With so many new parties and personalities in this election, it is difficult to really understand what they actually stand for. History has shown that new parties – often cobbled together with the aim of getting elected and not much else – achieve little, hinder the larger parties from whom they have drawn mandates, and vote with the highest bidder rather than along any sort of ideological lines.
It is also difficult then, with so many new faces with little political or governmental experience, to get a real understanding of what legislation or policies the new parties or indeed the individuals in their ranks will vote for. I am certainly not advocating against new faces coming into politics, it is crucial that they do. Thus far in the campaign I have had the honour of working with one of Yisrael Beytneu’s new candidates, Yair Shamir. As son of a former Prime Minister, having been one of the heroic IAF pilots of the Six Day War, and as a vastly successful business leader – he is certainly a formidable character, and brings with him a wealth of experience of managing national projects and companies.
Moreover, he joins a party with an established and indeed exemplary record of enacting legislation and contributing to the work of the Knesset. I have worked in government and know that the bureaucracy and administrative requirements – for good and for bad – demand a skilled understanding and procedural methodology. While newer parties will struggle with this, the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu has experience.
Detractors will certainly argue that if this is so, more should have been achieved in the past four years. However they would do well to look at what has been achieved in the last Knesset. Yisrael Beytenu released a video at the start of the election campaign which highlighted just a few of the party’s achievements in the fields of economic development, foreign policy and promoting Jewish and Zionist values.
They include the opening of more consulates and embassies than previous administrations; restarting the EU-Israel upgrade in relations – which was frozen under Livni; joining CERN; preventing full recognition of the Palestinians at the UNSC; increasing the number of police and firemen by more than 3,500; increasing tourism to Israel to more than 3.7 million annually; increased housing for new Olim; significantly improved the country’s gas, energy and water infrastructure; increased the allowance for soldiers following the completion of their service and improved the conditions for lone soldiers.
Not bad… But ok, why wasn’t more done? The key issue holding back legislation in Israel is the current political system. We have had in this country 11 transport ministers and 11 housing ministers in just 16 years. These are not areas in which one can change policy every eighteen months. We have a system whereby smaller, sectarian parties can pull down a government over their budget demands, and voting on legislation is all too often carried out according to political deals rather than ideological commitment.
The system is broken, and we are nearing political paralysis. The solution is a strong government.
That is a key reason why the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu merge took place, and a key reason why I believe all those in the nationalist bloc should vote this way. Without that strong majority governing party at the head of the coalition then the situation will deteriorate even further, and come next election the chance to change the system may be a missed one.