The Israeli elections are today, and while everyone’s got their fingers crossed for Tzipi Livni and Kadima it’s not really looking good. Arch-hawk Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was leading in the polls until a recent plunge turned it into a neck and neck between Kadima and the more conservative Likud. Even if Kadima does manage to pull off a victory and gain some seats, there’s still the matter of forming a government, which will unfortunately require making a deal with the devil, in this case in the form of a man by the name of Avigdor Lieberman, leader of a party called Yisrael Beiteinu, which is largely perceived as racist. Among other things, they’ve called for Israel’s not insignificant Arab population to either take a loyalty oath or be stripped of the franchise, as well as the outright banning of any arab parties from the Knesset, and they oppose anything resembling a positive move in Gaza (namely Sharon’s unilateral pullout and the recent ceasefire). Sadly this actually represents a step down from their original platform of complete arab expulsion. But I guess if you can’t beat them, openly oppressing them is just as good.

Naturally, the election has done a good job of uniting the Arab world in cyncism; they’re not particularly thrilled with any of the options so the struggle between Kadima and Likud is really seen as a choice between bad and worse. Plus Likud’s recent poll free-fall is just a result of Israel’s far right splintering as opposed to any movement toward Kadima, which is simply benefitting from the fray. And as stated before, whoever wins will have to include Yisrael Beiteinu in their coalition in order to form a government, so inevtiably expect Israel’s rhetoric to take a hard right in the near future. Which is not a good thing given that we still need to begin the achingly delicate task of opening lines of communication with Iran; there’s only so much the US/EU tag team can do to keep Tel Aviv and Tehran from going at each other.

In short, Israel’s election is likely to generate as much disappointment as America’s did optimism. The only good news? Yasser Arafat is still dead.

EDIT: almost forgot, for those seeking a more professional overview, Time’s got you covered.

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