So what does this Labor Party do now? It can stay independent and become a middle-sized party or try to form a grand coalition of the left.
The problem with the latter strategy is that, nowadays, the left has no good alternatives — in large part because the Palestinians and Syrians don’t “cooperate” in wanting to make peace. That leaves as the left’s platform talking about a two-state solution and offering even more unilateral concessions.
But that’s not all. The most likely partner, Meretz, has only three seats and has been moving even further to the left, getting in sight of the Communist party. A left party would be lucky to poll ten percent of the vote. Labor voters would flee to the center-left Kadima, where many have already defected.
Who then is the big winner? Paradoxically, it is Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. While he has less support in parliament, he still has a comfortable majority. Barak is now totally dependent on him. Of course, Barak is a winner in that he survives, which was his intention.
The main opposition party, Kadima, could profit by picking up Labor voters. But Kadima’s leader, Tzipi Livni, is really another Barak — an unpopular leader who has performed quite poorly as head of the opposition. That party will have its own leadership battle in future.
What outsiders don’t understand is that Israeli politics today is not a function of internal ideology or personality but a response to an environment where there is no realistic alternative for transforming the regional situation.
Israelis learned important lessons during the peace process of the 1990s. They discovered that the Palestinians and Syria are not interested in peace. They realized that the Islamists want to wipe Israel off the map. And they concluded that Western allies are not necessarily reliable. The left’s formula — as even Barak came to understand — didn’t work. Wishful thinking is no substitute for realism.
There is absolutely nothing on the horizon, despite a lot of fantasy Western media coverage and policy thinking, to change that.
Moreover, the Netanyahu-led government has done a credible job of handling the issues, including maintaining good relations with the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Israel’s economy is doing remarkably well.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems. But neither are the problems so great, nor the alternatives so obvious or attractive, nor the other candidates for leadership so attractive to provoke a change. Bet on Netanyahu to win another term in office, probably this year.