Following the recent 2013 elections, I vowed to ignore Israeli politics. Frustrated by the results of the elections I decided to lead a life of relative solitude. No more daily newspapers, no more hourly updates at the Times of Israel website and definitely no more Channel 10 evening news. When friends asked me if Livney had “jumped the gun” in joining the Netanyahu government so early I shrugged. When students asked me if Netanyahu would work harder to initiate talks with the Palestinians I answered “who knows” and when a date asked me if Ehud Barak would remain Minister of Defense I relished the opportunity to use the old phrase “frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”.
Some might define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again each time hoping for a different result. This is a fair description of the Israeli electorate. Time after time they vote right, but not to right, they vote for Netanyahu, but not by overwhelming numbers, they vote for a right wing government but also for one whose enthusiasm is curbed by center or left wing parties. In doing so, Israelis have adopted Netanyahu’s principle of Status Quo governing, that is sitting around hoping the Palestinians will all convert to Zionism.
I found myself sick and tired with Israeli politicians, new and old. So I set a course for escapism and decided to immerse myself in American television dramas. Given my tendency to addictions, what began as nightly TV marathons soon evolved into a 24 hour long viewing binge of The Good Wife. In a Charlie Sheen-like frenzy, reality soon merged with the fictional and I found myself threatening a Professor of mine with a class action law suit.
Yet oddly enough it was an episode of The Good Wife that also pulled me out of my meltdown. During the episode in question, the brilliant political strategist Eli Gold explains to his rival the shortcoming of Sun Tzu’s art of war. “The only problem with Sun Tzu- he never fought the Jews. We’re Masada baby. We don’t mess around with mind games- we use knives“.
This sentence immediately got me thinking of Israeli myths like Masada which is a strange one to say the least- choosing collective suicide in a cult like fashion over being taken captive? But it was another myth that really got me thinking about politics again, the one of Yair Lapid.
During the elections, Lapid had transformed from TV personality to fledgling politician to a knight in shining armor. Many saw in him the promise of a new kind of politician, one committed to his word, his values and his electorate. Lapid rode the wave of “out with the old in with the new” that characterized the 2013 elections. After all, most of Labor’s MPs are newcomers as are most of Yesh Atid’s soon to be Ministers not to mention the Jewish Home’s leader Naftali Bennett.
Soon I was making my way through the piles of newspapers that had accumulated outside my apartment only to discover that the myth of Lapid had continued to grow in my absence. The leader of Yesh Atid had morphed into a Masada of his own, threatening that his party would commit collective political suicide and go to the opposition in the name of the values that got them elected. Values that necessitated forcing the Ultra Orthodox to share the burden of Israel’s existence by enlisting them into the IDF, cutting their allowances and diverting funds to aid the over burdened Israeli secular middle class.
I could picture the first part of the George Lucas’s next trilogy: Lapid Wars- A New Hope
But as I said, doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result is just crazy. It is now evident that the next Netanyahu government will be quite similar to the previous one. It is also evident that Netanyahu and not Lapid is the true victor of the 2013 elections, contrary the reports in Israel’s daily newspapers.
The next Netanyahu government will be as right wing as previous ones- if not more so. Right wing in the sense that the settlers have been given the keys to the kingdom and right wing in the sense of the Neo-Con economic policy to be adopted by both Lapid and Netanyahu.
Never before have the settlers been given such a stronghold over government expenditure. As Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Naftali Bennett will be able to designate the settlements as areas of national priority and increase funding to their expansion. Uri Arielle, designated Minister of Construction and Housing, will be able to unfreeze construction in the settlements and together with a fellow party member who shall serve as Chairman of the Knesset’s Finance committee the two are expected to embark on a shopping spree unseen since Julia Roberts’ visit to Rodeo Drive in the movie Pretty Woman.
Pulled to the right by the Jewish Home, and called upon to negotiate with the Palestinians by Tzipi Livney, the third Netanyahu government will be identical to the first and second- rhetoric in place of concrete actions, cardboard accessories in place of leadership.
While thinking what will become of Yair Lapid in a trendy Tel Aviv Café I came across the following scene, that of a homeless person picking up loose change from the floor while wearing a Yesh Atid t-shirt. This, I thought as I gave him a few shekels, is exactly the image Netanyahu knows will stick to Lapid. As Minister of Finance, Lapid will be blamed for the deep budget cuts, for the widening gaps between rich and poor and for the hardship of families unable to make ends meet. The myth of Masada will soon depart from Lapid and he will become another mythical creature- Judge Dread.
And finally what of that over burdened secular middle class? They will continue to struggle as the funds that went to the Ultra Orthodox will now flow to the settlements and the expansion of the Israeli occupation.
You thought things were going to be different? As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman- Big Mistake. Big. Huge