I’ve always enjoyed elections. This will be my 14th time voting, and there is still a little twinge of democratic pride as I slide my chosen slip of paper into the envelope and ‘mail’ it into the ballot box. But it’s more than just deciding for whom you will vote, and then doing your civil duty. There are the heated discussions, the jingly advertisements, the meaningless declarations. The changing statistics and random polls that are always wrong. I love being wooed. Being offered stickers and banners and t-shirts. Watching the enthusiasm of the youths behind the placards, so convinced of the justice of their cause, and confident that they will take the country by a landslide.
When our prime minister declared an election date next April, Israeli society behaved as it always did and new factions sprang up like mushrooms after the bountiful rainfall we have had this year. Benny Gantz established his silent party, “Chasson” in which no-one talks. It is placed in the center of the political spectrum (COPS). Moshe Bogie Ya’alon has given innumerable interviews about his new party, which he has appropriately named “Tell ‘Em”. It too is in the center of the political spectrum (COPS). Orli Levy-Abucassis has revived her father’s old bridge party, “Gesher”. It is – you guessed it – COPS. All these new offerings vie with Lapid’s and Cachlon’s COPS parties.
Watching the jostling for power in the center made me feel smug. The religious Zionists have just one party which represents us. Not too religious, not too fanatic, but a body of honest concerned citizens which united various factions and created a stable party – “The Jewish Home” (AKA National Unity, Mafdal, Mizrachi, depending on the stage of evolution or the age of the voter). We are one front, cohesive, loyal and without ambitions of self-aggrandizement. Or at least we were, until last Saturday night, when the leaders of the Jewish Home announced that they were splitting the house.
I was not the only one who felt a sense of utter betrayal. Not unlike a child who is brought by his parents into the kitchen to be told that mummy and daddy are getting divorced yet still love him very much. No!!! Don’t do this! We are the righteous right, the settled settlers. No Bennett has bent us or Shaked got us shaked. In the big picture we are so dedicated to the cause that it must be possible to put petty differences behind us. We are better than Them. We do not dismantle, we build towns and schools and roads. Our elitism fell to defeatism in one cruel swoop.
Now there may be legitimate reasons for the split. I am willing to hear them out. Even to be wooed and convinced. But as a loyal supporter, my first reaction was outrage at the treachery. Because we were behaving as childishly as the other side. Or so I thought until watching the spectacle of Avi Gabbay’s public humiliating dismissal of Zippi Livne from his party. You know those end-of-TVnews items where the man asks his beloved to marry him at a football game/Los Vegas show/university degree ceremony? Well, this was the exact opposite – kicking your partner out in front of the camera. And I felt smug again, knowing that there were even lower levels to which one could fall in politics.
I pray we will retain some of our dignity and be able to rebuild. It’s early days, I would hate to have to change the name again of the movement, from “The Jewish Home” to the “The Jewish Housing Complex”. Because if we can’t regroup, we’ll find ourselves dealing with the COPS.