Campus Reacts to Israeli Elections
Students hopeful that Kadima can bring peace to region.
March 29, 2006 4:29 PM
Israel’s elections came to a close late Tuesday evening, as interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party, originally founded by Ariel Sharon, won the majority of parliamentary seats. Earlier polls had projected the Kadima party to win.
Kadima’s victory came from a record low in votes, but still awarded them the majority with 28 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament. Second place went to the left-wing Labor party with 20 seats, and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party came in third with 13 seats. Because there were not enough seats won by Kadima to dominate the Knesset entirely, they must now form a coalition by choosing other political parties to cooperate with – something that might be difficult given the variety of political stances between the three majority groups.
After Palestinian elections were held in January and militant group Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament, anticipation grew to see how Israelis would react to the Palestinian election with their votes.
On Monday, Professor Dwight Simpson, a professor and expert in Middle Eastern politics at San Francisco State University anticipated the election outcome as it would help to determine the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.
“This is an enormous dilemma for Hamas -- how to proceed. (It is) a dilemma for Israel and for the United States on what to do. So we’re sort of floating, waiting first of all, for the Israeli election,” says Simpson.
After Kadima’s victory was declared, Hatem Bazian, professor of Middle East studies at UC Berkeley discussed how the new political structure emerging in Israel might cause more problems down the road – steering away from improvement in relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
“These elections didn’t give Netenyahu the boost he hoped for,” says Bazian. “He used considerable bombastic statements that didn’t help him in standing. Olmert, on the other hand, has no military background and that might hurt him in the long run because that is very important in the Israeli political structure. The structure has now suffered a fracture and there is now a very divided Israeli political landscape. Unfortunately, the contours of the conflict have not changed.”
At the Jewish Studies office in SFSU’s Humanities building, students came to watch televised coverage of the election sponsored by the Israeli Coalition and the international Jewish organization Hillel.
Alon Shalev, Executive director of San Francisco Hillel, witnessed a steady stream of students Israeli and non-Israeli students witnessing election coverage and showing interest in what would be the outcome.
“The Middle East is a very central part of what is going on in this world right now, unfortunately. These elections, we hope, are going to be a breakthrough that will provide a consensus in Israeli society towards peace, from both sides -- because peace has to be two-sided,” says Shalev.
Bret Allen, 23, is co-chair of the Israel Coalition at San Francisco Hillel came to watch the election, insisting on its importance.
“It seems to be a very left-wing majority in the Israeli government right now,” says Allen.
“I believe that the Israeli elections so far have proven very hopeful. Most of my friends here on campus would have voted for Kadima. From the people I’ve talked to, they believe there is a hope for the future, because without change you have no future. You can’t keep occupying territories and keep calling yourself a democratic state while you continue to oppress a people that have nothing to live for. I believe this new government will install security for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
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