OK, before I get started, I want to reiterate to those in Israel that my thoughts and opinions are those of an American observer. I am not an Israeli. I do not live in Israel. I am not on the front line of terror; I don’t have Iran only a missile away (yet). And I don’t suffer the kinds of cost of living, housing and social issues you Israelis do. It doesn’t mean what happens to the State of Israel is none of my business. As a Jew and an American, it is, whether some of you like it or not.
A number of you have even said that those not living in Israel have no right to comment about your elections. Baloney. Anyone can comment about anything, anywhere, and you are quite welcome to comment about anything here in the US, should you wish to do so. At the same time, I recognize that although I can have an opinion, and a particular desire, I cannot dictate.
I have always believed that you in Israel (and this includes members of my own family living there) are the ultimate authority in your Knesset parliamentary elections (tomorrow Tuesday being Election Day), because you endure the incredible stresses of your society. I am aware of the anger and consternation so many of you feel for so many reasons, and who can blame you? And it is you who must directly live with the consequences of your voting decisions, not me.
To my Israeli friends, those of us in the US at least, are a zillion miles away from your reality. OK, kilometers. What we generally see and hear – unless we dig deep, are that which is reported on a macro-global level. Therefore, many people here are not aware that there is more to life in Israel than Iran and Hamas and Abbas and your grave security concerns. In fact, your polling shows that most Israelis are more concerned about the economy, and health and education, rather than security issues. By a wide margin.
That being the case, one would think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu (Bibi) wouldn’t even have a chance to form the next government, in any phase of the process. But your polling also shows that while a majority of you do not want him to be PM anymore – so much familiarity breeds so much contempt, a majority of you thinks he is more suited to be PM than the center-left Zionist Union’s Yitzchak “Buji” Herzog.
(Note: I am not so sure of the Tzippi Livni center part – Livni is the Labor party left Buji’s partner. It seems to me, Tzippi can’t sit still in one ideological place and keeps moving ever further from her right wing roots.)
And even though the poll movement this last week has been steadily away from the Likud party and more toward the Zionist Union party, polling also shows that most Israelis want a rightist government. Even with that, your president, may give the leftists the first shot in constructing a government. Make sense? It does in a debilitating parliamentary system (sorry, that’s my opinion) such as yours. But if that’s how you want it, then so be it.
Bibi’s opponents have made a big deal about how he ruined US – Israel relations. Nonsense. Aside from the fact the US and Israeli leaders’ tensions are more because of Obama than Bibi, once Obama and his teleprompters leave the stage, all will be better, and Buji and Tzippi and the rest know that. Oh, I don’t blame the opposition for using that “ruined relations” argument; politics is hardball.
I do think focusing on a prime minister’s wife’s rebates on recycled bottles, however, is downright pathetic. By the way, I also think that some of Likud’s advertising crossed the line in good taste and fairness. Yes, the campaign has been pretty nasty, but it is my understanding that most of the vitriol has come from the left.
So, will some Israeli voters, so eager to punish Bibi, reluctantly decide to put security ahead of their other concerns, insuring he stays PM? Will Moshe Kachlon be the kingmaker? Will the Joint (Arab) List be part of, or at least, make maneuvers to support, a Jewish (Zionist Union) government? Will the Haredi parties join a leftist government even if Yair Lapid is part of it? Will there be a national unity government? Will you have another election in two years? Will any new PM actually be able to govern? And will Obama pee his pants in delight should the Zionist Union take control?
Finally, I want to give credit where credit is due. Although I have read many articles and opinion pieces in many papers from all over the political spectrum about this Israeli election cycle, and I can confidently say I am familiar with a great deal of Israeli politics, I would not know the minute intricacies and inner workings of the parties and their thinking were it not for Jeremy Saltan’s KnessetJeremy.com website. Jeremy’s non-partisan up-to-the-minute poll reporting, and detailed breakdowns and excellent analyses, along with the vibrant commenting his website encouraged, was eye candy to this political junkie.
Nu? Go vote. And then, let the coalition games begin.