Israel’s 22-day war in the Gaza Strip may have saved the Labor Party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak from the indignity of falling to single-digit representation in the Knesset in next month’s elections, but recent polls suggest it has also assured that the next coalition government will have no need of Labor as a partner.
Indeed, the biggest winners in the post-war polls were not the leftist Labor Party but the right wing opposition, who cheered the popular war on and lamented its ending. And while before the Gaza flareup the ruling Kadima Party and the rival Likud Party were virtually neck-and-neck, Likud now seems to be coasting to an easy victory.
But the benefit isn’t all Likud’s. Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu really cashed in on their leaders staunch anti-Arab comments at a time when the nation’s Arab minority was being publicly reviled for opposing the war. His repeated calls to require Arabs to take a loyalty oath or lose their citizenship seems to have really connected with the war-time mentality of the population.
Likud is eying the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu as a coalition partner (to the point of ordering activists not to publicly criticize Lieberman). If the polls prove sound, those two and the Shas Party, which forced the new elections by abandoning the Kadima coalition amid rumors of a back-door deal with Likud, will be within a handful of seats of an unprecedentedly hawkish tripartite coalition.