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Students vote in mock Israeli elections

In the wake of recent political reshuffling, polls opened to millions of Israeli voters last Tuesday. Halfway around the globe, Tartans for Israel ended mock elections at Carnegie Mellon.

Centrist party Kadima claimed 28 of the 120 Knesset seats in the actual Israeli elections, followed by the left-wing Labor party with 20 seats and right-wing Likud party with 11 seats.

“The far right and the far left got clobbered,” said military and political analyst Elliot Chodoff, speaking of the election results last Wednesday in Porter Hall. A specialist in terrorism, sociology, and Middle East conflict, Chodoff spoke to Carnegie Mellon students about the impact of the Israeli elections.
“Peace is certainly not on the horizon,” Chodoff said.

He noted, however, that Kadima is a pragmatic party looking to find solutions to problems. Furthermore, horizons for peace may not be visible simply because of current positions, he said.

Hasbara Fellowships, a pro-Israel activist program for college students, ran the event and compiled mock election results from across the country. The results differed from the actual election results, with Likud claiming 44 out of 120 seats, followed by Kadima with 33 seats.

At Carnegie Mellon, the sponsoring organization provided students with candidate information and the chance to vote in the Israeli mock election. They closed their polls last Monday night after a week and a half of tabling.

Tartans for Israel kept bobble-head dolls of the politicians at the table, according to sophomore psychology major and group member Rachel Goykhman.

“It gets people laughing; it gets people interested,” she said.

Even though elections are over, an uncertain future lies ahead, Goykhman said. In the Israeli electoral system, a party must receive a majority vote of 61 seats to govern on its own — otherwise, it must form a collaboration with other parties.

“[Kadima] won the election, but it’s not a very strong government,” Goykhman pointed out.

Having won only 28 Knesset seats, Kadima must form a political coalition in order to reach 61 seats, she explained.

Parties receive Knesset seats in proportion to their number of votes.

“In Israel, your vote physically matters because you physically elect someone to parliament,” said Marie Yetsin, senior economics major and Tartans for Israel leader.

In this election, much focus has been placed on previous Kadima leader Ariel Sharon, who left the Likud Party following its 2003 landslide victory to form the Kadima party, Yetsin explained.

“This isn’t who they elected,” Yetsin said, referring to Sharon’s change in stance from anti- to pro-disengagement in Gaza.

Goykhman agreed. “It just upset the entire political spectrum,” she said.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed victory for the Kadima party in Tuesday’s elections, according to the Associated Press. Olmert took over for Sharon following Sharon’s stroke in January.

“We are prepared to compromise, give up parts of our beloved land of Israel, remove, painfully, Jews who live there, to allow you the conditions to achieve your hopes and to live in a state in peace and quiet,” Olmert said toward Palestinians in Jerusalem, according to an Associated Press article last week.
With the centrist party Kadima entering in on a historically two-sided match between the ideological Likud and Labor parties, Yetsin noted that uncertainty continues.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.