Kadima’s election win was less than emphatic, and now Olmert’s team has some tough negotiating ahead of it to form a coalition.
The next government not only has to handle pressing issues like the economy and unemployment, but also to lead Israel through an upheaval that would literally redraw the map of the Middle East. Olmert will have to make concessions to build that kind of alliance. Labour leader Amir Peretz will be bargaining hard for the best deal. He views Labour’s second place as a reward for his efforts to put social welfare issues on the campaign agenda. An obvious coalition partner, he is thought to have his eye on the finance ministry or defence. The election results shook up the Knesset, with some major groups fading into opposition and others now more likely to be in government. Analysts believe the new coalition will bring together Kadima and Labour as a core grouping, with other parties as possible allies. They inlude ultra-orthdox Shas and United Torah Judaism, the pensioners’ party and the Arab parties. Jeruslaem Post editor David Horowitz: “Clearly it is a victory for the Kadima party, Ehud Olmert clearly will form the next government, but it is not the decisive mandate that he would have wanted. He can’t easily reach a majority in the parliament only with like-minded parties. He is going to have to bring in coalition partners who may have different demands from the ones he would want to meet.” While Olmert may be able to tackle special interest groups like the Pensioner’s Party he could find it harder to win over the ultra-orthodox Shas and United Torad Judaism parties. Shas has become more right-wing, opposing the pullout from the Gaza Strip and Olmert’s plan to close down some Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Moreover, images of the West Bank outpost of Amona being evacuated in January have fed the settler movement. Kadima means “forward” in Hebrew. Olmert has several weeks to form a new government, but it will take all his political skill to build one that can live up to his party’s name.