An unnecessary and unhelpful Israeli election

We already have a reasonable Israeli government that represents what most of the public wants and what is realistically attainable, and the margins for significant policy change are slim.

Published in Israel Hayom, May 1, 2012. Click for a printer-friendly copy.

I can already label the Israeli election campaign that appears to be breaking upon us as the most boring race in recent Israeli political history.

Review almost any aspect of this nascent campaign, and you’ll discover that no surprises are likely and no inspiration is to be found. The alternatives to Prime Minister Netanyahu are unconvincing; the margins for significant policy change are slim; and the end result is pretty much predetermined.

The election, at this time, is simply unnecessary. It is an expensive and debilitating nuisance.

Let’s face it: When all the political rhetoric and personality ballyhoo is put aside, there is little room for real differences between the major parties – on any issue.

I find it hard to believe that a Netanyahu-Mofaz-Lapid-Yechimovich government (with or without Lieberman and religious parties) would truly be any more or less cautious regarding Iran than the current Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman government. Neither governing constellation is going to run headlong into direct military confrontation with Iran unless absolutely necessary. The result of the upcoming US presidential election in November has more bearing on whether Israel hits Iran than the result of any election in Israel.

The same goes for diplomacy on the Palestinian front. Kadima, Labor and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid praty may be declaratively more willing than Israel Beiteinu or Habayit Hayehudi to forgo and swap land in the West Bank, but they are unlikely to find themselves in government without Likud or all of the sudden discover a sensible Palestinian partner with realistic negotiating positions. The public is not going to support any more unilateral withdrawals, and nobody is withdrawing the IDF from Samarian hilltops or the Jordan Valley with an Arab “winter” raging around us.

Economic and social policy? Summer protests and tent encampments notwithstanding, all public opinion surveys indicate that the public recognizes Netanyahu as the best economic steward for Israel at this time. His steady hand has helped Israel weather the global financial storms, and in the process he cut the middle class a few breaks too (like free early childhood education).

Sure, we’d all like the next government to lavish tax breaks and housing subsidies upon middle class wage-earners, but next year’s budget willy-nilly will be an austerity budget with yet another increase for the military. Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, and Lapid and Labor chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich can rally the masses with electioneering slogans of radical social and economic reform, but this is completely unrealistic. Empty slogans, no more.

This leaves us with the important issues of electoral system restructuring and equality in military service. However, significant reforms on either file won’t advance as long as the smaller ethnic and religious parties are represented in the governing coalition. It’s nice to dream of such an eventuality, but not a single poll shows this to be in the cards. Neither Netanyahu nor any of his opponents will be able to govern without these satellite parties’ support.

So what do we need an election campaign for now? We already have a reasonable government that represents what most of the public wants and what is realistically attainable. Moreover, it’s about time that we allowed a government to govern for a full term. The stability is good for the country.

Alas, when the promise of real change is limited, politicians tend to fall back on nastiness and vitriol to distinguish one from another in an election campaign. The haters and the propagandists who appeal to our most ignoble instincts – on the anti-religious left as well as the extreme right – will come out of the woodwork, drawing on government funds and public television time to broadcast their rage to the desperate and distraught of our nation.

For this we need an election campaign?

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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