Tel Aviv — Boaz Levy couldn’t recall the last time he had been to a peace rally.
As demonstrators filed past the street bench where he rested after a 120,000-strong demonstration Saturday night supporting a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Levy explained that the dejection from three and a half years of daily violence stifled any motivation to speak out.
As the Labor Party reaffirmed its intention to stay out of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government, the chairman of the secular Shinui Party spoke of joining: and for the first time softened his demand that government handouts end for fervently Orthodox men who don't work.
"You have to do it gradually," Shinui leader Tommy Lapid told The Jewish Week. "We don't want to cause unnecessary suffering to large families. But people who are able-bodied men should go and work.
Despite his decisive victory Tuesday, Ariel Sharon still finds himself in a vise: caught between his desire not to form a right-wing government that would hamstring his ability to deal with American peace demands and an Israeli public convinced that the time is not ripe to pursue peace.
Couple that with the electorate's crippling blow to the Israeli left and the strong showing of the anti-religious Shinui Party, and this election could pave the way for changes in the country's social fabric.
With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party seen cruising to victory in Tuesday's national election, political pundits speculated on how Sharon was going to form the unity government he prefers with the Labor Party, whose leader has vowed to remain in opposition.
In a last-ditch effort to block Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from being able to form a new government after the Jan. 28 election, Labor Party leaders pledged this week not to rejoin him in another unity government.
As Israelis buried their dead following back-to-back Palestinian suicide bombings Sunday in Tel Aviv that killed 22 bystanders (seven of them foreign workers) political campaign commercials began running on Israel TV Tuesday night and analysts wondered how the terror attack and new political scandals would impact the Jan. 28 national election.
Charges that members of the Likud Partyís Central Committee sold their votes for cash and other favors in this month's primary (and to a lesser extent allegations of voting irregularities in the Labor Party primary) have rocked the Israeli electorate, with one poll showing that one-fifth of Israelis plan to change their vote because of it.