Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Stroke of Bad Luck

The massive stroke that has debilitated Israeli President Ariel Sharon is more than a medical tragedy; it could be a death blow (at least a temporary one) to the peace process. If Sharon dies, or is just incapable of resuming his position and the leadership of his new Kadima party, it is very unclear what will follow. As Dan Drezner points out, without Sharon, Kadima is in a heap of trouble, especially if it believes Shimon Peres can fill the leadership void. Israelis just don't like Peres, and they certainly don't trust him to run the country. Even worse, Kadima stood a decent chance of getting decent plurality of Knesset seats. Without Sharon, that seems unlikely. Neither Labor, with its new neo-socialist leader Amir Peretz, nor Likud, led by paleo-rightist Binyamin Netanyahu, can motivate Israeli voters as both lack any vision. What seems most likely is that Israeli politics will return to the days where no major party can get enough seats to rule without being slaves to the tiny one-issue parties. Since those tend to be religious parties who are generally opposed to the peace process, things could be in for a long slog. And seeing as Mahmoud Abbas seems incapable of enforcing order in Gaza, there will be little stomach for any engagement. The best hope is that some (Ehud Olmert, perhaps?) can move up within Kadima to provide a viable leader in place of Peres.


patrick said...

Given how critics of the US often opine that our single member district system is inferior to proportional representation, Israel is a useful contrast. Granted, a vacuum of leadership is a separate issue from that of electoral systems, but I would think that having to cobble together unstable coalitions makes policy change that much harder.

Seth Weinberger said...

Nice point...comparing electoral systems is much less a question of "superior" and "inferior" but whether the system is well-suited to the political needs of the population. For example, the US is, more or less, a politically homogenous population (compared to other countries, the differences between right and left are small, and mostly centered on policy differences, rather than fundamental differences in governance) for which a "first-past-the-post system" is likely well-suited. For countries with more diversity in the voting populace, proportional representation allows that diversity to appear in the legislature. The price of that diversity, however, is the increased power of small parties who are needed to play the "kingmaker" role.

stefan moluf said...

Assuming that no Israeli leader is able to capture significant support and Abbas remains in a weakened, state, do you forsee an escalation of the conflict or simply an extended period of current intensity?

In addition, if attacks continue to be conducted from the Gaza strip, is Israel likely to once again seize the territory out of security concerns?