and surely to that of anyone with a knowledge of history – a fatally flawed argument. Be clear, votes for any other party than the Likud-Beytenu list do not strengthen the Right, they cede power to the Left, create a split in the leadership of Israel, and weaken the very fabric of the Jewish State.