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A very special election

By Bruce Walker
web posted May 13, 2002

The recent victory of President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan is good news for America and Israel. His landslide means that arguments about the "Muslim street" being hopelessly anti-American are not entirely true. Doubtless this election was imperfect in form and sullied by some irregularities, but only a few fanatics believe that it was not fundamentally fair.

The landslide victory of Jacques Chirac in France was also a victory for America and Israel. He is the least anti-American French President in the Fifth Republic, and his hand is much stronger today than it has been in his first presidential term. While this will not mean another Statute of Liberty from France anytime soon, it does mean that we can reasonably expect the same level of support as in the past from Paris.

Most Democrats now concede that not only will they not recapture the House of Representatives and may lose the Senate, but that Republicans may actually make modest gains in House races because of redistricting and the very resilient and deep popularity of President Bush. Considering that Republicans like Rudy Giuliani will also be stumping for Republican candidates and considering the unpopularity of virtually all major Democrats, a modest Republican victory in November 2002 looks possible, and even probable. That would, of course, give President Bush a great deal more freedom of action in dealing with terrorism and terrorist nations.

As helpful as elections in France and Pakistan have been and as beneficial a Republican victory in the mid-term election would be, there is another election which would provide a powerful weapon in our war against terrorism: early Knesset elections. Unlike other parliamentary democracies the Israeli parliamentary elections are set on a date certain by law - the next election will be in November 2003 - and not by the call of the Prime Minister or President. This law could be amended, however, to provide for elections a year earlier.

U.S. President George W. Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Oval Office of the White House on May 7
U.S. President George W. Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Oval Office of the White House on May 7

Ariel Sharon might even want to restore the process of direct election of the Israeli Prime Minister, which was enacted by the Knesset in 1996. The Knesset repealed this novel method of choosing the chief of government in a parliamentary democracy in 2001, and under current Israeli law the Knesset will choose the Prime Minister after the November 2003 elections.

Why might Sharon want to do this? Because right now those political forces in Israel which supported him and Netanyahu before him would win a monumental landslide. This would send a powerful signal to the Arab world that Sharon can deal with them without any reference to internal Israeli politics (which are notoriously feisty and contentious).

What would be the consequences of these electoral victories? It would provide the Arab world with a glimpse of the adamant mood of the Israeli people. It would highlight several important and ignored facts, like the right of non-Jewish Arabs to vote in free elections (unlike Arabs in most of the world) and the vigorous nature of Israeli politics, which reflect a very strong personal interest by Israeli citizens in their government.

Sharon could point out that Arab leaders claim to speak for hundreds of millions of people, but that they actually speak only for hundreds of army officers, Baathist party bureaucrats, jaded monarchs, and self-appointed religious leaders. He, by contrast, speaks for millions of free citizens.

Sharon might even make a special pitch in the election for the non-Jewish vote in Israel, and perhaps insure that his political commercials to this constituency find its way into the television sets and radio broadcasts of some neighboring Arab undemocratic nations. These Israeli citizens have hardly been his base support, but the very effort to reach them would have an important propaganda effect.

Such a Sharon landslide could also be a powerful political bonus for President Bush. It would reflect an intensely unified Jewish people in Israel, which would send powerful ripples within the Jewish citizens of America. The reappearance of casual anti-Semitism in Europe is rightly considered a very serious matter by Jews throughout the world. Political triumphant in the historical homeland of Jews would provide the perfect vehicle in which to articulate this concern.

The political impact in America could be vastly enhanced if Sharon (or perhaps the brilliant and articulate Netanyahu) directly "campaigned" in America for Jewish support with traditional political ads and speeches. Under the Law of the Return, these Jews all are eligible for dual citizenship, so although this would seem odd, it would not be unethical or illegal.

Jews are probably the least monolithic people on Earth - many of the sharpest critics of liberalism have been conservative Jews and many of the most passionate and articulate supporters of conservative causes have been Jewish - but liberal Democrat Jews provide a vital component of Democrat votes, campaign funds, and rhetorical arguments.

Substantial defection of this support to President Bush and the Republican Party could make Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania unwinnable for Democrats in 2004 and could make New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan very much in play.

The recent careful redrawing of congressional districts to protect incumbents also presumes that liberal Democrat Jewish voters will continue to vote for Democrat candidates. If this group of voters simply split 50/50, it would make dozens of "safe" Democrat districts in large states suddenly toss-ups or even leaning Republican.

The greatest and most immediate impact, however, might be felt in the United States Senate. Ten United States Senators are Jewish. Nine of these ten are liberal Democrats from reliably Democrat states. If these nine Senators begin to actively support President Bush, then Tom Daschle's half-vote majority vanishes.

Might they? While it is hard to imagine Barbara Boxer or Chuck Schumer suddenly joining hands with a conservative Republican, but it would have been hard to imagine the horrific terrorist attacks on America and Israel during the last eight months, or the indifferent rise of that most ancient social pathology, anti-Semitism. We - America and Israel - are at war with the same dark forces that inspired Stalin and Hitler. Someday Senator Boxer and Senator Schumer will understand that. The sooner they do, the sooner the good guys (which would be us) will win.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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