I’m not so old, but this is the strangest election i’ve ever seen.
Usually, a winner wins and that’s basically it. Here, it’s really not clear and the closest things to precedents seem impossible, worse than irrelevant. Bibi is both invincible and doomed, cursed by the contempt of all who have worked with him– and blessed with the golden right hand that identifies most strongly with a security establishment that has long repudiated him, one that is able to lift any interest to immediate power. Where once he teased the buisness-centrists, the messianists, the Russians, the gangster nationalists, the masses exhausted and traumatized by a left elitism that tended to be experienced as condescending to folk concerns, to say the least, he pivoted hard to the charedim, in the manner of Brooklyn politicians trying to avoid accountability within their previous circles. There is no ideology, only a survivalist instinct that can wear nationalism like a poncho, while just riding the waves of regional consensus signaling to switch gears. Lately, he’s been trying to court the last hope visible before the next one, the right-traditionalist Arab party, to just join his coalition somehow reconciled with whichever religious OR Zionist parties are hopeful and ambitious enough to stay at the chump table, for as long as they can build or rebuild distinct political identities.
What is this Bennet for PM noise? Even on a rotating basis? Where did that come from? His party didn’t even make the top 5! Shas seems pretty committed to team Bibi, but so did Bennet! A little racist not to kingmake Deri if you’re going to push for a PM Bennet.
Also, I had no idea homophobia was going to be such a significant political issue, arguably the main distinctifying value of both the self proclaimed Religious Zionism and Ra’am, each mirrored by the slightly more progressive versions of each, Yamina and Joint List. Nice to have common ground across wide isles, but how weird and dark to have an entire election in a pivotal country in between all that is modern and all that is traditional come down to the most obnoxious of cultural dividers. Signalling is signalling, and control is control. What little and much is still resonant about certain conservative identities comes down to how much of modernity’s accomplishments can be discreditted, and retreated from, from active contempt, the matzah and olive oil of political rallying.
The conventional wisdoms have suggested some relatively simple scenarios for either side to push over and avoid a fifth election for at least as long as they can agree on administrative priorities: what to sell off, and to who. But the truth today is, it really could go a lot of different ways. Shas and New Hope alike could just switch gears and do the things they defined themselves by not doing, like Likud and Blue and White of yestervote. Bennet could insist on one thing and UTJ could jump ship. Ra’am probably won’t actually go Bibi, they know better who he is and what this is, unless he does something signifigant pre-emptively, but most of the gestures like that that he could pull would jeopardize his base, as it is, of even more far right grumbling about nothing as much as No More Gush Katifs. But to my eyes, the most likely is that New Hope will cave to Lapid, in the hopes of keeping him from courting Shas somehow, or the UTJ charedim who he has long longed to digest, maybe not a draft after all but something else, maybe a yeshiva learning option for secular Israelis opposed to national service. Like in prison! Who knows. This is so weird. Partially because the factions are so splintered, the bigger groups identified less with values or priorities and more with identities and affiliations. What a relief to see politics with its shirt untucked, idealisms negotiated until they’re really just signals and pleas, heard in exchange for silence on the next thing. It could really go either way, in too many ways not to stare at with curious anticipation before losing track of from confusion, and maybe just a little bit of horror.