Yes We Can’t!
Hi guys. Sorry I’ve been out of touch. Something called life hit me in the face. Three kids, new position at work, day-to-day stuff. You know the drill. While I was busy chancing nappies (that’s diapers for my American readers), plenty has been going on in Israel. Never a dull moment in the Holy Land.
The big thing that went down during this lull in blog activity was the decision to dissolve the government and bring forward the elections. Israel also experienced some sporadic terror attacks, reminding me at least that the West Bank is still simmering and the threat of a third intifada is still very much alive. The growing rift between the Obama administration and Netanyahu also made the headlines a couple of times, and during the last couple of weeks Hezbollah suddenly made it back onto the central stage following a military strike against its commanders in the Syrian Golan Heights.
But the upcoming election (to be held in March) is THE thing that is currently making the life of political pundits and bloggers interesting. I’m going to try and sum up the past few months, highlighting what I think are the most interesting trends and developments.
It’s all personal
Not dirty tabloid-style personal. Despite certain publications about Mrs. Netanyahu, the campaign waged by those claiming the throne, running against reigning King Bibi, hasn’t become negative. However, the general gist of things is a “just not Bibi” cry. Indeed, the Zionist Camp’s (the joint list comprised of the Labor party led by Herzog and The Movement party led by Livni) billboards cry out this very same slogan, hitting on, what I think is a pretty popular sentiment right now – a general disappointment with Netanyahu and a wish to see someone else making the shots.
Zionism is back!
I didn’t see this one coming, but I guess it was always there in the background. I’m referring to the battle over who can be called a Zionist and who cannot. Over the past few years, rightist elements within Israeli society, including prominent political parties such as the Likud, repeatedly made claim to Zionism, taking the patriotic high ground by stating that they represented Zionism while the political left were either post-Zionists, anti-Zionists, or even traitors. In an attempt to counter this, Herzog and Livni, after deciding to join hands in an effort to try to topple Netanyahu with a joint list, decided to call there camp the “Zionist Camp”. What I find interesting here is that political advisers obviously identified Zionism as a key issue for voters, otherwise they wouldn’t have approved of this name. Despite claims to the contrary, Zionism is very much alive!
Security, security, security
For Israelis, one issue has always predominated all others. No matter what, the issue of security is at the top of that endless list of worries and corresponding governmental priories. Israel lives by its sword. There is nothing new there. Therefore, politicians considered security experts will always have an edge over other politicians appearing less experienced in this field. These elections are no exception to this rule. Netanyahu, who literally wrote the manual on security, Mr. tough guy, has an obvious advantage over Herzog whom God blessed with a less impressive physique and a less than charismatic voice. It doesn’t matter to most Israelis that Netanyahu’s track record in security matters is far from impressive (the war in Gaza, violence in West Bank). Every security event that takes place (e.g. the attack against Hezbollah and the counter reprisal attack) only strengthens this false image. Sometimes winning an election in Israel is as simple (and stupid) as that.
So there you have it. These are just three trends from many more that I felt were important enough to mention. The final matter that I have to mention is that fat big elephant in the room – THESE ELECTIONS WON’T CHANGE A THING. As long as the Israeli political system stays as it is, any formed coalition is doomed to either be dismantled after a short while in power, or paralyzed due to the conflicting political relationships at its core. The fragmented political map, that the current surveys show is not about to drastically change, means that the future coalition will be just as weakly formed as the last one. Conflicting ideologies, unlikely partners and dangerous political deals, will once again form the backbone of the future coalition meaning that real change- such as a peace deal with the Palestinians – is not likely.
Long live King Bibi!