An easy decision Israelis are reluctant to make

Just two days before the Israeli elections, Likud and Kadima are virtually tied in public opinion polls. At one level, it’s understandable that Kadima is still in the hunt. Israelis recognize that a Likud triumph would not be well-received by the Obama administration and might well put Israel on a collision course with the U.S. At another level, though, they should also understand that this risk stems from the fact that Likud is likely to resist U.S. pressure to make major concessions to those who want to destroy Israel. Thus, the issue should be the mertis of such concessions, not the best way to curry favor with a U.S. president whose commitment to Israel is subject to doubt.

As to the comparative merits of the two leading candidates for Prime Minister, there should be not doubt. Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu is an enormously able, though highly flawed, leader. As Evelyn Gordon points out, In various government posts, including Prime Minister, Netanyahu has implemented economic reforms that helped produce sustained growth. In addition, as Prime Miniister his tough policies dramatically reduced Palestinian terrorism.

Meanwhile, Kadima’s Tzipi Livni has been a driving force behind one failed policy after another. Indeed, as Gordon shows, when asked to cite her accomplishments, all Livni could do was point to these policy failures — the 2005 disengagement from Gaza; the failure thereafter to settle the displaced Israelis; the “diplomatic exit” from Lebanan after the 2006 war, since which Hezbollah has rearmed to the point that it now has three times as many rockets as it did before the war.

Livni has also failed in efforts to get the world to deal with Iran. But this was always a losing proposition. If Livni is to be criticized here, it should be for her failure to appreciate that she was on a fool’s errand.

Tellingly, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has finally endorsed Livni. Olmert, whose fecklessness matches Livni’s and who is corrupt to boot, is so unpopular that Kadima instantly tried to distance itself from the endorsement. But Livni cannot distance herself from Olmert’s failed policies, in which she was a partner.

Therein lies Likud’s hope on Tuesday.

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