What to do now? is the chronic question of politics.

It's a matter of weighing options, all of which are likely to present plusses and minuses associated with any number of projections into the near and far future.

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Tensions, pressures, and opportunities can be ranked from most to least pressing, promising, or threatening.

Alongside the possibilities of doing something is likely to be the option of doing nothing, and waiting for opportunities to develop and clarify what seems likely

Clarity is rare. Guesses compete with feelings of certain analysis..

Currently we are blessed with one of the opportunities when doing nothing is tempting, at least with respect to the issues that have been most pressing.

Those are our regional problems, where we've never been at home among Arab countries or Palestinians, and our relations with the Arab citizens of Israel have been tense or worse.

Now to the great delight of many Israelis, Muslims from North Africa east to Pakistan are more troubled by one another than by Jews. Fighting in Iraq and Syria may be winding down, but who knows what'll come of a Turkish invasion, and its battles against Kurdish militia supported by the United States. There remain other questions about what's next within what used to be Syria and Iraq, as well as issues of refugees, continued bloodshed in Yemen and the Sinai that involve us indirectly via the participation of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Palestinians seem to have shot themselves in the foot, following what Donald Trump said about Jerusalem, Israel, and UNRWA. For the first time since the Clinton-Barack-Arafat meetings in 2000, Israelis don't have to worry about another peace process likely to be frustrating.

If we didn't already know it, we're seeing that politics cannot tolerate a vacuum.

There's always something else to provoke demands, claims, or nastiness. When the big issues seem quiet, lesser ones come to the fore.

Now we are most concerned about problems among the Jews, i.e., among the Jews of Israel and between us and our cousins overseas.

Rights of non-Orthodox religious Jews are currently on the agenda of the Israeli Supreme Court, with special attention to what rituals should be permitted alongside the Western Wall.

And we're concerned with a Knesset enactment to give the religious Jews greater control over what's permitted on the Sabbath. The so-called grocery store law does a sloppy job defining which businesses are allowed to operate, where. It's been accompanied by some local authorities sending inspectors to photograph and prepare summons against shops that violate their ordinances. Avigdor Lieberman chose the opportunity to demonstrate a stand with his largely Russian constituency. Most of his supporters are not religious, many are not recognized as Jews by the Rabbinate, and many learned to appreciate the taste of pork in their homeland. Lieberman made a point of violating the Sabbath ordinance in the city of Ashdod, whose population includes large communities of ultra-Orthodox and Russians. Whether true or not, he's being accused by ultra-Orthodox politicians of not only insulting the Sabbath by shopping and speaking against the law, but by patronizing a shop that sold pork.

We're also squabbling about some other issues always on the agenda, but usually not getting great   attention: the benefits to be paid various clusters of welfare clients, the concerns of some Orthodox rabbis about women in the IDF, and ultra-Orthodox demands that the IDF leave its young men to continue their studies.

At the most local level, in the neighborhood of French Hill, activists are worked up over the municipality's plan to extend a line of the light rail to the university campus on Mt Scopus, and to replace garbage dumpsters with underground receptacles that promise to rid the area of loose trash and stray cats.

The light rail proposal has produced an outcry that is classical NIMBY (not in my back yard). Residents want some other place to be inconvenienced by construction crews, clogged streets and the loss of parking places.

The replacement of garbage dumpsters upsets neighbors who see the freedom of cats as more important than than overall cleanliness or the fleas which they transfer to pet dogs who wander too close.

Somewhat weightier is a campaign against the government's policy of pressuring illegal African immigrants to accept transportation to Uganda or Rwanda. Israelis, including some with a Holocaust past, have committed themselves to providing refuge to Africans not wanting to be sent to a country that is not their's.

The controversy has not escaped the cartoonist of Ma'ariv, who portrayed an old Jew with a walker approaching a crowd of refugees, with the caption, "Here's another one who wants to use the Holocaust to advance his agenda."

Most prominent in a time of recess from the magnum issues of national defense is our concern with corruption in high places. Wrongdoing by the Prime Minister and people close to him, and lesser but stinkier allegations against his wife and older son have taken the headlines and the newspaper cartoons from anything that is threatening in a military sense.

What to do is out of our hands, except for the few thousands who participate in each weekend's demonstrations. They rant and ridicule the latest revelations, and thereby seek to pressure greater speed from the police and prosecutors.

Those who don't realize the slow process of Israeli justice are reminded by the media. For some time we've been hearing that the police are within a month or so of finishing with one of the cases against the Prime Minister. However, there are at least three more cases where the police are active, and it may take a year or more for the prosecutor to decide about an indictment once the police finish with each case.

We have the time.

In the absence of anything really pressing, that demands a prompt and decisive response, we can contemplate the latest revelations of wrongdoing in high places, as well as frequent international travels of the Prime Minister. The cartoonist for Ha'aretz portrays the Netanyahus flying here, there, and elsewhere, while the cops wonder when they can continue their inquiries.

It ain't ideal. But where is it?

Comments welcome

--
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

irashark@gmail.com

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