Corridors of Power: Israeli Elections, Afghan Cricket, and More

Corridors of Power: Israeli Elections, Afghan Cricket, and More

ISRAEL MIGHT FIGHT FIRST, VOTE LATER -- Even with the faint prospect of a ceasefire in the offing, there is talk of postponing Israel's Feb. 10 national elections. For one thing, none of the parties has been campaigning; the public has been distracted (though not unduly dismayed: a recent poll showed only 10 percent of Israelis are against the Gaza incursion, and 82 percent believe Israel has not "gone too far"); and then there is the rather pious argument that a postponement would prevent resolution of the conflict from becoming a political issue.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is flying to Washington this weekend to sign a hastily arranged deal for new surveillance equipment for the Israeli-Gaza border. The Israelis insist on this as a component of any ceasefire agreement. But even if the fighting ended next week, it would still leave precious little time to gear up for an election. Even Labor leader and defense minister Ehud Barak, whose popularity has blossomed as a result of the Israeli offensive, may not want to rush to the polls.

A survey by the newspaper Haaretz forecasts 16 Knesset seats for Labor in the election, up from an estimated six seats before the fighting started in November. But the overall picture is not that good for the comeback kid of Israeli politics, and he may want campaign time to consolidate his lead. As things now stand, it's Likud opposition leader Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu who would be able to cobble up a conservative alliance of 62 Knesset seats, leaving the center-left Livni-Barak partnership able to muster only 56. The snag for Netanyahu: his government would be one of those typical Israeli crazy-quilt pastiches that will be difficult to manage -- and probably short-lived.

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