Monday, January 5, 2015

Election will bring War, Poverty, Pestilence…

Two years ago, on the day after elections in Israel brought Benjamin Netanyahu's government with a coalition of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett to the Knesset, I wrote the following. I could easily have written it today, and could probably easily write it on March 18, 2015 - the day after the upcoming elections.

Sadly, I predicted new elections and here we are, less than 2 years later...right there. No real surprise, I predicted another war, and we had one this past summer. Perhaps most important, I said that the media had played Israel, predicting a right-wing landslide...and they are doing it again now. It's a sham to scare the left into voting and the right into complacency. As for the rest, I guess at very least, we can all look forward to another national holiday and a day off work.

Election will bring War, Poverty, Pestilence…from January, 2013

Now that the title got your attention, let me tell you that the Middle East of this morning is fundamentally the same as it was yesterday. We have not had a major upheaval. I’m not in mourning – in fact, quite the opposite. I celebrate the democracy we are. The people have spoken. No, not exactly as I had hoped but that is for another time. If you are right-wing and you went on a tiyul yesterday instead of voting – you (and I) will live with that decision. In truth, I don’t believe we will live with it long because I believe the election results have put Bibi in a difficult position. With each partner he takes into his government, he will face a contradiction with another.

Bibi, who likes to make broad, large governments (because it gives him more power to maneuver), finds himself this morning in the narrowest of coalitions. His basic format is likely to be to form a coalition with Yesh Atid and Bayit HaYehudi. That makes 61 – you can’t get more narrow than that. From there, he’s stuck.

Bring in the Haredi parties who can usually be bought for a few promises and cash on the table, and he’ll annoy Yesh Atid, which lives to point out how Haredim get everything for free and offer nothing (conveniently sidestepping, of course, organizations like ZAKA, Ezer Mizion, Yad Sarah, etc.). They won’t sit with Yair Lapid as he demands their sons serve; and Lapid won’t accept a Bibi promise of more exemptions.

Bring in Labor, Bibi will annoy Bayit HaYehudi and have to make promises about settlements that will shake his coalition. One side won’t accept renewed building; the other is likely to protest a continued freeze.

If I were to predict a future, it would likely include new elections – but then again, that’s not much of a prediction. We have elections relatively often in Israel and to be honest, we all love a day off that isn’t Shabbat or a holiday, so no one is going to complain.

I think the chances of peace are more remote than ever with this government because it is a stalemate government – given enough power to rule, not enough to change realities. And just as the chances for peace are remote, the flip side is there too. The likelihood of another war is that much stronger.

And before you accuse me of being a warmonger, I’ll tell you that for the last two rounds, it has been my older son on the front lines, my middle son in the wings and with the next war, and at 17, it could be my younger son coming up fast in the ranks as well.

And finally, this morning after the elections, I’ll tell you that I think Israel was played by the media, and we were played well. For weeks, the media predicted a landslide right-wing victory. In making this claim, they spurred the left to the polls and lead the right-wing into complacency.

Did the election results accurately portray the Israel that woke up this morning? To some degree yes, and to some degree no. Certainly had the media been more accurate, more right-wing voters would have come out and perhaps others might have changed their vote.

But whatever the results, I am left with the clear feeling that the more things change in Israel, the more they remain the same. Yesh Atid will step up and I would venture to guess that the world of real politics will be an experience for Yair Lapid.

I can predict that building won’t start anytime soon on E1 – Bibi promised in the past before previous elections and reneged; he will again. He’ll make motions to draft more Haredim – but in truth, those motions are already in place and they can’t be done more quickly from a logistics standpoint. The army just can’t absorb so many, so fast and other institutions also need time – so that too was mostly politics.

Lower housing costs and food prices…

More jobs…

Peace…

These issues are what they have always been – political promises lost in the day-to-day running of the government. Did Israel wake up to a new reality? A huge change in all we have known?

No, we woke up to the sun shining with partially cloudy skies; we woke up to the Kinneret rising, traffic on the streets, and fresh bread in the stores.

We got our children off to school today, as we did two days ago and as we will tomorrow. There was an average amount of traffic on the way in, a number of accidents here and there. We stopped at the bank, walked the dog, waited for the children to cross the street.

In short, above all the politics and the politicians, is the reality and the promise of today. It is something that the Obamas of the world can’t understand. We are Israelis – above all, beyond all.

If there is a change in the political make up in Knesset, it is nothing to how we live our lives. The democracy of Israel enables us to change our leaders without changing the most important realities of our lives.

Yesterday, we celebrated our democracy – today, we come back to reality. Our sons still sit on our borders, fly our skies, patrol our waters. We are still surrounded by enemies that still want to destroy us. We are still isolated from much of the world, that too often still despises and hates us – not for what we do or who we elect, but for an ancient promise that we will cling to forever.

Bottom line – Bibi is going to have a hard day today; Yair probably has a hangover from celebrating last night, Naftali is happy to have launched his political career, Shelley’s a bit shocked, Tzipi is in her perpetual state of nasty, Shaul has his finger’s crossed and he’s praying to God like he never has before.

And the rest of us – we are living our dream in the land of our fathers. It doesn’t, really, get any better than that.

War, poverty, pestilence and new elections will come or not and as a nation, we’ll deal, as we always do. And we’ll smile because we went hiking yesterday or had a barbecue, or our traditional election meal with friends. The homemade garlic bread was a success, the meat sauce delicious.

And today, we’re back at our desks and smiling because this is our lives.



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