Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ehud Olmert's position became a little more comfortable today. After the votes of the IDF soldiers, Israeli diplomats who work abroad, prisoners and prison wardens, people lying in hospital, and the handicapped (*) were counted, Kadimah, Likud and Meretz received one more Knesset seat, while Shas, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu and the Arab Ra'am-Ta'al list lost one. If the Pensioners' party agrees in principle to support further unilateral withdrawals that means that Olmert has a 61 majority ( Kadimah 29, Labor 20, Pensioners 7, Meretz 5 ) for his convergence plan. It does not mean that he will decide ( or be able ) to carry out such a plan immediately but it definitely improves his position in coalition negotiations, particularly with Shas, a party that is very eager to enter the government but made great efforts to portray itself as strongly opposing Sharon's disengagement from Gaza. If Olmert manages to form a government of Kadimah, Labor, Shas ( plus UTJ ), the Pensioners and possibly Meretz he could have a broad and relatively stable coalition, unless of course one or more of the coalition partners will start internal power struggles. The changes in the division of the Knesset seats also mean that if Shas enters the government the leader of the Likud ( maybe Bibi, maybe somebody else ), and not Avigdor Lieberman will be the head of the opposition. That might give Lieberman another reason to try and become a member of the government, although I do not think that engaging Lieberman is high on the list of Ehud Olmert's priorities. The final results of the elections are:
  • Kadimah 29
  • Labor 20
  • Shas 12
  • Likud 12
  • Yisrael Beytenu 11
  • National Union - National Religious Party 9
  • Pensioners' Party 7
  • United Thorah Judaism 6
  • Meretz 5
  • Ra'am-Ta'al 3
  • Hadash 3
  • Balad 3

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