The good news about the Israeli election campaign, whatever the outcome, is that it has been short and television advertising mercifully limited to a small fraction of what the American electorate endured for more than a year leading up to November 6, 2012.
Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday to elect 120 members of Knesset and a new government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to easily win enough seats to allow him to form a new coalition, while pundits debate whether he will move farther to the right with two former protégés, Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu and Naftali Bennett of Jewish Home Party, or try to form a centrist government with a revived Labor Party led by Shelly Yacimovich. Some observers say he would like to avoid a government dependent on Haredi parties like the ultraorthodox Sephardi Shas, which has used its block of votes to extort enormous sums from the national treasury for its own enterprises.
For Americans who just suffered through an excruciatingly long, often bitter and painfully intrusive multi-billion-dollar election, we can envy the Israeli system. All radio and television advertising – the single most expensive element of the American election – is publicly financed and limited to the final three weeks before the election. Israel’s 34 political parties are allotted seven minutes of free TV time on each of the three main television channels plus two minutes for every seat the party holds in the out-going Knesset. On radio they get 15 minutes per party and 4 additional minutes per Knesset seat.
Parties also are limited in the amount of print advertising they can buy, according to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Some critics say that system tends to favor the bigger parties over the upstarts but the Israeli system is a good model for some well needed reform here in light of the orgy of spending unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that produced the most expensive election in American history.
Just think how nice it would have been if last year’s campaign advertising hadn’t begun until October 16 and all the secretive SuperPACs, billionaire zealots and bundlers had been out of the picture?
Wouldn’t it be loverly?