As soon as we’ve caught our breath regarding Kadima’s hairline win (according to exit polls only), the real story that emerges is the utter gutting of the Israeli Left, and the return of Likud.
Of the four major parties today, three of them are Likud and its spin-offs: Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon and is mostly made up of former Likudniks; Yisrael Beitenu’s chairman cut his teeth as the head of the Likud’s central committee. Not only this: The classic parties of the pro-peace camp in Israel are but a tiny shadow of their former selves: Labor, which for decades, until as recently as 1996, led the country, is down to the lower teens. Shinui is gone. Meretz, the far-left party, is down from 10 seats in 1999 to around 4. If we call Kadima centrist, then the left in Israel as a whole will not break 20 seats.
The right, on the other hand, has a number of small parties of 4 or 5 seats, plus Likud, which has gone from 12 to nearly 30 seats, and Yisrael Beiten, which has increased significantly as well. Then there are the ultra-Orthodox parties, which could fairly be called center-right.
That’s the real story here. The Right is bigger than the Left, and the Left is mostly Kadima, which is really not very Left at all. President Shimon Peres knows this all too well. My guess is that we will not know who the next Prime Minister will be for days, perhaps even weeks, and the possibility of a joint Likud-Kadima government, with a rotating prime ministership, should not at all be ruled out.