Just one more post, since I may be the only source for twelve board gamers around the world to get information about Israel.
Israel just finished an election. As usual, this election was called "the most important in Israeli history", like the previous ones. The last government, like previous governments, made some major changes to the borders. Our country is continuously in flux, only it has been shrinking for quite some time. Meanwhile, it is still being hit daily by barrages of missiles, suicide bombers, boycotts, slander, and so on from its neighbors.
The government has 120 seats. You vote for a "party", not a person or a representative. The party has already selected it's list of candidates. The number of seats that the party achieves indicates how many of those candidates get in. A party must receive at least 2% of the vote to be considered, however. The largest party typically tries to form a government by allying with some other parties, because no party has ever achieved more than about 45 seats.
In this election, apparently no one really thought it was that important, or no one really liked the parties and their lists. Voter turnout was the lowest in history, about 63%. The leading party achieved only 28 seats, which just shows you how no one agrees on what we should do next.
The main attitudes to "the peace process are":
A. Real peace will be achieved by completely withdrawing and having a signed piece of paper. Unfortunately, Chamberlain said the same thing before WWII, and no one on the other side seems willing to sign a piece of paper, anyway. And every time we do sign a piece of paper, the other side promptly throws it into the rubbish and forces us to start again.
B. Real peace will be achieved by unilaterally withdrawing to more secure borders. Unfortunately, without an agreement, the other side doesn't feel the same way, as is evidenced by continued attacks across the Lebanese border despite our unilateral withdrawal from there.
C. Real peace will be achieved by not budging an inch, until they are ready to negotiate. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely that a population who has always been sympathetic towards Hamas, but only delayed voting for them until after Arafat passed away, ever intends to stop attacks.
You will note that there is no talk of any of the following ideas:
D. Real peace will never be achieved. Therefore, we must do what we have to do, bearing that in mind.
E. Real peace can be achieved by attacking and seeking an unconditional surrender from our enemies.
F. Real peace can be achieved by unconditional surrender from our side.
So what is the news from this election:
Kadima: 28 seats. Not really a new party, exactly, but a breakaway from the right with a heavy dose of left. They are the proponents of B. They will be asked to form a government, and it is unclear if they will try for a left leaning, center leaning, right leaning, religious leaning, or mix for a coalition. Next prime minister: Ehud Olmert, a former mayor of Jerusalem, and a poor one at that.
Labor: 20. The mainstream left, who believes in A, but is willing to do so slowly.
Shas: 13. Sephardi religious party, wants more funds for religious Sephardim and elderly. Willing to join either left or right government to achieve this.
Israel Beitenu: 12. A surprise in the election, as they were a smaller party before, and now have a stronger party than the mainstream right, Likud, which was the leading party for thirty years or so. These guys want to swap areas containing mostly Israeli Arabs to the Palestinians in exchange for lands containing Jews in the west bank. Unfortunately, Israeli Arabs as a rule want to remain in Israel, which has religious freedom, great health care, quality education, and so on, despite some important racism and second-class status issues.
Likud: 11 - Fallen from great heights, these guys once had 43 seats in the Knesset. Kadima took most of them, and Israel Beitenu took some more. In my opinion, the biggest problem was their leader Binaymin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who was both a failed prime minister and a good finance minister, but my opinion is a minority one. Most people blame the whole party, and Bibi's financial policies have increased poverty in some areas.
NRP / NU: 9 - NRP is right wing religious, and NU is far right wing. Seperately, they had 10 seats in the previous Knesset, and they were hoping for more this time, but apparently they failed.
Pensioners: 7 - Big, big surprise, as polls projected that these guys had nowhere near enough support to get into the Knesset, at all. Not only did they get in, they achieved an amazing result. This party is based on one principle: better treatment of the elderly. I don't know anyone who can argue with that position, really, and I expect them to be part of the next government, no matter what its form.
United Torah Judaism: 6 - The Ashkenazi equivalent of Shas, these guys went from 4 ot 6 seats. Haredim have lots of babies, but even some secular people are concerned that Israel maintain a religious identity.
Meretz: 4 - These guys are radical left. They believe in A to the point of withdrawing to the '67 borders first, and then hoping our enemies will like us and sign a peace agreement with us. They shrank from 6 to 4.
United Arab List: 4
Hadash: 3 - Collectively known as "the Arab parties", I don't feel guilty about lumping them together. While they have differences of opinion regarding economics and so forth, all of them are basically left of Meretz regarding peace, and want to either give Jerusalem to the Palestinians or erase the country as a Jewish state.
Other interesting news:
The Green Leaf party (for legalizing Marijuana) was projected to get close to the number of votes, while all other minor parties were not considered to be anywhere close. Instead, the pensioners party got 7 seats, while these guys got 0.8% of the vote, just about enough for 1 seat, except that you are disqualified from joining the Knesset unless you get at least 2% of the vote.
The Green party scored higher than them, too, at 1.2% of the vote. Both of them are pretty left wing, politically.
Shinui is a center secular party that had 15 seats in the previous Knesset. With the formation of Kadima, they were expected to fall dramatically, and not even get into the Knessest. They began to squabble and split into two parties which made it even less likely. They ended up with less than 0.1% of the vote. Wow. Frankly, I don't see much difference between Shinui and Meretz, anyway.
All in all, it looks like we're in for more of the same headaches and heartaches. In my opinion, as long as each Knesset continues to think that it can "solve" our conflict with radical Islam, without seeing that radical Islam doesn't care about solving the problem, it is doomed to failure. We keep hoping that if we just do something a little different, a little more, a little here or there, that they will like us. When they don't, we blame ourselves, as do the rest of the world.
Obgames: here's a link to eleven intermediate chess strategy tips.