Tuesday, December 20, 2005


From Israel: Arlene Kushner, December 20, 2005

From Israel

Arlene Kushner akushner@netvision.net.il

December 20, 2005

[] As some, if not most, of you undoubtedly already know, Binyamin Netanyahu has won the Likud primary solidly. As he garnered 44% of the vote, no run off will be required. He did substantially better than Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who got 33% -- which was a surprise. Moshe Feiglin came in with 15%, which is better than had been expected, and Agricutural Minister Yisrael Katz got about 8%.

Netanyahu is now speaking about reinvigorating the Likud party -- which was demoralized as members ran to join Sharon -- and getting it back on track.

He offers our country -- never mind just his party -- the best chance for turning around before we are destroyed. (There is little doubt in my mind that we would be destroyed if we were to keep going in the direction in which we've been headed these last several months.)

Will he accomplish this? We can only pray so. Netanyahu has a reputation for slipperiness. What gives me hope here is that he is being backed and supported by people whose integrity I do trust: Foremost, Uzi Landau, who secured from him a written pledge to stay true to principles. But also Natan Sharansky. And Yuval Steinitz, Chair of the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committte. If they continue to work with him, it should keep him on track.

Netanyahu's task between now and March, when national elections are to be held, is to convince the nation that Sharon's path is the way of destruction and that he is better able to keep us secure and flourishing.

There are so many unknowns that will have to be contended with between now and then that it's hard to predict how this will play out.

The best possible scenario I can see involves a unified right-wing bloc that would pull substantial votes and help set the national agenda within a coalition along with Likud.

[] PM Sharon was released from the hospital today. However, his doctors have insisted he remain in Jerusalem and not go down to his ranch, in case he needs to be re-hospitalized. This is in spite of the fact that the chief doctors in the hospital held a press conference attesting to his good condition. Just one source ran an item that quoted the doctors who actually cared for him, who say that he was worse than is being represented. (Conflicting statements abounded -- he was unconscious, he never lost consciousness; he was coherent, he was confused.) Not with certainty can I say that this one source is accurate, but there is a strong feeling here (much in line with what might be expected) that the severity of his condition is being scrupulously downplayed for political reasons.

[] Officials in Fatah are pressuring Abbas to delay elections because they fear a Hamas victory. Abbas says he cannot do this without Hamas consent, and there's no way in the world they would give consent. From their perspective, why should they? Should Abbas decide he will delay anyway (Egypt is pushing for this), there would likely be considerable Hamas violence following. They would not take this lightly, as they are already planning to assume cabinet seats in the new government. Hamas, it should be noted, has now started coordinating with the outlawed radical Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

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