Right now, the domestic political scene in Israel is in total chaos. Although there will supposedly be a final vote to dissolve the Knesset tomorrow, which — if it happens — will bring elections in March, it’s possible that either the Right or the Left can piece together coalitions from the present Knesset that will enable one side to form a government.
Americans may think that it’s weird that we can completely change the government with zero input from voters, but that’s a consequence of Israel’s parliamentary system and the fact that no party comes close to a majority by itself. I hope — despite the fact that it will paralyze the nation for 3 months and drive everyone nuts — that neither side succeeds and we go to elections.
If the Left succeeds in forming a new government (unlikely but possible), it will be obsequious to the Obama Administration and bring us back to the never-ending death by a thousand cuts of negotiations with the PLO, with concession after concession made to strengthen supposedly ‘moderate’ elements, which nevertheless want to eat the Jewish State (which the government will be too weak and cowardly to affirm) alive.
The Arabs, smelling weakness, will increase the pressure, ramp up terrorism and continue to pursue our dissolution via the UN, regardless of the concessions we make. The best we can hope for is that a leftist government won’t last, and we will get back to square one.
On the other hand, the only way for the Right to assemble a government today would be to include the Haredi parties, which would cynically use their newly-gained leverage to put an end to the idea that Haredim should be required to do some kind of military or civilian national service, and to increase subsidies to a massive and growing community of ‘scholars’ who do nothing but study in yeshivot.
The elimination of Haredi privilege is a principle that I think must not be abandoned, and not only because of the elementary unfairness of a situation in which a large part of society gets a free ride. It is also true that there is a dangerous divide between the Haredim and the rest of the Jewish population that is widened by the separation that they want to enforce (which is reminiscent of the separation between Jews and non-Jews in the medieval European Diaspora that they seem to yearn for). Although the Haredim don’t think so, more interaction would strengthen both sides.
Polls today, for what they are worth (not much) show that the overall trend since the last election benefits the right-wing parties. This means that after elections we could see a right-wing coalition without the Haredim. That’s the best outcome, in my opinion, and the one which most accurately represents the wishes of the majority of the electorate today.
Perhaps it’s my immigrant bias, but I don’t like the Israeli system in which we vote for parties rather than directly for representatives. This system dates back to the pre-state struggle between the various Zionist factions, and emphasizes ideology over the character and accomplishments of candidates. This has several disadvantages. Since candidates are elected nationally, they don’t represent a district, which allows for particular areas to be neglected and makes it hard for a citizen to get recourse against bureaucratic oppression.
And since the parties pick the candidates to be placed on their lists, ideological purity and adherence to party discipline trump imagination and pragmatic ability. On the other hand, it eliminates gerrymandering, the bane of democracy in the US and Britain.
Meanwhile we are in for three months and millions of shekels worth of negative campaigning, wild accusations, rumors of cabals and plots, unbelievable promises, etc.
It is also to be expected that the Obama Administration and the EU will do their best to influence the outcome of the election — as if they don’t have their own problems to deal with — while pretending to be neutral.
I have one piece of advice for them: go right ahead, because if you get caught (and you will), it will help the side you oppose.