Paul Alster
Israel-based print and broadcast journalist

Let the real election campaign begin!

This morning’s breaking news that the three major centre-left parties may join together to form an alliance to compete against Likud Beitenu and other right-wing parties, at last offers the Israeli electorate the prospect of a genuine contest at the forthcoming general election on January 22.

Regardless of your political views, one thing must be acknowledged by all sides across the political spectrum; that a strong opposition makes for a better democracy, a point proved time again in the major democracies across the globe.

The prospect of a totally dominant right-wing block might have star appeal to those who support the views of Likud Beitenu, Israel Home and others, but the likelihood of such a block being able to steamroller all laws and policies through the Knesset without any real opposition to apply the brakes and demand issues be considered at length would have been a serious blow to genuine democracy in a country that, (despite plenty of slips and trips along the way), has shone like a beacon in a region where the very word ‘democracy’ has been all but removed from most people’s lives.

The right has always had a talent for banding together to form a strong block, while the centre and left-wing parties have in recent years proven equally talented at squabbling amongst themselves and refusing to set aside the egos of a raft of strong personalities, failures that have seen the centre-left taken to the brink of wipe-out at this month’s election.

Now, whether you like, Livni, Yachimovich and Lapid, or not, there is at least the prospect that we might be in for real fight. We’ll hopefully see policies more closely scrutinized, and, who knows, we may even see an occasional quality debate on the hugely serious issues, of defence, security, peace negotiations, and economic policy, that need to be tackled by any future Israeli government.

With Likud Beitenu continuing to haemorrhage seats in light of a combination of the rise of Naftali Bennett’s seemingly more right-wing Israel Home party and the serious charges being faced by Bibi’s electoral partner Avigdor Liberman, latest polls have suggested that the PM is not quite the racing certainty he had appeared a few weeks ago.

And if press reports of the newly formed centre-left alliance prove at least partly accurate and are borne out by an official announcement, you can bet there will be an initial surge in favour of the new Livni/Yachimovich/Lapid triumvirate, (or a permutation of any two from three), that will further confirm that this election is far from a done deal.

For this floating voter the next few weeks that, until this morning had appeared all but certain to be nothing more than a mundane certainty of a Bibi re-election, now promise to provide some genuine political fireworks and, maybe, a little food for thought from all sides.

You can follow me on Twitter: @paulalster

About the Author
Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist with a special interest in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to a variety of international news websites including The Jerusalem Report, and was formerly's main Middle East correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster or at