Israelis head to the polls tomorrow, February 10, to vote in a new government. Huffington Post contributors from Israel to Ramallah to DC have shared their views on who should win and what this election means to them.
Analysis from HuffPost bloggers:
My sense is that the lack of anticipation and breathless build-up to the February 10th election reflects two more important realities. The first is an Israeli leadership deficit widely acknowledged by most Israeli polls. As the founding fathers of the Israeli state part from the scene (the only two left are Sharon who lies in a coma and Shimon Peres, the animated octogenarian President of the country), Israel has been led in recent years by a younger generation of much less experienced and skilled Prime Ministers (Barak, Netanyahu, and Olmert) who have stumbled badly in matters of peace and war.
It is an arguable proposition but it is eminently fair to ask whether any Israeli leader now has the historic legitimacy, moral authority, and power to make the tough choices and overcome the challenges Israel faces on peace and security. Frankly, neither the military nor political strategies pursued by Israel in its two most recent military conflicts (Lebanon, 2006; Gaza, 2008/2009) inspire all that much confidence. - Aaron David Miller, Former US Middle East Negotiator, Israeli Elections: Do They Really Matter?
Livni is seeking to demonstrate that a woman can be a tough leader in tough times. She may hope that this approach will draw votes from the right, while garnering approval from Labor supporters as well, as she seeks to demonstrate that Barak is too hesitant in taking strong action. Yet this tactic carries the risk that she will be seen as politicizing the Gaza issue for her own political benefit. - David Makovsky, author and director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process, Another Israeli Election Down To The Wire
With less than a week to go before Tuesday's elections, the three main rivals, Kadima's candidate Tzipi Livni, Israel's Labor's candidate Ehud Barak, and Likud's candidate Benjamin Netanyahu are locked in fierce debate not about whether the devastating war in Gaza went too far, but whether it went far enough. According to most Israeli political experts, with the looming threat of Iran's nuclear ambitions, continuing tensions over Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, and stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israelis will be approaching the polls with security as their top concern. - Jamal Dajani, Senior Director and Producer of Mosaic News, Link TV, Israeli Elections: Terror as Top Concern
All three of Israel's candidates for Prime Minister belong to an era that should be receding behind us, not popping up in our ballot boxes again and again. Israel needs true and lasting change: We need a government which will create a plan for a two-state solution that is realistic, has goals that can be measured, and that does not move forward until the set goals are achieved.
But with the old guard at the helm, we will not have peace. Without creativity and flexible thinking, there is no chance that this country will survive another 60 years. - Ilana Teitelbaum, freelance journalist living in Jerusalem, Israel's Election Day: Not a Change We Can Believe In
Israel is about to make a misjudgment as disastrous -- and deadly -- as the attack on Gaza. In a few days, it looks likely to re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister once again.
This is a man calling for the violent re-occupation of Gaza to "liquidate" its elected government. This is a man who says he will "naturally grow" the West Bank settlements. This is a man who says he will "never" negotiate over Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights, or control of the West Bank water supply. This is a man who says establishing a Palestinian state would leave Israel with "an existential threat and a public relations nightmare reminiscent of 1938 Czechoslovakia." This is a man who Yitzhak Rabin's widow says helped to incite his murder. - Johann Hari, columnist for the London Independent, Israel Is About to Make A Misjudgment as Disastrous as Gaza
For Palestinians many other issues remain to be resolved by the upcoming elections. Permanent status negotiations have been held up because of disagreements on Jerusalem and the fair solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. Settlements and their expansion continue to be a sour point in all talks. Hundreds of checkpoints and Israel's continued refusal to return to the pre-October 2000 positions are also part of the problem between both sides. - Daoud Kuttab, Palestinian journalist, Palestinians Unsure Which Israeli Leader Will Keep Gaza and the West Bank United
In Israel, the party that appears toughest on national security is bound to win, explaining in part Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's brutal and hard-hearted handling of the War on Gaza, Benjamin Netanyahu's criticisms that the war ended prematurely and the continued threats from leaders of Israel's largest parties of fierce and disproportionate attacks on Gaza.
In a conflict plagued with cyclical events and the consistency of non-progress, recent polls suggest that the hawkish right wing party Likud, led by Netanyahu, is predicted to win the majority of seats, making the answer to the question of a possible peace with Palestine all the more hopeless. Positioned to win his old job back, Netanyahu's appointment as prime minister is a likely disaster for an already elusive peace process. - Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, multi-media journalist living in the Middle East, Elect Livni, Not Netanyahu, to Keep Peace in Reach for Israel
The overriding mood on Israeli streets these days is one of cynicism. None of the candidates generates great enthusiasm and none is expected to make much headway on the myriad of problems the country faces, foreign and domestic. The least hope, unfortunately, is offered by the clear frontrunner, Binyamin Netanyahu; even if the other pieces of the regional puzzle were to be forced into place, a Netanyahu government would be unlikely to embrace any serious diplomatic initiative. Yet the frustrating inability of Israel to stay out of the news for long is due not merely to hawkish administrations or a near-impossible region. The lack of strategic leadership is also the product of a broken political system. - Natan Sachs, Israeli PhD candidate and former Fulbright fellow, Life of an Israeli Government: Nasty, Brutish and Short
Unless some major surprise takes place in the next few hours (and in the Middle East everything is possible), Israel's next Prime Minister will be, once again, Benjamin Netanyahu.
...[When he was prime minister in the late 90s] Benjamin Netanyahu was not all bad - during his tenure, he succeeded where all his predecessors failed - uniting the entire nation, probably for the first time since the revelation of Sinai. In 1999 it didn't matter if you were left wing or right wing, Jewish or Arab, secular or orthodox, the entire country was united in a desire to send Netanyahu as far away as possible from office. - Omri Marcus, Israeli comedy writer, Benjamin Netanyahu for Dummies
The only person who can try and lead a change is Tzipi Livni. She is the one that Israel needs but will probably (according to the polls) not get. Israel needs a fresh start, free of militant view, the compassion of a woman, the care of a mother. Livni would advance peace initiatives faster - not only because her very personal youngest is going to fight the next unnecessary war - but since she gained the best training for the job during her leadership tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Tzipi Livni is now more appreciative of Israel's neighbors, especially Egypt, in conflict resolutions and negotiations. She would work perfectly with President Obama, both young, former lawyers, hopeful for a change, with lots of positive energy. Livni would strive to achieve peace in new ways, preferring diplomatic resolutions over forceful actions, as shown by her expeditious trip to D.C for signing the Gaza ceasefire agreement. If you are looking for hope - she's the one; if you're looking for change - vote for her. Israel needs her now. - Shunit Harpaz, blogger living in Israel, Israel Needs Tzipi Livni
Yes, there's apathy among the Israeli people: Livni, Netanyahu or Barak are the 3 likely candidates to become our next Prime Minister. What does that mean for Israel? Not a whole lot. They are all recycled politicians who haven't given us much faith in what they do, or what they stand for; I miss Ariel Sharon. I think he'd have some good ideas about what to do with Ahmadinejad.
But I'm not that worried about who comes into power: Israel as a nation has survived for thousands of years, and God-willing it will survive thousands of more. Sure, our political leaders play a role in shaping our State's future, but they are just a small part of the story: Israel's existence, if you look back at its history, is a stand-alone sort of miracle. Some people might say its success comes from a force of nature, luck, good defense tactics, its brains, or due to the hand of God. I am choosing all the above. -- Karin Kloosterman, journalist living in Israel, More Miracles in Store on Israel's Election Day?
We asked you your thoughts on the Israeli elections and their impact on the world. Here are your responses:
I was born in Israel and lived half of my life in Israel. I come from a family that many of its members perished in the Holocaust. I very much objected to the way the war was handled in Gaza. Israel had to retaliate as missiles were launched against its citizens, however, I saw the pictures out of Gaza and heard some of the stories and felt devastated. Israel is my country and I love the place, but I am very worried of the extreme right wing getting so much power in this land I love. I believe that the only solution is a viable Palestinian state along side Israel. As a result I would have voted for Meretz. - Tirza Haviv, Woodbury, US
I hope for a strong government that will ensure security for Israel while working for genuine peace with the Arab world. We need vision. - Joel Drouet, Tel Aviv, Israel
Unfortunately, I have been underemployed and just started a new job, so I can't afford to fly to Israel and vote. Even if I could, the two major contenders would not be an option for me, because both would be agreeable to a coalition government with Avigdor Liberman, who is bad news because he is racist and super militant. So just like Shoken, who wrote an editorial in his own newspaper Ha'aretz to this effect, I would vote for Meretz, as all my friends in Israel are doing, because it is the only truly progressive party, and with numbers it could help moderate the Livni - Labor coalition and continue to initiate progressive legislation in the Knesset. - Hadar Bechour, Pittsburg, USA
Disappointment. Of those israelis that plan to vote Likud, who will continue supporting the small settlements in the territories, which need to be removed. And of those Israelis planning to vote to the more extreme right, who plan to deny rights from Israeli Arabs. (I plan to vote Meretz.) - What Meworry, Haifa, Israel
As a liberal who votes for the progressive, human rights-oriented Meretz party, the upcoming elections, as far as the polls show, are a disaster. The last decade, during which the world and most of all the US government have looked away from the Middle East, has left the peoples of the region scared, hopeless, and full of hate. The elections of Hamas in 2006, and now the rise of the xenophobic right in the upcoming Israeli elections, are a symptom for this sad reality. The inability of the region to produce a peace-seeking leadership must be a call for the leaders of the international community to leave behind their automatic support or defamation of one of the sides, and aggressively intervene. - Udi, Jerusalem, Israel
The left wing Meretz expresses the political ethics which I most value, but a vote for Meretz is essentially a wasted vote since they don't have any real pull in parliament. When the Egyptian advance during the Yom Kippur War was threatening the destruction of the state, Golda Meir fought against her male colleagues who wanted to use nuclear force. She told the Americans to send munitions which they did just in time to thwart the advance. Jewish values hold the woman's consciousness higher than that of the man. For peace and for less of a male power orientation, I'll have to go with the lady. Most Israelis will tell you there are no natural leaders in the running. In the words of tom waits, 'I'm ridin' with lady luck,' since that's what's needed given the specter of Iran and the even more imminent threat of Israel's water shortage, a fact that has been collectively denied and grossly overshadowed by the Gazan quagmire. - Aaron Spungin, Ein Hod, Israel
I'm a lefty but i think the right will form the government this time. Maybe its for the best. After the Oslo process failed the left had lost its tongue and way and influence. We say here that only the left can go to war and only the right can sign peace with the Arabs or give land back. Now that the left had done its part with the war in Gaza, maybe the right will do its part with peace. If Obama will present a full scale plan that will include the Saudi plan for Arab-Israeli peace, two states solution with the Pals, and no nukes in Iran - any government in Israel will have no way but to accept it. But it takes two to tango and I'm not sure about the Palestinians response. So far they've never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. - Noam Bec, Haifa, Israel
If Netanyahu wins, the extreme views of the right wing Israeli policies will continue only with more confiscation of Palestinian lands and more illegal settlement building. He has no intention of ever returning any Palestinian lands and will never agree to a 2-state solution or abide by many U.N. resolutions regarding return to former borders between Palestine and Israel. Our foreign policy in the middle east will continue to suffer and continue to be the main reason for terrorist actions against American interests worldwide. - Ronald Shamion, USA
Despite the governmental instabilities of the last decade, despite the utter inability to indoctrinate the world or even its citizen body, Israel will try again to choose between the ultra right, the moderate right and the centre right. Alas, the Israeli centre has lost all connection with the citizenry. The paltry remnants of Zionist centre (Meretz) is concerned only with the unsolvable political situation, leaving critical issues (civic service, separation of church and state, etc) on the curb. Alas for us, the citizens. - Marc Volovic, Talmei Yehiel, Israel
The 2009 Israeli elections are a watershed in that this may be the last chance we have to effect a two-state solution, an absolute requisite condition. If this cannot be brought about, do to unwillingness or inability, I fear for the longer term viability of Israel. The next PM should be that person who can garner the political strength required to do this and, additionally, be able to work in harmony and synchronicity with the Obama administration. Washington will be the key player. That said, I do not anticipate the next PM will have the political strength or will to get a viable agreement with the Palestinians , whichever candidate forms the next government. Nor is their leadership currently capable. I am voting MERETZ on 10 February. - Jonathan Perlmutter, Yehud, Israel
I was born and raised in Israel. I left in 2001 (at the age of 40 yro) after realizing that a change in Israel, meant change for the worse, not for the better. The last Prime Minister I voted for was Rabin. When Rabin was murdered, so was the dream for peace, for generations ahead. Since then, there was never much difference between the right and left wing parties. Corruption, greed, and aggression lead the country, regardless of which party is elected. Netanyahu is one of the most incompetent politicians I've known. Barak has never shown any meaningful leadership. Livni may have had a chance, but she is inexperienced, and will never be allowed to succeed in a chauvinistic state like Israel. To point Israel in the right direction for a global good, Israel will need Barak Obama to be its official leader. Until that happens, I will stay here, in an economically challenged USA, yet a country that largely embraced hope, genuine change, and a true leader I fully trust. - Nofi Barak-Turner, Payson, AZ
I am a Canadian living and working in the occupied Palestinian Territories. I witness first hand what the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is all about. I have spoken with a lot of Palestinians about their opinion of this election. The outcome of this election is not going to make much of a difference for Palestinians. None of the Israeli parties are committed to ending the occupation and until the occupation ends, there will be no peace. Settlements will continue to grow and expand, IDF raids on Palestinian villages will continue and the wall will continue to illegally take land. What is needed is for the US and the international community to put real pressure on Israel to end it. Cut back on money given to Israel, economic sanctions, boycotting Israeli-made products. The real opportunity is with the American administration. Not the Israeli one. - Amber, Ramallah
An Israeli election means the chance to vote in a multi-party parliamentary system that more closely resembles horse-trading or Keno than anything like two-party elections in the states. It means an hour each night of TV spots from dozens of parties, from the pot-legalization/Holocaust Survivors bloc to Russian parties with Arabic subtitles. Still, it seems the change of leadership in the United States will have a greater impact than the biannual shuffling of the deck that happens here. Israel is moving to the right faster than ever, but it's hard to believe that a left-wing government would have any greater chance of solving the Mideast crisis. For many, instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, you use the vote to help stave off the party you loathe the most. - Benjamin Hartman, Tel Aviv, Israel