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The latest poll out of Israel, conducted by Smith Research, has found that Operation Cast Lead has not stopped the bleeding for the centrist Kadima Party.  Prime Minister Olmert, Ariel Sharon's successor, can be fairly blamed for this.  His popularity makes George W. Bush look like a rock star.  Labor is seeing a boost, thanks to Defense Minister Barak's soaring popularity since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead;  an approval rating of 60% is impressive for a man who's approval rating was at 23% in October.  However, the real story is that the right-wing hawks, Likuid, are continuing to stay ahead.  Why?  Follow me after the jump.

It's the economy, stupid!  Netanyahu and his opposition Likuid party have sold themselves as agents of change;  sound familiar?  It should.  Netanyahu has taken a page from Barack Obama(Not to be confused with Defense Minister Barak) to the point where the front page of his website looks familiar.   The offensive in Gaza against Hamas is clearly helping the leftist Labor party, who's candidate for Prime Minister is Ehud Barak; seen as many as the Robert Gates of Israel, returning pride, dignity and competence to the Israeli Defense Force.  However, Netanyahu seems to remain in a commanding position.  Other polls, including one taken before Operation Cast Lead, has shown Likuid to be losing a little steam as nationalists grow unhappy with Netanyahu's attempts to appear less hawkish(ultra-hawkish, to be accurate).  Additional polling confirms that trend, along with Smith Research's conclusion that Labor is seeing a boost.

There is a chance, a small chance, that Defense Minister Ehud Barak can lead his party to an impressive showing that defies all expectations.  There seems to be a real surge with his support, and depending on how events unfold, he may be able to prevent the once-inevitable hawks from returning to full-throated power.  Livni, the Foreign Minister and PM candidate for Kadima, does not appear to be receiving a boost in any poll conducted during Operation Cast Lead.  This is worrisome, as the centrist party needs to prevent anymore defections to the right-wing parties, especially Likuid. It's clear that the leftist Labor party is only gaining because of the surge Ehud Barak is receiving as Defense Minister.  Foreign Minister Livni seems unable to improve her own image, but perhaps that can change if Israel's diplomatic strategy works(or appears to work in the eyes of voters) as well as their military strategy has been perceived to have worked thus far.

As with all elections, polls are only a snapshot.  With Operation Cast Lead underway, it is entirely impossible to know what could happen between now and February.  However, the situation still looks grim for Kadima and the center-left coalition.  It is still likely to boil down to the economy.  Operation Cast Lead hasn't yet put any dents into right-wing Likuid, who support the operation, and Cast Lead is the last real chance to stop a big win for Netanyahu.  Once again, the only hope for progress rests in some guy named "Barak".

Originally posted to Setrak on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:32 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips For Peace (16+ / 0-)

    "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves! Be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves." Matthew 10:16

    by Setrak on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:32:27 PM PST

    •  Tipped for knowing what's what (0+ / 0-)

      I tipped you, not for peace (which was not the subject of this diary), but for knowing what's what.  The real reasons behind Operation Smiley Face (or Cast Lead, or whatever) are internal to Israeli politics.  As you noted:

      There is a chance, a small chance, that Defense Minister Ehud Barak can lead his party to an impressive showing that defies all expectations.  There seems to be a real surge with his support, and depending on how events unfold,  

      I've said previously that Israel cannot win this war, but of course as you note the war is so far successful, increasing the popularity of both Barak and Livni.  Hopefully one of them will win, and as they take the Prime Minister's chair, every family who has lost a love one can cry out, "It was worth it!"

  •  Tips For Peace (3+ / 0-)

    "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves! Be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves." Matthew 10:16

    by Setrak on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:34:33 PM PST

  •  it's very depressing that Barak's cynical (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rex Manning, Alec82, Voodoo king, Johnny Q

    strategy is working at all.

    We don't have time for short-term thinking.

    by Compound F on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:45:23 PM PST

    •  No, is not (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elliott, Rex Manning, JesseCW, Johnny Q

      Barak's "tough guy like Bush" approach will hand the election to the right-wing nut Netanyahu.

    •  The REAL reason for the IDF killing spree in Gaza (5+ / 0-)

      is for political advantage in domestic Israeli Politics.

      The 1.5 million residents of Gaza are just pawns in Olmert's Machiavellian political games.

      (¯`*(¯`*-INAUGURATE-*'¯)*'¯)

      by Lefty Coaster on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:22:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are a lot of reasons (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Euroliberal, Eiron, dansmith17

        And the up comming election in Israel is only one.

        1. The ongoing attempt to divide Gaza and the West Bank permenantly.  
        1. The desire to keep Hamas viable as a bogeyman and distraction from ongoing settlement.
        1. To discredit Fateh further in Gaza by forcing Abu Mazzen to either

         A) Delay elections when his term is up at the end of this month, since elections in Gaza will be impossible
         B) Lose legitimacy by holding elections only the West Bank.

        Prior to bombing campaign, BTW, Fateh was up 14 points on Hamas in opinion polls..... in Gaza.

        Palestinians, just like Israelis, tend to cling to militant brutal nutjobs when angry/scared.  

        This is more about influencing Palestinian Politics.
         

  •  It's really weird (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RaulVB, mvr, cjallen, Balam, Sleepwalkr, Voodoo king

    to see how much of Barack Obama's motif, color schemes, and graphic feel that Benjamin Netanyahu has pinched for this election.

    It's like seeing one of Obama's stark portrait posters... only with Jessie Helms on it.

    "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." -William Faulkner

    by LeftHandedMan on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:46:03 PM PST

    •  Asking as an American (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cjallen

      who is certainly not an expert on Israeli politics and genuinely curious:

      Is Kadima a viable political party longterm if it completely trainwrecks in this election?

      It seems to me that the way its reported on, at least in the American media reporting on it that I have seen, is that it was slapped together as a kind of 'third way' coalition sort of deal to prevent or delay a strong shift to somebody else, rather than to be a rock solid institution unto inself.

      Can it shit the bed and collapse here, or is it solid enough to move on from a crushing defeat if it suffers one?

      "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." -William Faulkner

      by LeftHandedMan on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:55:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Israeli Politics are a mess (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marsanges

        They have proportional representation and a slew of parties.  Traditionally, you had likud (right) labor (left) and then a lot of small parties that could bring down the government if certain issues (settler's rights) didn't remain the third rail of Israeli politics.  I'll point out that Israel has only had one government in its entire history that consisted of one party.  Generally, there are dozens of parties contesting each election, so Kadima could stick around forever.  

        Kadima is an interesting innovation because theoretically, it should be able to cobble together a stable coalition without the fringe parties.  Unfortunately, Since it only won 28 seats in 2006 (and doesn't look likely to do better in future, it's yet another failed attempt to create a functioning political system in Israel.  Expect lots of the tail wagging the dog in the forseeable future.  

        "If you can't lower heaven, raise hell!" - Mother Jones

        by al ajnabee on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:23:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  well (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Futuristic Dreamer

          Israeli parties have diminished their ethnic identities over time and are now pretty much ideological factions.  You can actually generally map the different Israeli parties onto the American scheme of two Parties with three enduring ideological factions each, now.

          Mapping Israeli parties onto the U.S. party factions, Meretz would be roughly the liberal Democrats, Labor the moderate Democrats, and some small (and not necessarily functional) parties of Israeli Arabs, disgruntled Israeli youth (e.g. the marijuana smoker party), retirees, etc. map onto the Democratic Left.

          Kadima would be the moderate Republicans (plus the Israeli equivalent of centrist Independents), Likud the Republican classical Right, and the Sephardi religious parties fit to the conservative/reactionary Republican faction (aka social conservatives aka Christian Right).

          There are also various long term inviable factions, such as conservative Democrats, that are the swing vote.  In Israel the closest fit to that would be elderly former Labor supporters.

          We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. Martin Luther King Jr.

          by killjoy on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:42:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Inaccurate (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            thebluecrayon

            The religious parties are the strongest supporters of Israel's quite generous welfare state.

            Meretz is far to the left of anything in the US. And even Likud supports Israel's universal health care.

            •  that criterion (0+ / 0-)
              may figure greatly in ideological divisions your particular universe, but it does not globally.

              We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. Martin Luther King Jr.

              by killjoy on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:49:05 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  And I was pointing out that you can't apply (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mvr, dansmith17, al ajnabee, thebluecrayon

                American models to Israel. The country is just very different and the usual "left" vs. "right" characterization is inaccurate. For example, the Shas party, the large Sephardic religious party described as "conservative/reactionary Republican" threatened to bring down the Olmert government because the party was demanding huge increases in welfare payments. You will never see Republicans doing that in the US.

                The other democratic country whose politics don't seem to follow the classic left vs. right model is Ireland, but that is for another diary.

          •  I think (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mvr, charliehall

            You're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  A bit (not like we all don't do it sometimes).  For one thing, when comparing Israel and the US, in Israel you have a much more secular society overall, a huge welfare state and a 50-year-old intractable foreign policy crisis.  Add to that some important institutional differences.  Basically, it's important to remember some of our categories (left, right) but be willing to take up new ones (I like disgruntled youths as a political category).  

            "If you can't lower heaven, raise hell!" - Mother Jones

            by al ajnabee on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 10:19:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  You need more dimensions here. (0+ / 0-)

            Parliamentary politics especially make a one dimensional ordering of parties from left to right overly simplistic.  What seems to this outsider to make Israeli politics too unstable to ever really make peace (not that I don't keep hoping) is in part that several parties that are needed for coalitions have cross-cutting goals.  So, for example, religious parties are willing to join coalitions that promise them perks, and seem to have less concern for a stable peace.  

            I wish I could intelligently map the complexities, but a straight mapping onto US politics, which through the mechanisms of winner take all districts and non-parliamentary government have formed the somewhat odd coalitions that are our parties, is not super accurate.  (If that is a sentence.)

        •  I agree about the mess (0+ / 0-)

          Israel has one of the most dysfunctional political systems of any democracy. Because the entire Knesset is elected via proportional representation nationwide, politicians are beholden primarily to their faction and not to the people who elect them. It also encourages lots of small parties (although the really nutty extremist parties don't usually cross the threshold to make it into the Knesset). For example, I think there are now six religious parties in Israel -- three Zionist, and three anti-Zionist.

        •  Don't forget the religious parties (0+ / 0-)

          which, in my view at least, are the root of a large portion of Israel's internal problems.

          Because neither Labor nor Likud ever got a majority, they both kowtowed to religious extremists, with disastrous results for all.  

    •  Although I despise Netanyahu (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dansmith17

      I don't think he's equivalent to Helms.  That would be, say, Avigdor Lieberman.  Netanyahu is more like Cheney.  

      Although no one in Israeli politics (AFAIK) is as conservative, economically, as the Republicans are here.

  •  National Information Directorate (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Euroliberal, RaulVB, deadatom, Johnny Q

    Rachel Shabi in Tel Aviv The Guardian, Friday 2 January 2009
    Israel believes its has won broad international support in the media for its actions in Gaza thanks to its PR strategy, which through a new body has for months been concerned with formulating plans and role-playing to ensure that government officials deliver a clear, unified message to the world's press.

    The body, known as the National Information Directorate, was set up eight months ago following recommendations from an Israeli inquiry into the 2006 Lebanon war. Its role is to deal with hasbara - meaning, in Hebrew, "explanation", and referring variously to information, spin, and propaganda.

    Busy government..learned something from  Lebanon..better spin.

    Any idea which media they are talking about? Any idea which candidate would be a natural partner for Obama?

    Fear favors the warrior culture of the right..I hope I am wrong.

    Thanks as always to the Guardian..

    Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

    by ohcanada on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:51:22 PM PST

    •  If they think that, they are delusional (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Euroliberal, Balam, dansmith17, Johnny Q

      If they talk about the US, they didn't have to waste a single dollar in their "efforts."

      "Natural partner for Obama?"

      Irrelevant. Obama is merely repeating politically correct talking points in the matter.

      •  Irrelevance (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RaulVB, dansmith17

        You may well be right.

        At the moment I have no idea what position he will take, only that he has come out strongly for Israel.

        BTW about the spin people..I do agree that they seem delsusional if they believe the world to be supportive of this latest effort..very odd..

        Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

        by ohcanada on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 10:59:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  oh god (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eiron, ohcanada

      From the article above

      The directorate acts across ministries and decides key messages on a daily basis. Of its core messages for the media, there has been the advice that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements with Israel; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Hamas is a terror organisation targeting Israeli civilians. "In general, we think we are succeeding in getting the message across," said Vatikai.

      Yeah they sure have been getting the message out.  I see it in every fucking diary.  I am gonna donut people who bring these talking points up more then once from now on.  Sick and tired of this shit.

      Thanks for bringing this to my attention ohcanada.  I was thinking i was crazy for awhile.

      "It's our daunted restraint that keeps us silent in shame"

      by deadatom on Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 02:57:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ohcanada, deadatom

        NID agents are here, in force, you can see the "message of the day"talking points get repeated, day by day.   Also notice the "swarm" of early responders to diaries that question Israel's Gaza policy.    
        The NID is worried that US support for Israel, which they judge is high, would be eroded by negative public opinion on her actions in Gaza.  The other half of their mission, countering and deflecting negative PR is what we are seeing here.

        Nothing wrong with any of this, I suppose.  Just disturbs me that they call themselves progressives.  

        Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

        by Eiron on Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 03:53:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Eiron thanks.. (0+ / 0-)

          to regular readers in Kos, I am one..it is glaring..they just pop up out of thin air.

          The assumption by newcomers that we are as thick as planks is irritating.

          Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

          by ohcanada on Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 03:13:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The thought of Benjamin Netanyahu (11+ / 0-)

    being on top in Israel again really creeps me out.
    He always struck me as being a real fucking nutcase.

    "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." -William Faulkner

    by LeftHandedMan on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 08:59:41 PM PST

  •  The only reason Isreal is at war again is (6+ / 0-)

    Because scumbags like Ehhud Barak thinks it helps them politically. How shameful is that? Reminiscent of the Thug Bush and his invasion of Iraq.  

  •  Netanyahu as Prime Minister (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dansmith17, Johnny Q

    is worth avoiding. That would be a super bad move.

    In re: ideological purity-- We can't govern if we don't win-Toby Ziegler

    by ChicagoCillen on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:32:25 PM PST

  •  Of course Labor gains, (0+ / 0-)

    they're kicking Palestinian ass, and doing so is the mother's milk of Likud politics.  

    Their real God is money-- Jesus just drives the armored car. © 2006 All Rights Reserved

    by oblomov on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:39:50 PM PST

  •  Netanyahu will probably win (0+ / 0-)

    unless Barak can put Hamas completely out of business.

    If that happens, Barak might just win, and there would then probably be a peace agreement within a year.

    •  It's not even a long shot (0+ / 0-)

      With it's amazing 3% support in Gaza and .01% support in the West Bank, the PLFP is still around after 45 years.

      Hamas has some 25,000 fighters.  They aren't going away.

      Bloody the hell out of them, and then get a sensible deal worked out in which PA forces backed by Egypt move in to take back the West Bank, and Hamas may well be reduced to a relative nusciance.

      No bombing campaign or Israeli invasion is going to put them out of business, though.  Right now, Israel is just helping them recover from a huge slump in popularity and helping them with recruitment.

  •  Obama's web page & Bush's policies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eiron, thebluecrayon

    what a great combination.   title=

    "Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be kept by understanding." ~Albert Einstein

    by Futuristic Dreamer on Thu Jan 01, 2009 at 09:43:46 PM PST

  •  Netanyahu (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weasel, dansmith17

    being out of government is playing this like a genius.   He's in the best position to take advantage of whatever the outcome of the Gaza debacle will be.

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 03:56:54 AM PST

  •  Overall the Israeli Parliament (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    charliehall

    will move to the right.  Perhaps not overwhelmingly, but enough to make a difference.  Likud and Netanyahu will be in the next government in leadership positions, and possibly on top.  From my reading of Israeli on-line newpapers, it appears that a majority of the populastion does not want to make any more land consessions, after the Gaza disengagement.  Even moderates who might be willing to give up some of West Bank or negotiate with Syria on Golan Heights now feel that these areas would then be used as staging places for more missile attacks on Israel.  The Hezbo war and now the Hamas fighting only serve to reinforce that perception.

    •  accurate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sandbox, dansmith17

      a majority of the populastion does not want to make any more land consessions, after the Gaza disengagement.

      That is unquestionably true. Israelis overwhelmingly feel that the Gaza withdrawal showed that good faith efforts will not be rewarded.

      Even moderates who might be willing to give up some of West Bank or negotiate with Syria on Golan Heights now feel that these areas would then be used as staging places for more missile attacks on Israel.  The Hezbo war and now the Hamas fighting only serve to reinforce that perception.

      And Israelis also remember that the Golan was the source of artillery fire into Israel prior to 1967.

      The amazing thing is that there is still any kind of peace movement in Israel at all, given that Israel's unilateral concessions have made daily life for many Israelis more rather than less dangerous. I guess Jews have to be optimistic!

  •  What's the difference? (0+ / 0-)

    They both kill at about the same rate.  They both expand the illegal settlements at about the same rate.  They're both adherents of Thatcherite economics.  They both cowtow to the theocrat parties.  They both suck.

    Unions: The Folks That Brought You the Weekend

    by Paleo on Fri Jan 02, 2009 at 04:31:30 AM PST

    •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

      Settlements haven't been expanding much at all since Rabin was elected in 1993.

      Nobody in Israel except the now defunct Shinui party ever supported Thatcherite economics, not even Netanyahu, who would be more like a moderate Republican by US standards. Remember that in economic issues EVERY party is far to the left of the US mainstream.

      "Theocrat" is misleading. The Orthodox Zionist parties expressly do NOT want to impose a religious state on the majority of Jews who are lax in observance. And the Orthodox non-Zionist parties in theory would like a religious state, but not necessarily now -- they mostly want money for their schools and generous welfare benefits for the large families of their voters. The Zionist and non-Zionist religious parties in Israel have been at odds for a long time.

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