Here we go again… election season in Israel is upon us. If the polls are to be believed, this will just be the opening act in yet another round of family visits to the beach oops, I mean visits to the polling station. Many of us are already experiencing election fatigue, and we haven’t actually had the election yet. The parties are jockeying for position with the usual crass statements and personal attacks on the other candidates. There seems to be very little discussion of actual policy or – shock horror – any sense of a plan to work towards a brighter national future.
A common theme of the last three elections was that there was the pro-Bibi camp and the anti-Bibi camp.The three previous elections kind of now smush into one seemingly never-ending campaign, but the one consistent theme was that there were those parties that supported Bibi, those that didn’t support him and a few in-betweeners. The distinction this time around is that those lines have become bolder, sharper and ever-clearer. The electorate can now confidently walk into the polling station knowing that depending on their vote, they are effectively voting for a Bibi-free government (in the short-term at least) or for a Bibi-led government (again in the short-term at least.) With the notable exceptions of Yamina and Ra’am, the other major parties have all stated their positions on Bibi very clearly.
In Israel there are no direct elections for the Prime Minister, so it is somewhat refreshing to know that a vote for party X (again with the exception of Ra’am and Yamina) will mean a vote for Bibi to remain PM or for (in most likely scenarios) one of Gidon Saar, Naftali Bennett or Yair Lapid to become Prime Minister. Netanyahu is the undisputed king of the pro-Bibi bloc. It is almost unimaginable that in a coalition potentially made up of Likud, Shas, UTJ, Religious Zionist and Yamina that anyone other than Bibi wil emerge as the Prime Minister. If that is your bloc of choice, you know that 99% you are NOT going to get any other PM.
It is the anti-Bibi bloc where things get interesting and potentially tricky. In a scenario that there is a potential coalition of an ant-Bibi bloc, who are you effectively voting for as Prime Minister? Which of the three stooges of Lapid, Saar and Bennett would actually lead the anti-Bibi government? They have all put forward their candidacy and talked up their credentials. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is currently polling the highest number of the seats of the three, but that is no guarantee of anything. The voters in the anti-Bibi bloc have a problem: they don’t know who they are voting for to be Prime Minister. They know who they don’t want to be Prime Minister, but they do not know who they will get if the anti-Bibi bloc is successful in forming a coalition.
It says a lot about the Israeli electoral system that the people voting in a general election do not know who they are voting for to be the country’s leader. In this election there are two clear camps, those who want Bibi and those who do not. It is a sad indictment of the level of political discourse in our country that real issues and policies do not seem to even figure in the discussion about the future direction of our country. We seem intent on knowing who we do not want to drive the bus but not the route or even the final destination.
I do know which camp I am supporting and voting for next week, but I am sad that the choice is no longer based on positive values and a glorious vision of the future for our country. My vote is based on who I do NOT want as Prime Minister, and that makes me sad. I wish I could vote for a leader who can deliver strong and effective leadership that will guide us through the trauma and (hopefully) recovery from the corona crisis and the million other issues awaiting them in their in tray. Sadly the two blocs have decided that this campaign is about WHO NOT to vote for instead of WHAT we DO want to vote for.