Before Saturday, when Israel began its massive attacks on the Gaza Strip, the political picture for February’s elections looked extremely straightforward. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party was riding high in the polls on his calls to attack the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party was second, and the Labor Party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak was a virtually forgotten third, a major party in name only.
Minister Barak’s massive turnabout, from defending the Gaza ceasefire to being the public face of one of the most major attacks against the Palestinians in decades, has been so effective in revamping his party’s image that opponents say it is a callous “bodies for votes” ploy by the Labor Party.
But whether or not Israel’s impending election is driving the war, there can be no question the war is driving the election. Labor is up big, Kadima is also gaining, and the opposition Likud’s calls for war are seeming less and less original as an elated public admires the destruction wrought by the current coalition.
But there’s still over a month before that election, assuming it isn’t delayed, and on the battlefield that is an eternity. In less time than is left the 2006 Israeli war in Lebanon came and went, and public opinion went from cheering on the aerial attacks to lamenting the growing death toll from the ground invasion. In fact, public perception of the current government’s failures in 2006 were a driving force in their growing unpopularity. If and when the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip happens, the lives of soldiers and civilians won’t be all that’s on the line: the next Israeli government will be as well.