The odds are that after the elections, we will be back just where we now are.
Yair Lapid at first Yesh Atid conference Photo: Ricardo Mallaco
If Israeli voters – the onlookers in our political arena – paid discerning
attention, they would have noticed a surreal spectacle Tuesday. Just as one
political aspirant – Yair Lapid – entered the fray, another contender – Tzipi
Livni – proclaimed her exit. It almost looked synchronized, as if one hyped
political wunderkind replaced the other neatly and instantly, leaving no gap in
the overnight-star category.
In many ways Lapid and Livni seem to be cut
from the same cloth. They subscribe to no clear creed or set of values. Indeed,
it’s hard to pin down what they stand for. Though they profusely laud their
self-professed principles, they rarely, if ever, elaborate.
thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that they are
ideologically pliable and that they tout this as an asset rather than as a
It’s as if articles of faith are undesirable in our present-
day political discourse. The flipside of this is shallowness, a concentration on
short-term advantage, on semblance as distinct from substance.
both are big on appearance. Both strike an impressive pose and are gifted public
orators. Livni’s authoritative clipped cadences are intuitive, while Lapid is a
professional performer who resorts to prepared texts he ably recites with the
aid of teleprompters. But the bottom line in both cases is
Both are children of successful politicians, both grew up in
good Dan region neighborhoods, both are self-assured well-off north Tel
Avivians, with similar social milieus, and appeal to comparable
Both place their own political orientations as somewhere in the
undefined Center, which can mean different things to different people, except
that both clearly get a lot of mileage out of anti-haredi rhetoric.
Livni praised herself for “not having given in to haredi extortion,” while Lapid
declared that “we can no longer afford to carry the haredim” on our
Nuances of the same.
No wonder the hottest speculation at
the moment is whether Livni will join Lapid and whether the twosome will run in
tandem. Such guesswork presents compelling testimony to the trifling tidbits
that preoccupy us. The big picture and undiminished existential dangers pale
before headline-grabbing and ratings-generating
This is perhaps why our society rushes headlong
into early elections, without consideration for the price and ramifications. No
government in recent years has lasted a full term (though the present one did
better than most). Untold sums go to waste for party financing and mounting
costly campaigns more often than democracy mandates. There certainly must be
more deserving recipients for these funds.
But worst of all is the
warping of our national agenda at times of increasing peril. Instead of focusing
on our collective self-preservation, we’re too frequently gripped by
inordinately prolonged campaigns that drag out for least six months. Perish the
thought of a quick race, as is common in many other parliamentary
The very (informal) suggestion of an August or September
election date drew fire from the otherwise gung-ho opposition, which by all
logic ought to urge we go to the polls as soon as can be. Cries of foul at the
very mention of even a marginally shorter campaign duration should provoke
severe public opinion backlash. But they don’t, a fact that again doesn’t
flatter the quality of our political discourse.
And when the superfluous
electioneering din dies down, we’ll be left with all that weighed heavy upon us
previously – the threat of a nuclear Iran, Palestinian pressures, the perfidy of
the Arab Spring, our frayed socioeconomic fabric, the real estate bubble, the
cashed-strapped educational framework, health system, police force, public
transport networks, etc.
None of this will go away.
And, last but
hardly least, who will be charged with tending to all the above? In all
likelihood it will be another fragile coalition, concocted from yet another
ragtag assortment of factional splinters, each of which will extract all it can
as the price for its cooperation.
In other words, the odds are that we
will be back just where we now are.