Israel’s New Realism

Kadima’s victory in Israel’s elections is the country’s most important political turning point in 30 years, if not longer. The new party—barely six months old—has realigned Israeli politics by transforming the entire framework of ideological assumptions underpinning the country’s security strategy.

Everyone knew that Kadima would win and form a coalition with the moderate left Labor party, which managed a respectable second-place finish. As a result, some Kadima voters stayed home, while other potential supporters voted for Labor to strengthen its hand in pushing social and economic issues in Kadima-led coalition.

On the right, the Likud party, which Sharon abandoned to establish Kadima, did very poorly, partly because many conservative voters also deserted it for religious, immigrant, and other parties. In fact, a wide variety of small political groups, including three Jewish religious parties, Arab parties, and a pensioners’ party won seats. Since Kadima and Labor will not have a majority even as coalition partners, they will have to bring in some of these groups.

But the importance of the distribution of seats pales in comparison to that of the longer-term changes in Israeli politics implied by Kadima’s victory. Indeed, having attracted leading figures from both Labor and Likud, Kadima is now established as the most successful centrist party in Israel’s history. With few political stars left in either Labour or Likud, Kadima may become the country’s dominant party for many years to come.