Turning Right

Good morning Israel!

And a glorious morning it is. What a pleasure it is to wake up after a great show put on by our national football team (3:0 over Bosnia). Finally, the lads showed up during money time and beat a superior team in an official match. Israel is now positioned in 1st place in group 2 of the European Qualifying round with one game missing!

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It was also refreshing to see our Prime Minister smiling from his VIP seat in the beautiful new stadium in Haifa. God knows he hasn’t had many reasons to smile of late, what with his coalition breaking apart and Dani Danon breathing down his neck. Netanyahu can only wish to duplicate Israel’s success on the pitch last night in the Knesset and the Likud.

Football (or Soccer, for my American readers) is a simple sport, which is probably why it’s so popular. Politics is a totally different ball game. As things stand now, Netanyahu is facing major challenges from within and without, to the extent that most pundits are forecasting elections this year. His government is torn over a quarrel with Yair Lapid concerning the budget, and a battle with Tsipi Livni over enshrining in law the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. And as mentioned above, within the Likud party he is being charged by Danon as placating the leftist and centrist elements within his coalition and diverting from the “Likud way” (God knows what that way is).

If only we could imitate the spacecraft Philae on comet 67P, enter a winter slumber and awaken again in the summer. That way we would be sure to miss all the dirty political games that are expected to commence as soon as a new date for elections is announced. Actually, some politicians have already begun the winter games.

Netanyahu, being the crafty politician he is, has made some early moves. As long as he believed the coalition he led had a chance of surviving he preached holding the line, supported certain legislative initiatives, and opposed others. Something changed over the last couple of weeks. Last week, he opposed a law he had previously endorsed that sorted commercial television broadcasts; he helped fight a law that allowed the issuing of IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) and other government stocks; and he stood by while health reforms were blocked by the chairman of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein and coalition whip Zeev Elkin, reforms that previously had been approved by the government. Yesterday, he supported the controversial law defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, a law that I see as minimizing the state’s commitment to democratic values, and a law that he has opposed in the past.

Oh. I  almost forgot. I’d also add to this list the tough tone Netanyahu has used over the past few days when talking of Israel’s Arab citizens (“Those who protest against the State of Israel and in favor of the Palestinian state, I say to them, simply go there, to the Palestinian Authority or Gaza”).

This is, and always has been, Netanyahu’s modus-operandi. As soon as elections are seen on the horizon, he takes the fastest route back to the most extreme elements in his core political base. And to hell with any reforms he supports, principles he believes in,  and commitments he made to his government. King Bibi has to be ultra-right. He has to be more of a settler than Bennett is and more anti-Arab than Lieberman. There is no responsible adult in Jerusalem.

Maybe early elections can give us a fresh new start despite the cost on the economy and in-spite of all the reforms and legislation that is put on hold. Maybe it is time to let the public reset the national agenda. Thing is, as long as politicians feel the need to cave in to pressure mounted by lobbyists and donors, start unnecessary wars, and act contrary to the national interest, another election campaign will change very little.

But hey, nothing is going to ruin last night’s performance. Great show guys! Please don’t let it get to your heads though. Leave that to our politicians.

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