10 February 2009 - Congratulations to Tzipi Livni
It appears that Tzipi Livni and Kadima have won Israel's elections, contrary to what polls suggested and my own expectations. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is a close second. Overall, the right-wing advanced but the center may govern.
Now the coalition game begins. The right could put a governing coalition together, but President Shimon Peres will probably let Livni try first. She failed the last time she tried, but now she has a stronger mandate to lead.
Kadima and Likud--cut from the same cloth before the 2005 disengagement--could reunite in government but will still need one other party, perhaps Ehud Barak's Labour, to form a government if they go for the national unity approach.
There is also another coalition partner to consider--Barack Obama, who will exert a significant influence over Israeli affairs (like it or not). Livni is a good foil for him--better, probably, for the U.S.-Israel relationship than Netanyahu.
It is gratifying--though admittedly somewhat superficial--to observe that Israel has once again chosen to give a woman the chance to lead. In that respect Israel is far ahead of the U.S., and perhaps a more elusive target for the haters.
Best of luck to Livni in forming a government and in leading Israel and the region through the difficult months ahead. She is a relatively new face at a crucial moment. She may yet prove to be a great leader and peacemaker.