James J. Marlow
James J. Marlow

The Marlow election report

Credit: James Marlow

THE MARLOW REPORT

Writing in the Jerusalem Post last month, world affairs strategist, Amotz Asa-El, eloquently pointed out, that very few Army Generals in many of the world’s democracies, go into politics. Yes there were national leaders, like the Duke of Wellington and Ulysses Grant and statesmen like Dwight Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle. But no democracy has turned generals into politicians as many times as the State or Israel.

Amotz Asa-El wrote 10 out of the 14 former Chief of General Staff’s, went into politics and suggested all of them, were failures in one way or another. From Moshe Dayan (Yom Kippur War), Ariel Sharon (First Lebanon War), Yitzhak Rabin, (first Intifada) and Ehud Barak (second Intifada) in terms of national disasters. To other Generals who wrought great political failures, like Shaul Mofaz who led Kadima after they received 28 seats in 2009 and plunged them to 2 seats in 2013.

In the past 2 years of this current political crisis, retired Generals have reached new peaks of repeated disaster and Asa-El says they have sunk to new depths.

Even for Israel, the fielding of 3 former IDF Chiefs, as a new political force against Netanyahu was unprecedented and the result was ideological disorientation and political fiasco. Like Shaul Mofaz, when he led Kadima, Benny Gantz was “politically clueless”, especially when he lost half of his faction last summer and was recently abandoned by most of its remainder.

Gantz’s number two, Gabi Ashkenazi did bring an important voice to the Foreign Ministry, but he too failed to articulate an original idea or a devise a plan of action.

As for Moshe Ya’alon, he had visions of being Prime Minister without any real know-how. When he finally broke away from Yesh Atid, Ya’alon discovered he had very little support and was forced to pull out of the race.

Israel’s Generals need to understand that for most of them, politics is not a good career move. It doesn’t work for them and it doesn’t work for the country.

Fortunately, Gantz’s successor, Gadi Eisenkot avoided, at least for now, joining the political arena.

Generals parachute into the Knesset because of the system of how they are elected through a national list of candidates. If our lawmakers were elected directly by the people through districts or constituencies, most generals would not run, because they would probably not wish to canvass neighbourhoods, as candidates, in all sorts of weather.

At the same time, such a system of districts would attract young Israelis with leadership skills, who currently do not think about entering politics. They prefer the industries of hi-tech, medicine, law and business. The system will eventually change because it is now beginning to leak. But until then, party leaders mostly chose who they wish to join their party lists and are answerable to no one.

THE POLLS:

This week’s poll of polls found that Likud remains in the lead by 9 seats followed by Yesh Atid, who has made it to 20 seats for the first time. The real surprise is that New Hope continues to lose support while Yamina jumps into third place. On the left, the social democratic liberal Meretz party drops below the electorate threshold along with the Arab Ra’am party.

For the last two elections, Meretz ran with other parties, but now it finds itself alone and some 80,000 to 90,000 votes could be lost, if it does not reach the minimum 3.25%.

Professor Gideon Ra’ad, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute says Meretz has become an unstainable party of marginal issues, because it failed to adopt a greater cause, such as the environment or something similar.

Ra’ad said “Meretz uses it energy to take care of the most weak in Israeli society. But its voters are mostly made up from the secular middle class and not from the poorer sectors like Arabs or Chareidim. In fact many Meretz supporters are more in tune with Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid, which may explain why their poll numbers are now rising.

In addition, Meretz has not been in government for a long time and this could be another reason why it is losing influence, as its voters are desperate to oust Netanyahu from office, and Lapid is the best man to do that. Ra’ad said if Meretz wishes to survive, it has to merge within the Labour party.

ELECTION RESULT:

According to the current poll of polls, there will NOT be a fifth election if Naftali Bennett joins Netanyahu and the Religious Zionists make it over the line. Likud, 29, Yamina 15, Shas 8, UTJ, RZ 4 = 63

If on the other hand, the bloc falls below 61, the anti-Netanyahu New Hope party, led by Sa’ar, will have to swallow its pride, recognise his polling has plummeted from 19 to 10 seats and negotiate entry into the government to avoid a fifth election.

AND FINALLY:

Election television, radio and social media adverts promoting the 39 political parties, began running on Tuesday night. From vaccines to Elvis Presley, there was something entertaining for everyone and are normally one of the highlights in an Israeli election campaign.

About the Author
James J. Marlow is a broadcast journalist and public relations media consultant. He has previously worked for ITN, EuroNews, Reuters, Daily Mail, Daily Express, LBC Radio and Sky News. In addition he has trained and prepared hundreds of business and entertainment people, politicians and Rabbis, for the media, including television, radio and audiences.
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