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Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Third party escapist

Daniel Pipes has a very good article in Front Page Magazine explaining why Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party is unlikely to be as successful as the media claims in favor of the man who bolted from the very party he helped to found (Likud):
Ariel Sharon overturned Israel politics on Nov. 21 when he announced his departure from the very Likud Party he had helped establish 32 years earlier.

The next week saw an avalanche of polling, with the results pointing consistently to a resounding success for Sharon’s new party, called Kadima (“Forward”). For example, three surveys collected by IMRA find Kadima winning between 32 and 34 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, followed by Labor with about 26 and Likud with a miserable 13. No other party scores even 10.

But how long will the new party last and how deep will its impact be?

The best guide to assessing the impact of Kadima is by looking at the historical record of comparable parties in Israeli politics. Fortunately, Bernard Susser and Giora Goldberg provide just such an analysis in a well researched, pungently titled, and beautifully timed article, “Escapist Parties in Israeli Politics,” in the current issue of Israel Affairs, edited by Efraim Karsh.

The authors note that “escapist political parties … have been an almost permanent fixture of Israeli political life over the past 40 years.” Calling Kadima escapist may sound insulting, but Sharon’s new party closely fits Susser and Goldberg’s use of this term. Actually, they distinguish between two types of escapist parties, “anomic” and “new start.” The former interests us little here, being directed at “alienated, politically adrift voters with little investment in the political system” and including over the years such colorful but forgettable personal parties as those of Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, Pnina Rosenblum, and Rabbi Yitchak Kadourie, not to speak of the surreal Green Leaf (i.e., marijuana) Party of recent elections.
As one of the research studies he cites says about these third parties:
They tend to be ideologically unfocused. It is difficult to use conventional categories like left and right, dove and hawk, socialist and capitalist, establishment or anti-establishment to describe them. Their answers to political dilemmas tend to be sensational, uncomplicated and ethically charged. They promise quick results and dramatic successes. They display a low threshold for political ambiguities. … Escapist parties will normally claim to belong to the political “centre,” even if the party’s leadership is closer to one or the other of the ideological poles.
And, as seen already by now, even Kadima is not very clearly focused on any of the issues that the public sees as important, not security, nor anything else. True, they have discussed some of them, but they tend to be so incredibly superficial that overall, it just doesn't hold up.

This is also so for the Shinui party, which, if they intend to join a newly formed coalition to replace Sharon's already crumbling one, would be doing so only in order to survive for as long as they can until general elections are scheduled. They're even willing to join a coalition with the Orthodox parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism, which they said they were against in past years, which also pretty much shows that they no longer have much of a platform, bad as it was that they were resorting to an anti-religious one when they first began.

On a related note, Dr. Aaron Lerner says that making the election into a retreat referendum could serve to bring Ariel Sharon down in the next elections. And there too are some excellent points.

See also this topic from One Jerusalem, which also makes some good points regarding the so-called polls.

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