While over 300 parties are running, the upcoming Israeli elections on February 10 have come down to two main contenders; Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni. With the change in power in the United States, the character and political position of the next prime minister of Israel will be of tremendous importance in the struggle for peace in the Middle East.
The world knows Benjamin Netanyahu well as one of the most vocal conservative leaders in Israel. When Ariel Sharon, always known for championing settlers' rights, changed his position and pushed for the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Netanyahu resigned his government post in protest. He has constantly rejected land-for-peace politics and is not a supporter of a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem. While Netanyahu is an excellent and convincing speaker, with great powers of persuasion, he is also considered a hard-line conservative who is not given to selling out Israel in the name of peace. With the terrorist group Hamas running Gaza, pushing a two-state solution into a dismal corner, more Israelis seem ready to accept Bibi's tough politics as the best way to keep Israel safe.
Tzipi Livni, as leader of the center-right Kadima party, is considered a far more diplomatic choice for leader of Israel. As Israel's foreign minister, she was deeply involved in the recent beating of Hamas in Gaza, and many Israelis consider her tough in regard to security. At the same time, she has shown willingness to make concessions toward peace. Some of her concessions have Israelis worried, though. While Netanyahu declared on Monday that he would never agree to divide Jerusalem, Livni has agreed in negotiations with Palestinian leader Ahmed Qureia to give up portions of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu told a crowd of reporters on Monday, "We did not return to Jerusalem after praying for it to be rebuilt for 2000 years in order to give it up. We did not unite the city in order to divide it, and my government will maintain a united Jerusalem. A sane country does not give its capital to its enemies." His words echo the deep beliefs of many religious Jews in Israel who believe that God has given them back the land He promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Livni has taken a stand against Hamas, and has said she would be willing to attack Hamas again if the rocket attacks from Gaza do not stop. "My opinion on this matter is clear," she told Jerusalem Radio on Tuesday, "Every attack must be met with a response." She also made clear she would not negotiate with Hamas, but would make peace "with the moderate elements," Livni said.
In Ashkelon after the recent rocket attack, Netanyahu declared that he would just plain get rid of Hamas. "A government under my leadership will overthrow the Hamas rule in Gaza and bring about a cessation of rocket fire," he said.
Haaretz published a Dialog poll on Friday which showed Netanyahu's Likud winning 28 seats and Livni's Kadima party winning 25. Whoever wins will need to be able to form a majority government among the many factions in the Knesset, and will also face a host of opinions from the governments of the United States and Europe. While the world paid tremendous attention to the recent US election, the less noticed upcoming election in Israel may have even greater impact on the world.
Continue to pray for Jerusalem.
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good." -Psalm 122:6-9
Bibi: 'A Sane Country Doesn't Give Its Capital To Its Enemies' - The Jerusalem Post
Bibi Netanyahu and a Fading Peace - Middle East Times
'It's Between Bibi And Me,' Livni Says - Globe and Mail
Netanyahu Promises To Topple Hamas Regime In Gaza If Elected - The Jerusalem Post
Livni Warns Of Another IDF Op In Gaza Following Attack - The Jerusalem Post
Lessons from the Sudetenland by Benjamin Netanyahu - Koinonia House