View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, February 06, 2003
The Jerusalem Post is reporting (registration required) that Yisrael B'Aliyah has decided to merge is Knesset delegation with Likud's giving Likud direct control over a lboc of 40 seats, or almost 1/3 of the Knesset. This is important on a number of levels.

In terms of coalition politics, it will make it slightly easier for Sharon to form a government. It's two fewer seats he has to worry about, and there's probably some arithmetic there that makes things easier. But the real import is what it does to Yisrael B'Aliyah. The party was founded by Natan Scharansky, easily the most famous refusenik from the Soviet days, and a man with tremendous moral authority both at home and overseas. If he were a black South African Communist, he'd probably be on a par with Nelson Mandela. He was able to maintain significant respect at home by not selling out his party, by keeping his independence even within a coalition. The party was always conservative on "foreign policy," but somewhat socialist in its economics and always in favor of more programs for immigrants. The failure immigrants to turn out in significant numbers this electon is what cost the party so many seats.

It's Scharansky's moral authority that Likud really wants to co-opt; the two seats are really incidental. The only part of the parties to merge is the Knesset delegation; - lower-level office-holders will stay with their parties. Yisrael B'Aliyah is claiming that with only two seats, the only chance it had to maintain viability was to merge with Likud, since Shinui's secular coalition might have been able to leave it out altogether. Still, the move smells a little of politics, and one hopes it doesn't damage Scharansky's reputation. I'd like to see the part continue as an independent force, primarily for Scharansky's sake.

In other Israeli political news, Labor's secretary-general, Ophir Pines Paz, has admitted that the public hates them. You Don't Say.

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