In earlier posts I have suggested that Israel’s political landscape today has shows three trends of reshuffling: (1) a shift away from extremes and toward the Center, resulting from a disillusionment among the electorate with both the settlement and peace camps; (2) a shift in content from Right to Left, as centrist parties like Kadima adopt land-for-peace ideas that 10 years ago were considered far-Left; and (3) a shift in the polls to the Right, as the classic Labor party appears to have descended well into the second tier, leaving Likud and Kadima as the only two viable governing parties. These suggestions are of course so wide as to admit almost any data, which is not so good for scientific viability. But they at least might be helpful in understanding what is an increasingly complicated set of political changes.
Now Uzi Landau, a longtime Likud stalwart, has announced his relocation to the Avigdor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home). Lieberman, a former director general of the Likud, broke off to the Right and posed a challenge to Likud, claiming itself to be the true party of the hawkish secular right — a claim which they then seriously undermined by joining Olmert’s government and leaving the Likud as sole party of the opposition on the Right. As a second-tier party, Yisrael Beiteinu is doing pretty well in polls, but Lieberman’s aspirations have always been higher, effectively to be the standard-bearer to the right. Landau has a reputation for being a very consistent, straight-shooting politician, eloquent in his defense of classic opposition to compromise, who quit Sharon’s cabinet in 2004 over the withdrawal from Gaza. Yet in the last few years, he has lost a lot of traction in the Likud, not even making the cut for the current Knesset list. By joining Lieberman, he will be giving new strength to that party, putting a lot of pressure on the Likud, and taking important votes away.
In other words, Israel’s Right is now going through something smaller but not so different from, the realignment taking place on Israel’s Left, which Shmuel Rosner posted on last week. Disappointment yields its fruits.