On the eve of the elections, we can start to summarize one of the dullest and emptiest electoral campaigns Israel has undergone. Dull, because the outcome has never been so predictable. Empty, because of the obvious lack of a proper substantial debate between the parties involved on the core issues, a discourse clarifying each position and the proposed remedy.
Despite the seemingly endless list of crucial issues lurking just around the corner (Iran, 3rd Intifada, economic cuts, peace process – or the lack of one), the main contenders insisted on egotistical campaigning that included more of a focus on the “I” than on the “we”.
During the last three months, the right competed within itself to appear righter than right, as polls showed that Netanyahu’s move to join lists with Lieberman proved to be a mistake, and Bennet’s star began to rise. The center-left could not find enough common ground to overcome personal ambition, ultimately dividing a potentially serious counter balance to the right side of the Israeli political spectrum.
Most of the attempts to persuade potential voters were centered around popular topics such as economy and social reform – two topics hot on the agenda since the social unrest of 2011. Oh sure, we heard plenty of declarations about reviving the peace process, but there was not one practical plan articulating a road-map to doing so. Last-minute press conferences, full of empty declarations and promises, succeeded only in demonstrating panic and insulting the intelligence of the voters they attempted to sway.
And so, many voters remain as perplexed as they were before the election campaign began.
But this is all to be expected in a political system that encourages indecision, extortion, and ineffectiveness. Without real governmental and electoral reform, such as increasing the electoral threshold and inventing regional voting, the same sectarian politics will continue to prevent proper governing and decision making. Ironically, the very parties promising change and a new future, including the ruling party, did not place changing the political system high on their agenda, if at all.
The minute after the ballots close, Netanyahu will again engage in the political game that he has shown himself so adept in – building and maintaining a stable governing coalition. Contenders that promised they would never sit in a Netanyahu-led government will suddenly find themselves in the same comfortable leather chairs as their co-ministers from the right.
Politics is ultimately a battle for survival. Many citizens in Israel though, will not survive this one.