And the Winner Is…
In the summer of 2011 a fire began to burn on the streets of Tel-Aviv. While ignited and mostly led by students, this fire was ultimately fed by the Israeli middle-class which felt it could no longer share the main burden for Israel’s economy and security on its own. The so-called “Social Justice” demonstrations expressed a yearning for a new social-economic agenda, led by a new type of politician.
For a few weeks, this fire attracted many other interest groups, but in the end it simmered down to a small flame that eventually seemed to die out as the months went by. This led skeptics to regard the demonstrations as little more than a summer pastime, representing the ranting of bored yuppie and radical elements of the society.
But yesterday, this very same fire was ignited again, as the yearning for change resulted in a relatively large turnout of voters, who unmistakably voiced a loud “enough”: enough of the automatic military exemptions, enough of the ever-rising living costs and taxes, and enough of the brazen and arrogant (and in some cases – corrupt) politicians making decisions. It is these feelings of disgust and despair that have voted in nearly 52 new Knesset members – an unprecedented expression of dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in the current members of Israel’s legislative body.
It was interesting to see the various political pundits analyze the results in terms of right and left, ignoring the fact that the main lesson that can be learned from these elections is that the old definitions of right and left blocs no longer exist. They have not for quite some time now. The number one priority for the majority of Israelis is their day-to-day reality – their livelihood, their way of life, and their children. Iran and the peace process (the latter – sadly so) have been placed on the back burner, as most Israelis find themselves in a constant struggle against their ever growing overdraft.
The cry for a “more equal sharing of the burden” is likely to provide the common denominator for a future liberal centrist coalition led by Netanyahu, Lieberman, Lapid, Bennet and Livni. The question is whether this glue is strong enough to prevent premature elections. After passing a budget for 2013 based on mutual interest and a wide-enough coalition, the peace process, or the lack of one, is most likely going to be the first test of this glue. World pressure to resolve the conflict, a 3rd intifada, or a unilateral declaration of independence, will bring the Palestinians back onto the agenda with a wake-up call that hopefully will not be too late. The coalition though, will split at the seams.
And now to the cup half full. Elections that were described only 48-hours ago (including by the writer of these lines) as being empty and predictable suddenly became tantalizing. Like in 2011, the Israelis proved all those blaming them for being apathetic and lost, wrong. Israelis long for a change, and more importantly, believe change is possible. It is up to those entrusted with carrying the torch of change to show that the 2011 and 2013 fire outbursts were not singular events, but a steady flame, thus justifying the faith and hope placed in them.