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Analysis: Israel's surprising choices

Council on Foreign Relations

March 23, 2006
Prepared by: Michael Moran

The election Israelis face next week (ElectionGuide.org) would have been unimaginable a few short months ago. The founding of a new centrist party, Kadima, late last year by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon drew mass defections and ended a generation of politics in Israel that pitted right-wing Likud against left-wing Labor.

Gone, too, is Ariel Sharon himself. The blow he dealt to the political system was quickly followed by an even more devastating one: a stroke that left Israel's most forceful leader in a coma (WashPost), his career at an end.

These events alone would have completely changed Israeli politics. Yet a third bolt from the blue—the victory of the terrorist group Hamas in Palestinian elections—looms even more ominously over the process.

What's an Israeli voter to do? According to polls (VOA), Israelis will likely give power to Sharon's new party, led now by acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, profiled here by the Washington Post.

Olmert, dismissed by rivals as merely a caretaker, has successfully retained much of the surge of support Kadima drew when Sharon, frustrated with dogma in the traditional parties, founded the centrist group. However, as political analyst David Makovsky tells cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman in an interview, "Olmert deserves a lot of credit for doing something that was unthinkable in Israeli politics. He turned Israeli politics on its head by putting forward a controversial policy initiative in the middle of an election campaign."

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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