Talking ‘tachles’ in a vacuous election campaign

Israel’s political system has become paralyzed with fear and it largely puts its own survival ahead of the interests of the state and its people.

February 16, 2015 20:05
4 minute read.
Avigdor Liberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks to the press before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)

If one were a visitor from abroad, judging from the Israeli election campaigns one could easily assume that there are no major issues of importance facing the State of Israel. The Israeli public is being daily bombarded with empty slogans, clever but meaningless YouTube videos and vacuous Facebook posts. One could almost be tempted to suppose we were picking a babysitter rather than a person who will lead a government facing enormous political, diplomatic, security, social and economic challenges.

It would almost be amusing if these campaigns didn’t cost tens of millions of taxpayers’ shekels.

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It’s time to ask: Where are the issues? Where is the tachles - policy and action? One so-called major party claims “It’s us or him,” and the other “It’s me or them.”

No reason is provided for why each candidate or party is preferable to the other.

There is no presentation of a detailed platform or vision as to why one is more suitable to navigate the country toward a better future for its citizens than the other. Other parties parachute celebrities like former soccer players, with no record of political or social action, into their list in the ultimate triumph of headlines over substance.

How can we expect the citizens of Israel to be informed voters if we do not provide them with a vision of how each party sees Israel’s future across the gamut of issues, and how it differentiates itself from the others? In a world of political ambiguity, where political advisors are pushing for party slogans to be as vague as possible so they can attract as many people as possible, one party acts differently.

Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Our Home) remains the only party with a clearly detailed vision for the State of Israel, not just for the next government but one that will meet the many challenges head-on for generations to come. It is the only party which enunciated its vision and proudly displayed it on its websites in multiple languages, including English, long before the elections, and did not wait for poll results or put its finger in the air to discern which way the wind is blowing.

There are some parties which never write a platform because there is simply no position which the list of candidates can agree on. These parties hope that enough citizens will merely vote for their brand, in much the same way as one chooses a type of laundry detergent or soft drink if they see and hear enough advertising.

In a democracy, politicians are the representative servants of the people and they should be asking the people for their mandate based on a clarity of purpose and a list of issues that they will support and not waver from one election to the next.

Yisrael Beytenu has long championed ideas and policies that were not at first politically correct or popular but that have since been adopted by other parties and have become central to the political agenda.

The necessity of political and electoral reform, the requirement of equalizing the national burden, incentivizing contribution to society, making benefits commensurate with a citizen’s contribution, liberalizing the conversion and marriage process, demanding loyalty to one’s country and society and the push for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state have all been consistent and long-standing Yisrael Beytenu policies for well over a decade.

Not only do we envision the problems and challenges long before they arise in earnest but we have a record of action and legislation on all of these and many other issues to provide the potential voters a list of substantial achievements.

This shows that while most parties are spending their time creating clever slogans or videos or throwing out ideas that could bring them a few more votes, Yisrael Beytenu is the one party swimming against the tide of campaign vagaries and developing clear, strategic, long-term thinking that will ensure the endurance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in perpetuity.

People often ask why Yisrael Beytenu is seen as such a divisive and oft-misunderstood party. I think the answer lies in something former British prime minister Winston Churchill once said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Yisrael Beytenu and its leader Avigdor Liberman have generated enormous suspicion and aversion from others in the political arena precisely because they have bucked the trend of risk avoidance and the championing of the status quo that predominates in Israel’s current political culture.

Israel’s political system has become paralyzed with fear and it largely puts its own survival ahead of the interests of the state and its people. The people of Israel should demand more from their potentially elected officials. They should demand clarity and a sense of purpose. Israelis should say clearly that they will not vote for parties which do not even deign to provide a platform or vision. We should not be hoodwinked by punchy videos and clever slogans; we should demand clear answers to questions of national and existential importance.

It’s time to put an end to meaningless and empty election campaigns, it’s time for straight talk.

The writer is a candidate for the Knesset for the Yisrael Beytenu party and a former senior government advisor.

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