Israel’s Disappointing Political Process

By SherwinPomerantz

There are times, like today, when I really miss and envy the political process in my birth country, the United States of America.

Yesterday Israel swore in its 33rd government since the country’s creation in 1948.  The new cabinet seems to me to be a clear reflection of what the voters here stated loud and clear on Election Day in January, to wit:

  • There is no better person in the country today than Benjamin Netanyahu to be the Prime Minister.
  • But there is disappointment in certain aspects of how he runs the country so let’s clip his wings a bit and not give him as strong a mandate as in the previous election.
  • It’s time for new blood in the Knesset, so let’s elect 43 of the 120 delegates who have never served before and have no allegiance to political kingmakers and see how they make out.
  • We are concerned about how best to deal with the fact that Israel has the highest percentage of any OECD country of people not in the work force who are eligible to be in the work force and we need to address that in order to remain economically stable.
  • Perhaps it is time for the government coalition not to include the religious parties and to at least begin to address the issue of separation of church and state.

This, of course, is my personal interpretation although the election of two brand new parties to the 2nd (Yesh Atid) and 3rd (Bayit HaYehudi) place positions as vote-getters along with the reduction in seats of the first place Likud-Beytenu faction would seem to support my position.

After weeks of coalition building today’s papers detail the members of a cabinet thankfully reduced in size from the last government (which saves those of us who are taxpayers millions of dollars).  One would think that the press and electorate would wish them well.

Ah, but this is Israel and the tradition here is exactly opposite from that of the US.  In the US there is a tradition, after an election, of people rallying together for the good and welfare of the community in order to move the public sector forward. Sadly, in Israel, the approach is exactly the opposite where the losers work hard to prove that those who voted the elected officials into office made a mistake.

Last Friday’s papers in the religious community, for example, blared out the headline “An Evil Government” once it was announced that the coalition had been formed and the religious parties would be in the opposition.

This morning’s Ha’aretz, in reviewing the new ministers, referred nastily to Rabbi Shai Peron, a member of the Yesh Atid party and the new Minister of Education as “one who used to run a yeshiva and will now be in charge of the entire educational system,” as if it should be clear to all of us that he will fail.  This, of course, is the same paper that four years ago praised the appointment of Yuval Steinitz as Minister of Finance even though he had no experience whatsoever in that discipline.

Finally, pretty much every news outlet is already predicting the fact that the new government will be unmanageable and will have a limited life.

How sad.  How sad that this country which has become the envy of the world (even of our enemies) when it comes to technological achievement cannot mature in the political sphere to the point where we applaud, support and encourage the success of a new government, regardless of our private disappointments.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.”  That’s a lesson that our electorate needs to internalize for the ultimate good and welfare of the State of Israel, the fulfillment of God’s promise to those he brought out of Egypt so many years ago.