The Israeli political discourse is steeped in cynicism, and most of the ridicule is currently pointed at chapter two of the upcoming elections, stating that “there is nothing new under the sun.” In other words, the Israeli public no longer believes in the possibility of change, and so cynicism seeps in. But it has no place. Politics is a serious issue – it determines the fates of our sons and daughters who serve in the military, outlines the economic state of the country, and steers the future of our society.
So, in the short time remaining before the election, I suggest to those voters who have opened the door to cynicism and invited it in, to change their attitude and adopt a less negative and more farsighted perspective. The upcoming elections are an opportunity to participate in a process that may lead to the change many are craving.
The Classic Parties Refuse to Change
The cynical public atmosphere didn’t come out of nowhere. It emerged against the refusal of the classic parties to open their eyes and look straight ahead. When a party is adamantly clinging to its old values and is unable to recognize the reality around it, the price is unbearable. These parties include Likud, Meretz, Blue and White, Independence, and the Jewish Home. While the faces of some of these parties have changed, their character, principles, practices, and messages remain the same. No one has made a significant enough change to influence the political map.
There are also the Arab parties, who at least understood that the split was not beneficial to them, and wisely united. What remains for them is to get the younger generation to vote, as the number of seats the United Arab Party will win will be the result of the number of voters coming from the Arab sector.
However, a substantial change is taking place in two areas of the political map. The forerunners are Avigdor Lieberman and Amir Peretz. Many choose to underestimate the trend they represent and move on, but I believe it is worthwhile to stop and examine what is going on before our eyes.
Choosing Principles Over Party Affiliation
Lieberman left quite a few dropped jaws when he remained loyal to his principles and decided not to join the coalition. “The straw that broke the camel’s back” for him was the army recruitment law. In choosing not to join, he transcended traditional priorities. He put aside his party affiliation, which tends to be a major consideration in decision-making for party members, and went with his truth. Not joining the coalition was significant, and undoubtedly represented a change of attitude in the eyes of the public.
Today, Lieberman represents a secular right-wing party, made up of old and new immigrants, and people from the right and center. Many with these two political affiliations are likely to follow suit, if only because of his principled choices.
The Man Who Brought the Iron Dome for Security Will Bring the Iron Dome for Society
A decade ago, Amir Peretz’s move placed him in line with historical leaders of the State of Israel. When he served as Defense Minister, Peretz decided to act contrary to the position of senior IDF officials and the defense establishment, and approved the development of the Iron Dome. His decision, which was met with stiff opposition from influential people, echoing fateful decisions of the past – Begin’s signing of the peace agreement with Egypt, and Rabin’s signing of the peace agreement with Jordan.
A true leader is measured by one significant act. Peretz, who was previously a decent Mayor and Chairman of the Histadrut, could continue as the standard public official he was, but as Minister of Defense, he decided to go against the system and invested in the Iron Dome. His decision saves the lives of people living in the peripheries. Having brought the Security Iron Dome, I believe he has the power to bring the Social Iron Dome too. In a way, his collaboration with Orly Levy-Abekasis and Itzik Shmuli heralds a revolutionary new approach.
To summarize, the change is possible, and these two parties deserve another impartial look. Lieberman proved this by acting in accordance with his principles, and Peretz when he faced strong opposition and made the difficult and right decision. Thanks to them, a significant change can take place here in the future, if only cynicism can be put to rest.