An apathetic Israeli electorate is finally getting serious about the upcoming Tuesday Israeli election, and some electoral shifts are apparently afoot. The post-Gaza War bump indicated by polls for Labor and its leader Ehud Barak seems to be dissolving in this final weekend. Why this is happening is not entirely clear. To be sure, Barak has not run an attractive political campaign. And the continued drizzle of missiles out of Gaza has done nothing to burnish Barak's proposed image as the military strategist who found a once-and-for-all solution to the missile crisis.
The beneficiary of this last-minute dissolve of Labor is apparently Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party, now running a close second behind Likud and Binyamin Netanyahu. It really matters not the slightest who wins -- Livni or Netanyahu -- the upshot will be a coalition government of far righter political outlook than the current one. It is hard to imagine any conceivable coalition configuration that does not include the thuggish Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party in its midst, but it could happen. Lieberman, who faces an ongoing corruption investigation (a bribe scandal involving the now defunct Palestinian casino in Jericho) which will not be resolved before Tuesday, might ultimately prove to be an unacceptable coalition partner, even as his rightist pronouncements garner a half million votes. Still, a Likud/Kadima-Labor-Shas coalition (75 projected seats) that foregoes Lieberman (as Yoel Marcus wishes in Friday's Haaretz) will nevertheless have a more right-wing slant, if only because of the newfound strength of Likud. No matter what, Likud and Kadima together will make up the bulk of the next government. If Labor joins, expect Barak to continue as Defense Minister. If the religious Shas party is in the next government, there is virtually no chance that Lieberman (who is rabidly secular) will sit at a cabinet table with Shas leader Eli Yishai. Livni, the well-regarded (in some circles, but not all) current Israeli Foreign Minister, might more palatably represent such a right-center government to the world community than truculent Bibi, but it will still be a government less prone to engage in enthusiastic peace processing with the broken Palestinian political leadership, and a government even more keen on insisting on "security."