David Chinitz

Time for change

You don’t have to think Netanyahu is corrupt, tactless, and ideologically hamstrung to think that his time is up

A poor man gets on a bus and begins crying. The bus driver asks why and the man replies that he is embarrassed not to have enough money for the fare. The driver insists, despite the man’s protestations, that he swallow his pride and accept a free ride. When additional passengers board, the man begins crying again. When the driver asks why, the man says, “everybody else got change.”

I want change. I really want change.

To begin with, I want Jews from North America to make aliya. Not all of them, but at least as many as made aliya from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, so Israel can look like, as it deserves to, a country that people choose, and not just a refuge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Israel is here, with its Law of Return, for all those, like French Jews even as I write, who think they might need a fallback. But it does disturb me greatly that many more Palestinians are probably itching to choose to come back from their Diaspora than American Jews from theirs (listen closely Peter Beinart…).

Aside from the morale-economic growth-saving Judaism from the Orthodox boosts that American aliya would provide, it would also provide democratic sense. I am talking about the kind of orientation towards democracy that cannot be provided by a democracy institute, or by appeals to the Supreme Court, or by the funding of however well intentioned “save Israel from itself” foreign organizations. I am referring to common sense democratic behavior that only those who have lived in a reasonable political system can understand and act on.

Anyone who has voted in the US, and even in the parliamentary systems in Canada and Europe, knows that elections are not about picking your favorite, optimum party. It’s all about the biggest lesser of two evils. Sophisticated citizens know that politics is about compromise, and that it is impossible to compromise when you cut your preferences too fine. To put it simply, instead of expecting good choices, understand that politics and political leadership are filled with unpleasant choices, log-rolling and tradeoffs.

Another staple of democracy is change. It is not always true that change for its own sake is desirable. But it’s not hard to spot a situation wherein it is simply time for it. To put it bluntly, you don’t have to think that Bibi Netanyahu is corrupt, tactless, paranoid, and ideologically hamstrung to think that his time is up. I personally think none of those things, at least not to the degree that they, in and of themselves, would disqualify him from getting my vote. I disagreed very much with his actions as Finance Minister, but credit him for good planning, execution and management of his debatable austerity moves, and his contribution to saving Israel from the financial debacle of 2008. I resonate with his harping on Iran, and think he handled the last Gaza war not badly (war, not even Six Day Wars, are never pleasant, moral, and enabling of self righteousness). And I certainly have issues with Buji Herzog’s lack of charisma, Tsippi Livni’s sense of entitlement party jumping, and Shelly Yechimovitz’ diminishing her parliamentary legislative skills with an outmoded, if well intentioned social agenda.

But it’s time for a change. Not time to say “anybody but Bibi,” which is puerile and self destructive to his opponents, but rather time vote for somebody with a realistic chance to be the biggest party, other than Bibi, without getting hysterical that Labor/Livni (I can’t use their party name which I find typically vacuous) will put the existence of the State of Israel in danger. It’s time for fresh blood at the helm, even if we aren’t bowled over by qualities of the alternative. Barack Obama has amply demonstrated the absurdity of voting passionately for “hope and change.” I’m willing to settle for change based on the intiution, however pessimistically held, that it will contribute some dynamism after years of stagnation. And, as an American Israeli, I am primed to avoid the parties of the month – Lapid, Kachlon- or the hanging on by their finger nails Meretz’ of the political landscape. I am leaping (or should I say limping) to do what I did when I voted for Mondale, McGovern, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Gore, Obama and Romney: hold my nose and choose the lesser of two evils.

About the Author
David Chinitz is Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Braun School of Public Health, Hebrew University-Hadassah