Jewish elections galore and what to expect

OK - so this is a week of Jewish elections! Both at the World Zionist Organization and in Israel. What can we expect? Is anything going to change?

Let's start with the WZO. By the latest agreement between the Jewish Agency, Israel, and the American Jewish Community, about 1/3 of the elected seats go to representatives from the American Jewish Community. And with a growing disinterest in Zionism among liberal Jews, the result might surprise many. While ARZA (The Reform Zionist Movement) mounted an effective campaign to promote the Liberal list, it might be swimming against the current. There is a differential in active participation in the Zionist Movement between Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Jews. Participation of Modern Orthodox is proportionally larger than among the other movements, and their support tends to go for the Likkud and religious parties. Adding to this, is the gradual distancing of young American Jews from Israel and Zionism, and the fact that the younger American generations (Jews included) are far less likely to affiliate. Among Modern Orthodox all these trends exist as well, but a lot less so. The result? We are likely to see a WZO Board that is overall more conservative and more supportive of the Zionism represented by the Likkud. This will probably result in growing tensions between Liberal American Jews and our Modern Orthodox and Israeli brothers, as the political make up of the communities continues to grow apart.

Then there is Israel, heading for its THIRD election in twelve months. The right-wing block and the center-left block continue to be, according to Israeli polls, in a deadlock. The right wing block led by the Likkud will probably get, according to the estimates, between 56 and 57 seats, 4 or 5 short of Knesset majority. For the Center left block to unseat the Likkud, they will need the support of the United Arab List, currently the third political force in Israel with a projected 11-12 seats. While the United Arab list is indeed likely to support the Center Left against Likkud in a Knesset vote, they are now in a position to demand a price: participation in the government coalition. Since the founding of Israel, every political party avoided going that far, and they all know that bringing the Arab list into a coalition will cost them political support. There is still, of course, the third alternative that already existed in the prior two elections: A Likkud/Kachol V'Laban coalition, which could form a government with a majority of 70+ Knesset members - a coalition so numerically strong that we would have to go back many years to find the likes of it. The obstacle remains the same: Benny Gantz, leader of Kachol V'Laban, will not, under any circumstance, sit in a government that includes Netanyahu, who is now indicted of crimes. Netanyahu, for his part, is convinced that he is the only one holding the right-wing coalition together and will therefore not consider stepping aside. If Netanyahu does decide to step aside because of his legal problems, then a super-majority coalition is indeed possible. It will leave out, however, the traditional religious and right wing allies of Likkud, and probably the left-wing allies of Kachol V'Laban. The end result of this potential realignment would be a government with policies close to those of the old Kadimah party headed by Sharon and Peres. Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beyteinu) could still hold the king-makers vote.

The alternative to a Kachol V'Lavan/Likkud coalition? - A FOURTH election, which could be very problematic because of voter's fatigue, a factor already playing a role this time around.

So stay tuned, but be ready to see a widening of the political chasm between American Jews and Israeli Jews, as well as a deeper polarization of forces in Israeli politics... sounds familiar?


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