When one looks at the world of politics, it is unlike any other. Citizens of any Democracy become involved initially as a constructive way to create change. Ideals generally excite the young and they align themselves with parties of similar values. Rapid heart beats from being near the core of power are not unusual. I worked in the halls of Congress as a young summer volunteer in the offices of Senator Muskie… and I still remember the smell of the leather and the grandeur of it all.
Young people have not changed. Hence we have in Israel small political parties with dreams of coexistence, caring for the planet and concern for those who need it most. It is the very potential for political activism that makes it so exciting and enticing. Most of us know that we need the idealistic youth to balance the cynicism of those who have been through experiences which drained them of energy and optimism.
At first glance it may not be obvious, but Israel and the US have similar internal political issues.
There is much discussion during the current US elections as to the aberrations occurring during the Trump-Clinton battle. One of the most glaring shocks has been the walking away from candidate Trump by his previous rivals in the Republican party. Many of the Republican leadership refused to support the now Republican Presidential candidate. This is a previously unheard of occurrence. In spite of contracts signed by the candidates promising to support the ultimate victor of the Republican primary, they decline to fulfill their promise. The question is “why?” Those who do not like the candidate are quite happy with the desertion. Others are disgusted by it. Never before has the Republican party fallen apart into such disarray.
Let’s look at the reasons why the Republican leadership would desert Mr. Trump;
1) He never worked his way up the party ranks as they did.
2) He never ran for political office through the Republican machine as they did.
3) He never did deals with any of them to achieve his power.
4) He did not need their money or influence
5) He refused to succumb to the very political correctness and propriety which brought each of the elected officials into office.
6) His forthrightness appealed to the American public and brought down strong, worthy Republican candidates who had given their lives to political service in their cities, states and in the U.S. Congress.
7) And perhaps most important of all… the fear of current Republican elected officials that they will lose their home constituency if they support Mr. Trump. If they lose their base which elected them to begin with, their careers are over.
The potential election of Mr. Trump is a bombshell for the Republican party. If he should be elected, there is a very real possibility that the party itself will cease to exist. A second presidential run for Mr. Trump could be under a completely new party banner. Why would he return to the Republican party structure after it had abandoned him? The high ranking members of the party are scurrying like mice, trying to predict and protect their own political futures. If Trump succeeds, will they themselves drown in the process? Politics is ultimately for the politician, simply about survival. If one does not get re-elected, the career is over, the financial benefits plummet and the attendant personal power and glory disappear.
Across the ocean, we in Israel bemoan the Israeli political system as well. Another example of political wheeling and dealing, it is a miracle that governments are formed at all. The influence of the Haredi voting block is feared so greatly by the population, that some respected individuals are portending civil war over the clashes between the cultures. The real clash is not between the religious and non- religious values, although attempts to impose one’s way of life on the “other” is not a small concern. Still, the vexation is primarily a result of the political power wielded by the needed Haredi swing votes to keep most political coalitions intact. The fury of the average Israeli against the ultra – religious voting block is related to the amount of money allocated to those :
- a) who refuse to serve the Nation State
- b) where husbands refuse to work to support their own large families
- c) some of whom feel the State has no right to exist, but are happy to take financial benefits from it…and demand increases in that support
- d) who attempt to impose their will out of proportion to their
The reaction is visceral. No one seems to see a solution in sight. Hence the front page outrageous but news-worthy predictions of possible civil war.
No one speaks of solutions as if the situation is unsolvable. But in fact, there is a possibility of realigning the issue. Simply increasing the minimum percentage of votes needed to attain seats in the Knesset (known as the voter threshold), while a move in the right direction, is not sufficient simply because it is incremental and while removing a few small parties, still leaves a plethora intact. What is required, quite simply, are courageous leaders from the smaller parties who would be prepared to unite in order to resolve the issue. If the minor political parties were to come together into one new major party (and not just a temporary entity), their voting block in a future coalition would give them power and success. It would remove the importance of the Haredi votes and leave their demands and blackmail out of future governments. Why has this not happened thus far? It would require that those with a little bit of local power within their own parties, pluck up the courage to risk their illusory self-importance. Real future leaders need to grab on to a larger vision and move forward with others also currently on the fringe. Israel is desperately waiting for leaders with foresight to change the status quo.
Politics is a greedy business. Those who begin to taste the power hold onto it in spite of their inability to succeed on a large scale. Israel is hungry for a leader who will see a future for their people on a larger playing field than the one thus far envisioned. Most Israelis know that the system in place for electing Knesset members is very poor indeed. No one thus far has had the political courage to create a successful movement for change. Citizens need proper local representation. For governments to function at optimum level they must have a clear mandate from the electorate. Coalition governments can never fulfill the promises made, leaving the nation disappointed and disillusioned. The time is ripe for a real leader to emerge who can unite the smaller parties into a solid voting block which will reflect Israeli 21st century values. It will require party leaders to come together, for whom the future of the nation is more critical than their little islands of imagined personal importance.