As a political junkie, even when growing up, and as someone who learned to love and support Israel even from an early age, I continue to find myself fascinated by the mechanics of the Israeli Knesset and election system. Here in the US, we have electoral rigidity. Our President and Vice-President serve 4-year terms. Period.
There have been many complaints over the years about our electoral system, and they will continue no doubt, and like every other democracy, we have been spending too much money on too many lousy candidates for too many years. But I prefer our system over any other. And although not thrilled when the other scoundrels win, and mine don’t, I love the election cycles and the intrigue, the analyses, the punditry, the great speeches, the gaffes, the whole deal. And as the Christmas season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, so do our presidential races. But our mess is structured. It’s not perfect, but it’s also not impulsive.
Which takes me to your parliamentary arrangement in Israel. Here, the president runs his branch of the government, and whatever party controls either branch of Congress, runs that show. That’s it. We have no coalition mishigas. Our system controls the process; your politicians control yours. In your country, you vote for parties, and after the election, your country’s figurehead president decides who he or she thinks has the best chance to form a government and gives that individual the opportunity to try. And the horse-trading begins.
Because you have so many political parties, and because everyone wants a piece of the power pie, even parties who win only a few seats in your 120-seat Knesset, wield disproportional power. (Raising the electoral threshold might help a bit, but still.) And so, few Israeli governments make it through their 4-year term of office without crumbling. In fact, there have been no complete terms since 1988. If the candidates/parties despise each other so much when running, why would anyone think, even for a moment, that the unity and comity will last long enough to make it to the finish line? I am sure as soon as coalition-forming dust settles and everyone has made nice, 99% of your country says, nah, it will never last. Maybe 100%, right?
And now, here you go again. Another government collapses, another election scheduled. This most current exercise in futility could cost you guys upwards of 2 billion shekels, over 500 million bucks. Your elections and governments seem like Kardashian marriages. They happen too often, they are too wasteful and expensive, the media is obsessed with them, and after it’s over, sooner or later someone is going to get naked. Well, not the last part of that statement, unless one speaks metaphorically.
What happened? Speaking for myself and many others I dare say, I am a bit confused. (I bet many of you are muttering, “How do you think we feel?”) It was only a few short months ago you were fighting a war. And many of us who live outside your daily existential struggle did our best to fight for you in our own ways, and we will continue to do so, don’t worry. Also, my Israeli friends, not living under the terrible pressures you do every second of every day, I know I have no right to lecture and it’s none of my business. And if you are happy with your system, then more power to you. I truly mean no disrespect. But it just seems there is so much going on that should have, in the least, delayed governmental internecine squabbling.
Trying to make sense of it all, along with my own over-the-years gained knowledge of your major pompous protagonists, I familiarized myself with the players’ criticisms, and I have read and continue to read opinion pieces. Let’s see, and the descriptors that follow may not reflect my own opinion: Netanyahu is a power-hungry, thin-skinned, doesn’t-really-want-peace, out of touch, frightened paranoid; Lapid is a power-hungry, backbiting, whining, finance failure who ran as a centrist man of the people, but who turned into a con-artist leftist; Bennett is a power-hungry, carping, disrespectful, disloyal, unrealistic, irresponsible, chutzpadic war-monger; and, Livni is a power-hungry, hypocritical, undermining, connivingly-opportunistic, unpopular, changes-direction-like-the-wind-when-it-suits-her-own-ambition perennial loser.
How am I doing so far? Correct me if I’m wrong, but although polls show that a large majority of Israelis no longer wish Netanyahu to be your Prime Minister, polls also show he has the best chance to yet again form a government because he and the parties old and new who most closely match his views will gain more than enough seats. At least for now. And as after your last election, all the continuously calculating captains of the new coalition will smile and jump into bed together, and within a very short time, some or all will begin the kind of bickering that caused this latest turmoil. Am I wrong? Why do you keep doing this?
Look, our captains hate each other too. But at least they don’t put on a charade, and they sleep in different beds. They have no choice. Hey, it’s just my opinion, but I do think you guys need a more-than-one-bed system like ours, so I tell you what. If you want, we can send you some of our best consultants to help you make the necessary changes to your form of government. And for good measure, we will even throw in a Kardashian at no extra charge, two if you want. We have plenty. What do you think?