David K. Rees

Campaign promises and reality

It makes sense to listen to what candidates say during a campaign; it gives you a sense of who they are. In the end, though, campaign promises are made to get the candidate elected. Once the election is over, it is much more important to see what they do, than what they said they would do in the campaign. It does not matter who the candidate is, what party they are from, or how much you believe in them, the same rule applies.

For example, take Barack Obama, a liberal Democrat whom I supported enthusiastically in 2008. Obama, wanting the Jewish vote, spoke at the AIPAC conference in June of that year. When addressing AIPAC, Obama promised that, “Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Undivided? In December, 2016, after Hillary Clinton had lost in her attempt to succeed him, he refused to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 which not only divides Jerusalem, but declares that everything beyond the 1949 armistice line (Green Line), including East Jerusalem, where Jews have lived for 3,000 years, has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” Now Mahmoud Abbas is going around the world saying that international law mandates that the borders of a new Palestinian State be the Green Line. In short, despite his campaign promise, when it came to his actions, Obama failed to have Israel’s back.

The failure to follow through on campaign promises crosses party lines. In the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump promised to build a “great big wall” and make the Mexicans pay for it. Originally the wall was to be 2,000 miles long and 50 feet high. Now, four years later, the Mexicans have told Trump that under no circumstances will they pay for the wall, only portions of a wall have been built, none of them are 50 feet high, and what has been built has been paid for with American taxpayer money. So much for the “great big wall” that Trump promised.

I mention this because even though the members of the press know better, many of them continue to suggest that when it comes to the issue of annexation, Netanyahu will propose to annex the same part of the West Bank that he promised his conservative supporters during the campaign that he would. Recently, for example, the Washington Post ran a story which said, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to unilaterally annex the area surrounding Jericho, as well as other parts of the occupied West Bank, as soon as this week, and Palestinians are warning of a return to resistance, even violence.”  In making this statement, the Post broke the fundamental rule of watching what people do rather than what they say in the election.

During the election, Netanyahu ran on a platform of creating a “coalition of the right.” In order to form a government, he needed the support of all the right-wing parties, including the extremely right-wing, mostly-religious members of the Yamina coalition and the settlers, both of which were relying on his promise to annex large portions of the West Bank, including the area around Jericho. His problem was that he did not do well enough in the elections to form a government but wanted to remain Prime Minister. Consequently, he abandoned Yamina, made a deal with his principle opponent, Benny Gantz (Blue and White), and formed the most highly-secular, moderate government that Israel has seen in years.

Yamina screamed that Netanyahu had double-crossed them, which, of course, he had. Yamina now sits in the opposition.

Like Netanyahu, Blue and White’s Bennie Gantz has failed to live up to his campaign promises. He tried three times to lead a coalition of the secular, center/left to oust Netanyahu. He came close three times, but after three elections, he, too, was unable to form a government. His campaign promise: he would never join in a government which had Netanyahu as Prime Minister, so long as Netanyahu was under indictment, which he still is.

Gantz, too, had baggage: Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party. Lapid is a charismatic former TV personality who turned his star power into political capital. He has been salivating to be PM for years. Gantz, who wanted Yesh Atid’s support for his coalition of the center/left, finally gave Lapid his chance. Gantz agreed that if Lapid would join him, after two years, Lapid would become PM.

Gantz broke his campaign promise; he agreed to sit in the same government with Netanyahu.  He also agreed to  share the PM job with Netanyahu and not Lapid. Lapid screamed that Gantz had double-crossed him, which, of course, he had. Now Yesh Atid, like Yamina, sits in the opposition.

Reports which appeared in the Israeli press before the Post ran its story indicated that Netanyahu’s proposal will be far more limited than the one that he promised during the campaign and will not include the area surrounding Jericho. On Wednesday, after the Post published the story described above, the Post admitted that the proposed annexation is likely to be more restrictive than the one Netanyahu promised during the campaign, stating. “Amid pushback from Palestinians, activists and much of the European Union, the prime minister in recent days has been rumored to be considering less-ambitious options as a face-saving way to defuse the controversy …. The Post’s analysis is still wrong; it ignores the change in the composition of the government. In fact, Netanyahu’s change of position can be better explained by internal Israeli politics and his own values than by external pressure. We are all waiting to see what will be in Netanyahu’s proposal. If it is more restrictive than his campaign promise, it will be just another example of a politician changing position after the election is over.


About the Author
Before making Aliyah from the United States, I spent over three decades as a lawyer in the United States. My practice involved handling many civil rights cases, including women's- rights cases, in State and Federal courts. I handled numerous constitutional cases for the ACLU and argued one civil rights case in the United States Supreme Court. I chaired the Colorado Supreme Court's Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure and served on the Colorado Supreme Court's Civil Rules and Rules of Evidence Committees. Since much of my practice involved the public interest, I became interested in environmental law and worked closely with environmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). I was on the Rocky Mountain Board of EDF. I received an award from the Nebraska Sierra Club as a result of winning a huge environmental case that was referred to me by EDF. I also developed significant knowledge of hazardous and radioactive waste disposal. I was involved in a number of law suits concerning waste disposal, including a highly-political one in the United States Supreme Court which involved the disposal of nuclear waste. As I child I was told by my mother, a German, Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, that Israel was a place for her and her child. When I first visited Israel many years later, I understood what she meant. My feeling of belonging in Israel caused me to make Aliyah and Israel my home. Though I am retired now, I have continued my interest in activism and the world in which I find myself.
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