Shia Altman

Loud and clear

These last few weeks I read many articles and columns from all sides of the political spectrum about Israel’s parliamentary election.  And I have read countless comments on those pieces, as well as many notes on social media.  From those inside and outside of Israel.

When it looked like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would go down, some on the left were anything but gracious, while some on the right were over-the-top nasty.  After the results, that unpleasantness switched.  (There is nothing wrong with forcefully expressing a particular sentiment, but I wish people would tone down some of the more personally-hostile acrimony.)

Instead of giving an in-depth election analysis (which I may still do at a later date), I will evaluate from my perspective some of the reactions I have seen and am still seeing.

Before I continue, let me repeat some words from my column last week. When it very much looked like there would be an outcome with which I would not be happy, I still said: “I recognize that although I can have an opinion, and a particular desire, I cannot dictate.  You in Israel are the ultimate authority in your Knesset parliamentary elections , because you endure the incredible stresses of your society.”

Many on the left, have begrudgingly, albeit despondently, accepted reality.  Then there are those who haven’t.  For the most part, I don’t mean people in Israel.  Israeli voters are very shrewd, they vote in much higher percentages than Americans, and before they do, they can weigh what will happen if votes go one way or the other, and they understand what the results may foretell.

I refer to some (not all) leftists outside Israel, and I would like to divide them into two categories.  There are those who understand quite well how Israeli elections work, and those who don’t.  Some are well-mannered.  And others are quite discourteous, their anger unfortunately getting the better of them to the point of irrational, impetuous, ill-informed fury.  And they unfairly attack and mischaracterize any dialogue contributors who have the audacity to not share their opinions and world view.

Yes, yes, I know had things gone differently, some on the right would do the same.  None of it is good.

Some may even conclude I am a bad person because of my political beliefs – which contrary to what they think they know about them, are not necessarily what they surmise, as a number of some conservative family and friends, much to their distress, will attest.

Let me add, even the discourteous are not bad people.  To me, as long as left-wingers, or right-wingers for that matter, are not radical, fringe anti-Israel Jew-haters, I bear no malice toward them, and they are my brothers and sisters with as much right as anyone to have an opinion, even if I wish it was different.

Category 1 of those to whom I refer includes a good many people who are quite aware and well-versed on the mechanics of Israel’s electoral system, but who are are in denial and refuse to acknowledge the reality of Netanyahu’s victory.  They just say it didn’t happen.  Simple as that.

Never mind that every media outlet of all persuasions said it was a big win, and never mind that the defeated Zionist Union’s Yitzchak Herzog conceded and congratulated Netanyahu.

Category 2 includes those who use anecdotal evidence and unanalyzed raw numbers to validate what is a clear imperception of Israel’s political system.  So many of these people.

Their Israeli relatives and friends are upset with the election outcome, therefore the whole country must be upset.  Never mind that innumerable Americans have relatives and friends living in Israel who are quite happy and relieved.  (I have a sister and her family, and many relatives and friends who live in Israel.)  I guess they don’t count.  And because the Likud’s only receiving 30 out of 120 seats in the election is not an overall majority, those claiming victory are fooling themselves, and divorced from reality.

Well, there you go.  That kind of blanket, absolute logic is um, absolutely wrong.

In Israel’s (in my opinion, ridiculous) Knesset parliamentary system and mandate apportionment process, the 30 seats Netanyahu won was huge.  Especially considering the Likud, one party, was trailing the two-party-combined Zionist Union by upwards of 4 seats in all 14 polls taken within a one week period just before the election. Going from as low as 20 projected mandates to 30 in less than a week in such a fragmented system, along with the great probability of now becoming the controlling coalition builder was an exceedingly valid reason to celebrate.

Stay with me now, this will be good.

For those who don’t understand the system, and I do so hope you are reading this, Israel has had a myriad of Knesset parties in its history, and no party has ever won an outright majority.  None.  Ever.  A pre-Labor party alliance came close with 51 and 56 seats, in 1969 and 1973 respectively, with the next highest being the Likud, created out of several parties in 1973, with 48 mandates in 1981.

In Israel’s parliamentary system, it is the ability to make a coalition, regardless of the number of seats, wherein the power lies.  Even founding father David Ben-Gurion in Israel’s very first Knesset election – where 12 parties received seats, did not yield an absolute majority.  His Mapai party, a combination of various political factions won 46 seats.  Ben-Gurion formed a government with five parties, one of which was a combination of four religious parties.

In the 1955 third Knesset election, Ben-Gurion’s Mapai, won only 40 seats, 21 short of an absolute majority.  I would love to see those leftists belittling and degrading Netanyahu’s win with a very clear path to a ruling majority, make the same kinds of invectives about the giant Ben-Gurion’s wins.  Of course they wouldn’t because Ben-Gurion had an ideology with which they agreed.

Since 1996, after seven Knessets, no leading party ever won more than 38 seats (the Likud in 2003).  The average number of seats for the leading party in these last 19 years was 31, with one Knesset’s seat leader, in 1999, yielding only 26 seats.  That was a three party combination created just before the election, led by the left-wing Labor party’s Ehud Barak.

To those who are so furiously disparaging of Netanyahu’s 30 seats, were you as apoplectic when Barak led with barely over a fifth of the Knesset’s 120 seats and formed the government?  Of course not.  Because you agreed with his ideology.

Much to the consternation of the left, Israel’s electorate has moved rightward.  Since 1977, only three out of twelve Knesset races were won by Labor leader led parties.  Like it or not, this is the truth.

Don’t leave yet, you will want to read this.

Not only did the Likud win 8 out 10 of the largest Israeli cities, and win sizably overallHaaretz, a left-wing anti-Netanyahu newspaper, said this, the “Zionist Union got the highest number of votes in 28 of the country’s 33 wealthiest towns, while Likud enjoyed a decisive majority among Jewish local authorities in the middle-to lower-middle-class range; in 64 of these 77 towns, Likud came in first… Support for Likud actually rose in the middle-class and peripheral towns compared to the last election, despite the social agenda pushed by the center-left camp.”  (You can use Facebook to login to the site and read the complete article if it doesn’t show, or google this: ‘Support for Likud actually rose in the middle-class,’ to find and view the piece.)

Wow!  Generally speaking, the elite rich supported Herzog, while the regular guy and gal supported Likud.  Big time.  That column must have been tough for Haaretz to publish.  Isn’t it ironic that leftist Democrats in the US, the supposed champions of the middle class and the little guy, are so mad at those in Israel who are the middle class and the little guy!  Apparently, for some, their compassion is conditional when it doesn’t match their ideology.

It is not those of us who celebrate the obvious Likud victory who are divorced from reality.  It is those who refuse to see or accept it.  You don’t have to like what happened, you can even vociferously hate what happened.  But the Israeli people have spoken.  Loud and clear.  It is what they decide that matters, not what you want and not what I want.

Finally, if you don’t like it, make Aliyah.  When you do, Israel will accept you with love and open arms.  And then you can dictate.

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.
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