Thursday, January 03, 2019

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column
It's my party...

As everyone knows, Israel has way too many political parties. In the last election, ten parties made it past the 3.25% cutoff into the Knesset. In all, twenty-five parties contended for the 120 seats in our parliament, and some of those were alliances of multiple parties pooling their votes to keep from falling below the cutoff (the Joint List, for example, is composed of four primarily Arab parties).

There is a party called Ale Yarok (Green Leaf) which calls for legalization of marijuana and managed to get more than 47,000 votes from members who were not too stoned to find the polls. There is a party called Hapiratim (The Pirates), which belongs to an international movement favoring extremely democratic and open government, and which garnered 895 votes, or 0.02% of the electorate. Arghh! The party with the least amount of votes was the Manhigut Hevratit (Social Leadership) party, which consists of a convicted felon named Yosef Ba-Gad. Apparently he has enough friends and relatives to obtain 223 votes.

In fact, Israel does not need anywhere near this number of parties. I would like to propose a simpler arrangement of only six parties. Here they are, with their platforms:

1.      The Really Religious Party: God is on our side, so give us money, don’t draft us, and keep your immodest women away from us and their pictures off our bus shelters.

2.      The Very Right-Wing Party: Send the Arabs to Jordan and annex the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

3.      The Bibi Party: He knows best. Just be quiet and do what he tells you.

4.      The Cheap Apartments Party: Apartments are too expensive. In fact, everything is too expensive. Make everything cheaper. We are not interested in security and stuff.

5.      The Very Left-Wing Party: End The Occupation. This will bring Peace. The state will use the money it saves on the IDF and Shabak to provide cheap apartments and a free subscription to Ha’aretz for one and all.

6.      The Arab Party: End Zionism. Put us in charge, admit that everything is your fault and apologize for the Nakba and maybe we’ll let you live, which you actually don’t deserve, you dogs.

Right now many of you are saying that it’s impossible to live without Ashkenazic and Sephardic Haredi parties, and indeed without Hassidic and Mitnagdic Ashkenazi Haredi parties. And others are saying that there is a big difference between religious and secular right-wing Zionism, or that we can’t forget the historic difference between Etzel and Lechi, or Mapai and Mapam, Ichud and Meuchad, Betar and B’nai Akiva.

Get a grip.

I am still angry about the Altalena, but I’m willing to be in the same party as anyone who understands the importance of a Jewish state for the Jewish people, who is capable of understanding that the Arabs are not just Jews that go to shul on Fridays, and that someone who wants to kill you or your people is an enemy. My heroes are Jabotinsky and Begin, but I could work with Rabin, despite his big mistake (I’m sure if he were here today, he’d admit that he shouldn’t have allowed himself to be pushed into Oslo).

Right now, in the run-up to the election to be held on April 9, we are watching a depressing spectacle of various public personalities maneuvering here and there in the political spectrum, making and breaking alliances, and positioning themselves to feast on what they think will soon be the political corpse of Binyamin Netanyahu. We have the unpopular Avi Gabbai publically kicking the equally unpopular Tzipi Livni out of his “Zionist Union” movement, which went from 24 Knesset seats in the 2015 election, to 8 or 9 projected seats if the election were today. We have Benny Gantz, whose qualifications are that he was IDF Chief of Staff and is very tall, and who refuses to say anything about his position on any important issue, with 14 projected seats (Netanyahu said, and I agree, that “anyone who won’t say whether he is Left or Right is Left”). 

One interesting development is the defection of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked from the religious Zionist Beit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party to create a right-wing party that would truly be a home for both religious and secular people, called Haymin Hehadash (The New Right). I think the name is a little cheesy, but ideologically it’s a good fit for me and many others who found the Zionism of Jewish Home appealing, but were uncomfortable with the degree of social conservatism of some of its members. I’m sure also that Bennett and Shaked understand that an explicitly religious party would never have a chance to lead the government.

Today there is already a party that purports to be right-wing and welcoming to both secular and religious Jews, and that is Netanyahu’s Likud. So probably The New Right will draw its votes from the old Jewish Home and from the Likud, and will cooperate in a coalition with them as well. As long as Netanyahu is more popular than Bennett/Shaked, and the Right maintains its present edge over the Center plus the Left, the governing coalition after the next election will end up looking more or less as it does today.

However, if Netanyahu steps down for any reason, the Likud is likely to lose much of its appeal to security-minded voters (and most Israelis fall into this category). The balance of power on the right might then move to the New Right, and one could imagine a government led by Bennett or Shaked. Bibi certainly doesn’t intend to quit now, but we’ll see what impact the possible criminal indictments (which, in my opinion, are simply political warfare by legal means) will have. And Bennett and Shaked are young, 46 and 42 respectively, while Netanyahu is 69. Their day will come no matter what.

The as-yet undefined party of Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, and other centrists will try to present themselves as hawkish on security to prevent this. The danger is that they might succeed, and we could end up with a Center-Left coalition. Naturally, Bibi is making sure to remind us of this at every opportunity. And I agree with him that letting the Left within 100 km of power would be a disaster. Look what the two Ehuds, Barak and Olmert, almost did when each was Prime Minister.

It’s not possible to reduce the number of parties to six today. Founding political parties seems to be a national pastime here, and the inflated egos of politicians, each one of whom believes that only he or  she is qualified to lead a party or the nation, prevents the system from becoming more rational.

Today I am leaning toward voting for The New Right, despite the silly name – unless Bibi convinces me that this will empower the Left. So far, I don’t see it.

Or unless my brother-in-law starts his own party. Then I’d have to vote for him.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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