Feb 9, 2009

Who Will Lead Israel?

By Joel C. Rosenberg

(New York City, February 9, 2009) -- Greetings from New York City. I'm back from a month-long speaking tour through Israel, Iraq, India and the United Arab Emirates. Tonight, I am scheduled to appear on the Glenn Beck TV show on the Fox News Channel. Topics: analysis of President Obama's policy towards Israel and Iran, and the Israeli elections. Glenn's show airs live from 5pm to 6pm eastern. I'm not sure which segment I will be on, and keep in mind - it's television -- thus, it's all subject to change. Please check my weblog for updates. Thanks.

Okay, that said, Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday. A few points to keep in mind:

Fmr. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party have had the lead for the entire campaign -- until now. He strongly opposed giving away Gaza in 2005, arguing it would create a terror base camp he nicknamed "Hamastan." He was right. While economic growth is a major issue for him, he is best known for strongly opposing the dividing of Jerusalem, opposing giving away the strategic Golan Heights, and opposing the ceding of new land in the West Bank to the current Palestinian leadership. What's more, he is out front in making the Iran nuclear threat a top campaign issue, saying he will do everything in his power to stop Iran from acquiring The Bomb. The polls have tightened considerably in the last week or so. At this moment, it is not clear Likud will win the most mandates (seats in the Knesset)

Running almost neck-and-neck with Likud is the Kadima Party, led by Israel's current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Livni was a key player in the Gaza turnover in 2005, supports creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and dividing Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the previous head of Kadima, finally endorsed Livni over the weekend. This may not help. Olmert is widely despised in Israel for his poor handling of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

In third place and rising rapidly is the Israeli Beiteinu party, led by former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman is a hawkish, right-wing Russian immigrant who used to serve as a senior aide to Netanyahu. Currently, he's increasingly perceived by many voters on the right as tougher against the Arabs and Iran than Netanyahu. His party's polls have surged from about 13 mandates to between 18 and 20. All of this is coming out of Likud support.

Netanyahu has said he is ready to include Lieberman's team in his governing coalition if Likud places first among the 40 parties competing. Ironically, Netanyahu may not have the opportunity to form a government if Lieberman's party continues to siphon off Likud voters.

In fourth place is the Labor Party, led by current Defense Minister Ehud Barak. This is the worst showing for Labor in six decades.

Please keep Israel in prayer over the next 24 hours, that the Lord would be gracious to her people. The threats they face are very real. The stakes are very high. And the world is increasingly turning against Israel. They need leaders like the "sons of Issachar," mentioned in the Book of Numbers, "men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do."

Related Links

Netanyahu: No return of Golan Heights to Syria - Yahoo News
Israel's Pivotal 2009 Elections - CBN News
Palestinian FM: Hamas attacks tied to elections - YNet News