On the new elections and Cholent

P.M Netanyahu works extra hours in the last few days. As if by plan, he moves very quickly towards new Knesset elections[ 20 in 67 years…], and the speed and meticulous planning raise, at least one quick thought-if only he acted like that during the time passed since the last elections… well, I may be over myself…

Israeli PMs are not always known for speed and planning, but then, elections is the REAL thing, isn’t it? forget about major economic reforms, or just bold diplomatic steps with the Palestinians…

Netanyahu surely believes that he is going to win big, having the initiative, outsmarting the amateur Lapid, and the naive Livni, but elections in Israel are like Cholent, you know what you put in the oven on Friday afternoon, but can never be sure that the stuff will not spill off the plate on Saturday.
The history of early elections in Israel is full of surprises and unexpected results. Let us remember the 1977 elections for one, let us also remember the Shimon Peres ”Brilliant Exercise ” in 1990[not early elections, but leading to a new government.], so as it stands now, there is only one certainty, and it is that Netanyahu believes in his victory, but as we know , prophecies were given only to fools since the destruction of the Temple, so no electoral predictions in the following lines, just some thoughts in a momentous day.

First, something about our political system. 20 elections in 67 years, elections after less than 3 years, constant bickering in the coalition , as well as any other manifestation of what they call politicking in Israel, may lead to the inevitable conclusion that the system is bankrupt, but surprisingly enough, it is not. The system is problematic, and should be improved , it has an element of flexibility in it, that renders it more effective than what catches the eye, and this is exactly what is happening now-the ability to terminate ahead of time a failed government, and go to the people in order to receive a renewed mandate. Look at Washington DC , and see what happens in a system considered so effective, the American bi-cameral system. For 4 years, as the House was in Republican hands, and the Senate in Democratic, Washington was paralyzed, a gridlock which led to the US without a national budget for over 3 years!
Things may change now, with a Republican majority in both houses, but then there is the veto power of the President, the possibility of impeachment. The thing is , that if more efficiency in Israel  requires no Haredim and Arabs in the Knesset, I , for one, prefer them in, being less efficient, but much more representative.

The current government conducted a war whose results , I believe, are better than what many may perceive them to be, and did not move on with the political process with the Palestinians, and in both cases , it was not the coalition composition which precluded the latter, and advanced the former. If the majority  in Israel elects Netanyahu to be the P.M , then there is not much hope for any political progress, surely so long  as the P.M is accountable to Bennett , Feiglin and Co, and Abbas , on the other side, is locked in an alliance with Hamas.

Secondly, since these elections are going to take place amid major controversies over issues such as Israel’s Jewish identity, relations between Jews and Arabs and the Peace [?] process, it may be the time to conduct them along those lines, so that the Israeli electorate could really make a chioce between competing visions. Lapid, Livni , Herzog should form an electoral block, which will coalesce around a minimunm platform of agreements rather than a debate over Kamza and Bar Kamza. Shelly Yehimovitz could do it in 2013, but she missed the opportunity. It is called ego, I know, but if there still is any shred of reliability, respectability and decency , it is time that these three will go beyond their ego. Much to ask, probably far too much, but why not toying with pleasant illusions?…

Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman, whether ahead of time, or on election night, will form their block, so why not head to head collision, one which will give Israel a clear path forward, whether Center-Right, or Center-Left?

In the old days, the joke was, that elections are all about who would form a coalition with the religious parties… Jokes aside, this is the reality to be  after this round, as the attempt to exclude the Religious parties from the current government proved futile. Again, this will be a moment of truth to all concerned; those who are ready to talk to our enemies, will have to be ready to talk to the Haredim, but I do not hold my breath!

Thirdly, this elections will witness an unprecedented amount of foreign interference, designed to support Netanyahu’s rivals starting with the White House and the State Department. Will not be an exaggeration to say, that the Israeli voters will be subjected to world -wide manipulations, and what about Hamas, the PA, Hizballah, Iran, and who knows who else.

It is going to be interesting, possibly dramatic, probably surprising.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina