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Let´s get this show on the road (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Dan Margalit 05/03/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1822 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Election campaigns are like a military march: Once they get going, there is no stopping them. Up until the very last minute, ministers and MKs were making straw man arguments, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really wanted to complete his entire term in office or at least four full years. The prime minister had no choice but to say this, otherwise parliamentary life would have turned into a nightmare by mid-year, and the rapidly dwindling treasury would have been called upon to pay the price.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (all from the Likud party), and even yours truly, all believed that there was no escaping early elections, that waiting until the end of 2013, the predetermined election date, was a pipe dream, as was next February or even this October. Ever since the problematic prisoner exchange deal that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit released from Hamas captivity last October, Netanyahu´s poll numbers have soared. An added incentive to go to the polls was the rapid decline of Kadima.

At least we´re no longer in suspense. Every political player and every outside observer now knows what the national political agenda will be for the next four months. There will be two stages to the election campaign. The first stage consists of drafting Knesset lists, which will prove especially difficult for the larger parties -- Likud, Labor and Kadima -- because of the havoc-wreaking process of primaries. The primaries often deal a heavy blow to the parties, turning into a bloody battlefield.

The Likud´s primary elections will be especially tough. Right-wing members will try to undermine senior players like Dan Meridor, whom Netanyahu needs to help position the party closer to the center. Netanyahu also needs a number of good, honest right-wingers in order to keep his base among the settlers and their supporters.

Several mysteries, however, still persist. The most interesting is which way Minister Without Portfolio Benny Begin will go. He emerged as an appeaser of the Right, then clashed with settlers in outposts due to his distinctive attitude toward the primacy of rule of law, a reminder of his father, Menachem Begin.

We can expect to see an especially fierce battle within Kadima. Kadima MKs have resigned themselves to the fact that the party, which currently holds the most Knesset seats, will decline. The question is how steeply? Kadima will lose several seats to Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich and several more to There Is a Future party leader Yair Lapid. Recently deposed Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni may also pose a threat -- no one can fail to notice the media pressure on her to join forces with Lapid. She may have lost the Kadima primary, but she still holds a lot of political clout.

There is a long road ahead. There will be ups and downs in the polls. Every week a new political analysis emerges, contradicting the previous one. It will be fascinating to see the outcome of the individual parties´ elections -- Yisrael Beitenu, Shas and even Meretz.

But two dramatic personal stories, situated at either end of the political spectrum, stand out: those of Ehud Barak and Aryeh Deri. Can they do it? How many votes will they get? Will it be worth it? This should be fascinating to follow. A battle for survival. Let´s get the show on the road.

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