Chaim R. Landau

The Israeli elections: Who really cares a hoot?

Here we go again, just days before yet another non-event of Israeli election fever (which is more of a plague than a necessity) in yet another attempt to find power among the powerless.

This should be a time of Israeli unity, strength, upbeat potential for a future filled with hope and contentment. Iran looms as an existential enemy to Israel threatening it with annihilation; ISIS next door amasses recruits and land and viciously and bloodily re-arrange the Middle East as we know it; Hamas is an ever-present danger and threat (and I haven’t even touched on the Palestinian jihadi and non-jihadi military groups !! ). Obama can’t stand Netanyahu (and vice versa). America’s relations with Israel are strained to bursting point, and argumentative. Turkey fills the air with verbal missiles directed against Israel and its leadership. And the BDS movement will just not go away and disappear. I feel we need the clarity of a Robin Williams screaming out at the top of his voice: GOOD MORNING JERUSALEM !!! every morning to wake up the country, especially its real and potential leaders, from the clouds that daily threaten to engulf the state and its people. No matter who wins, or loses, these realities will persist, and it will only be a change of nuance and style over substance as to how these challenges will be handled and neutralized.

It’s not only that Netanyahu may be the problem…more to the point, Israel is the problem in the eyes of the United Nations, Security Council, International Court, et al, who regard the state with envy and considerable hatred. Netanyahu is going for the Olympic record here in attempting to win yet another general election and become the Prime Minister for a fourth time. WOW ! Who in Israel has ever achieved that in Israeli election history ? But recent events leading up to the elections, especially regarding his life style and alleged household expenses, may lead many to the conclusion that power has gotten to the Prime Minister in a self-destructive way, and that a fourth term of power may lead to the well known warning: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Has Netanyahu completely lost touch with the average Israeli who scrimps along in life rarely knowing how he or she is going to deal with tomorrow ? It used to be that the Prime Minister of Israel lived an extremely modest life, in a very modest apartment. Now, the trappings of power seem to be matched by the affluence of a palatial address !!

Not that anyone else amongst the crowded race for leader and power may be any better. They come over as a bunch of has-beens and wanna-bees who jockey for potential power with antagonisms, dislikes, can’t- stand-him/her attitudes, and just castle-high negativities as to make effective leadership all but impossible, and whose administration may itself be a national security risk ! You look at the options, and whether it’s Bennet, Lapid,Liberman,Livni,Herzog,Kahlon among a list overcrowded by opportunity and political naivite (and precious little talent), the future looks anything but rosy, and indeed full of thorns. With all the insults and harsh words being leveled at each other, it almost feels that each one of them needs their own Iron Dome to get through all the electioneering in one piece. It is, to use Netanyahu’s phrasing to the American Congress, A Game of Thrones, Israeli style, and there will be victims a-plenty !

And sadly, the one national security risk that few, if anyone, are substantially addressing, is the Israeli economy. Many Israeli leaders like to point to the disproportionate number of high-tech companies housed in Israel, financed by world-based powerhouses; the genius of the Israeli mind; start-ups…and the praises continue effusively. However, and this is the core around which the elections should be focused top and bottom, which is: when will every Israeli ever be able to afford their own house, and like America, own their dream ? When will the crippling taxes ever be lowered so that Israelis can save for a brighter future, have something tangible and substantial to look forward to, besides yet another war with the next enemy lining up to crush the Israeli state ? Israelis are leaving the country in droves because the Zionism ideal is dead, and there is nothing of an economic base to look forward to in their long-term futures. Amidst all the criticisms the leaders are leveling against each other, and an ever-increasing spectacle of former Mossad leaders against Netanyahu, the question is: When will all this stupidity and circus-driven irrelevance wake up and smell the truth which is, to quote former American President Bill Clinton: It’s the economy….stupid. Poverty in Israel is tragically real and growing; too many are living below the minimum median; and the President of Israel has to meet with Israelis to convince them to vote because they are so sick and tired of the entire meaningless process which won’t bring any substantial changes into the lives of normal Israelis.

The line between the rich and the haves, and the poor and have-nots is widening disastrously and frighteningly. Israel should become THE land for all Jews everywhere, but the truth is that, even with all the latent and blatant anti-Semitism swirling around Europe, why would Jews surrender their current hard won economic prosperity in the Diaspora for a mountain of Israeli economic sacrifices ? Am I any happier in a state that guarantees my right to live safely as a Jew over a country that allows me to prepare for an economic future that is stable and sure to deliver in the long term ? Do I really value financial security over my own personal safety ? It used to be that such questions were a no brainer. But in today’s difficult environment everywhere, such doubts become foggy at best, vacuous at worst.

So who will win the elections ? Who cares ! But maybe, amidst all the jockeying for personal power and prestige, leadership and that unforgiving piece of history, just maybe someone will have that hard working, trying to make ends meet Israeli in mind who, at the same time, might also be hoping he or she won’t be targeted by the next barrage of missiles, courtesy of Iran.

Respectfully submitted

Chaim R. Landau

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Landau is Emeritus Rabbi and President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. He served the Bnai Jacob Congregation and later Ner Tamid Congregation in Baltimore. He was born in the UK, graduated Jews College with Bachelors Degree in Jewish Studies, has Smichah from Israel.