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A Move to the Center

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But it cannot be overlooked that Lapid in the center beat his nearest competitor for young votes -- Bennett on the right. While Lapid did not propagate any ideology, Bennett did everything possible to disguise his. He went to Tel Aviv's pubs, presented himself as everyman's (and everywoman's) good guy, wooed secular, liberal youngsters.

Throughout the campaign, Bennett appeared to be the rising star on the political firmament, the great surprise of this election, the symbol of Israel's fatal move to the right.

There was another similarity between the two: both worked hard. While the other parties relied mostly on TV to carry their message, Lapid "plowed" the country all through last year, building an organization, talking to people, attracting groups of faithful followers. So did Bennett.

But in the end, when a young person had to choose between the two, he or she could not overlook the fact that Lapid belonged to a democratic, liberal Israel and was committed to the two-state peace solution, while Bennett was an extreme advocate of the settlers and of Greater Israel, an enemy of the Arabs and of the Supreme Court.

The verdict of the young was unequivocal: 19 for Lapid, only 12 for Bennett.

THE GREATEST disappointment was in store for Shelly Yachimovich. She was absolutely certain that her rejuvenated Labor Party would become the second largest faction in the Knesset. She even presented herself as a possible replacement for Netanyahu.

Both she and Lapid profited from the huge social protest of the summer of 2011, which pushed war and the occupation off the agenda. Even Netanyahu did not dare to bring up the attack on Iran and the extension of the settlements. But in the end, Lapid profited more than Shelly.

It appears that Shelly's single-minded concentration on social justice was a mistake. If she had combined her social platform with Tzipi Livni's peace negotiation agenda, she might well have fulfilled her ambition and formed the second-largest faction.

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Tzipi's defeat -- just six seats - was pitiable. She joined the fray only two months ago, after a lot of hesitation, which seems to be her trademark. Her single-minded concentration on the "political arrangement" with the Palestinians -- not "peace," God forbid -- ran against the trend.

People who really want peace voted (like me) for Meretz, who can boast a resounding achievement, doubling their strength from three to six. That is also a striking feature of this election.

It appears also that quite a number of Jews gave their vote to the mainly-Arab communist Hadash party, which was also strengthened.

THE WHOLE thing boils down to two numbers: 61 for the Right-Religious bloc, 59 for the Center-Left-Arab bloc. One single member could have made all the difference. The Arab citizens could have easily provided that member.

I noticed that all three TV stations sent their teams to the headquarters of every single Jewish party, including those who did not surmount the 2% hurdle (like, thank God, the religious-fascist Kahanist list) but not to any of the three Arab parties.

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By tacit agreement, the Arabs were treated as not really belonging. The Left (or "Center-Left," as they preferred to be called) relegated them to membership in the "Blocking-Bloc," those who could block Netanyahu's ability to form a coalition. The Arabs themselves were not consulted.

Lapid disposed of the "blocking bloc" rapidly. He made short shrift of the idea that he could be in the same bloc with Hanin Zuabi (or with any Arab party, for that matter.) He also squashed the idea that he had ambitions to be Prime Minister. He was not prepared for such an advance, having no political experience at all.

EVEN THOUGH the "blocking bloc" will not materialize, it will be very difficult for Netanyahu to form a coalition.

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Gush

Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the Israeli (more...)
 

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