Israel is currently choosing its new leader, only a few weeks after the controversial attack on Gaza. According to the first reports, Tzipi Livni’s party, Kadima, of centrist affiliation, is leading in the polls by 28 possible seats in the Parliament. Benyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, is coming extremely close with 27 seats. Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s party is coming last with only 13 seats. It looks like the Likud and Labor will have to organize themselves in a coalition to rule over Israel. If Livni is ready to compromise, Netanyahu has yet to commit to any slight of hand in his party line.  Netanyahu does not see diplomacy and peace-building with a good eye. “The national camp, led by the Likud, has won a clear advantage. The strong rise of the national camp and the strong rise of the Likud mean only one thing: the people want a change.” Livni campaigned with Kadima over a more peaceful approach to the Palestinian conflict and recently engaged in peace talks with Egypt on the recent war in Gaza, killing about 1,300 civilians. She tried to appease the division by claiming the question of peace and the future of Israel “does not belong to the left or to the right”.

pledging allegiance to the land of Israel.

Avigdor Liebermann: pledging allegiance to the land of Israel.

This marginal win in a highly anticipated election is forcing Kadima to question its own principles and beliefs to help Israelis make a choice. “We have to go courageously into the opposition and reform ourselves as a social-democratic party that upholds the rule of law, that seeks peace and is security-minded at the same time,” said Shelly Yachimovich, a Labor member of Parliament, “and to return as a ruling option respectably and without straggling behind three other large parties.” Words are still expected from the other side of the political spectrum as to whether Likud and Beitun are ready to prove such open-mindedness. Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, will soon receive a recommendation from each party, and will later return with his choice. The chosen Prime Minister will then form the new government.

This election revealed the strong emergence of extreme right-wing party Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel is ours”) led by Avigdor Lieberman. A former associate to Netanyahu, he formed his party in 1999. He’s already been legally pursued for business fraud and money laundering. As drastically opposed to Livni’s views as one can get, the leader of the nationalist party recently told Egypt to “go to hell” as they attempted to engage both Israel and Hamas into a peace process. Lieberman does not only echo Ehud Olmert’s belief that Israel is permanently endangered by its neighbor Arab countries: he also believes that the most serious threat to the nation comes from the inside. Yisrael Beitenu argues that Israeli Arabs constitute a fifth column. His radical opinion has infuriated the leaders of more mainstream parties as he draws the line under an already fragile coexistence between Jews and Arabs within Israel, that they believe is a condition to maintain a democratic state. Liebermann has publicly advocated killing the leaders of the Hamas, currently holding the reigns of the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip,  and the death penalty for Arab lawmakers who met with either Hamas or the Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerilla group.  His solution to the Israel/Palestinian conflict is to trade land: territories with the highest density of Arab population should be handed out to Palestine, which in return would return the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. This method aims to reduce a significant part of the Arab population in Israel, currently of about 33%.

Those are Israel’s first election in ten years, ever since Ehud Olmert’s alleged electoral corruption.