There's a lot more noise than meaningful action in politics.

 
Some are saying that Donald Trump is the best example.
 
Others argue that Benyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama are close competitors.
 
The vast bulk of government isn't these stars at the top. They, and the people they appoint, can't possibly touch everything that is important to the rest of us.
 
What they influence is mostly the noise.
 
Their advocates, and people with a civics education convinced that elections are important, argue that the top dogs determine the direction that government takes.
 
Maybe. But they are in competition with many other actors, some with egos to match their own, who want a piece of the action.
 
Competitors include legislators in their own country, the heads of other national governments, activists who have spent their careers trying to shape policy in a field important to them, or trying to hold off anyone else trying to change things in that field.
 
Most likely, the brakes on what the top officials do come from professional administrators operating according to law, procedure, and precedent, backed up by lawyers and judges.
 
Government is complex, more so than the politics that fascinates the media and attracts most of our attention.
 
Think about Barack Obama's Nobel winning Cairo speech demanding justice, equality, and democracy in the Middle East. 
 
He got bupkis, helped to bring about Arab Winter, and earned ridicule from Middle Easterners of all kinds while Swedes and Americans were applauding.
 
When it came to his iconic Obamacare, the President had to swallow a lot of drek in 2,200 pages of legislation, including the weight of profit-making health insurance companies. They accepted the requirement to insure applicants despite pre-conditions, but they could make the rest of their clients pay for the increased risk.
 
Bibi is widely known for bombastic statements that those in the known take with a huge dose of salt.. His supporters have kept him in power longer than any other Israeli Prime Minister, and excuse his faults. They either like his way of talking, or like that he is more moderate in action than when speaking, and see him as keeping the peace between various groups of radicals and moderates. Or they don't see anyone else as his match or better.
 
So far Brexit made more noise than splash. Britain never was a full member of Europe. It lived outside the EU's currency and economic policies. Those wanting a withdrawal won a close referendum, but the courts have weighed in with respect to the sovereignty of Parliament. Government officials are taking account of existing economic and population ties while talking about the details of change.
 
It's too early to predict what will occur in the Trump administration. Indeed, it'll always be too early, insofar as the media will screech no matter what he does, with few probing what comes from his statements or appointments. 
 
Donald's choice of a Secretary of Education is a champion of charter schools and school voucher programs. She has already drawn fire from a teacher's union. She'll be speaking about widespread reform, but will encounter problems not only from unions, but also from 50 state departments of education, 13,500 school districts, as well as members and professional staffers of congressional committees and the subcommittees that consider the details of budgets. 
 
The number of federal employees is pushing three million and there may be as many as 16 million working for state and local governments, not counting the military or quasi-government organizations that provide a great deal of what we define as "public services.".
 
Few of those employees will hear from the President, except for items on the evening news.
 
Sometimes the people at the top have a great impact, for good or bad, but not often.
 
Whether the outsider Trump will have more or less impact than other Presidents, only time will tell.
 
And those who tell it are likely to be under the influence of a perspective that limits what they see.
 
Typical is what we can expect from a noisy squabble in Israel about mosque loud speakers.
 
For those of us living within a few hundred meters of a mosque, the noise is a major disturbance. It happens several times a day, depending on the season. Currently the first one is close to 4 AM, and is enough to wake us even with the windows closed against the cold.
 
There is already a capacity to act under the authority of noise regulations. The police can silence the teenage party up the street as well as demand a lower volume from mosque loud speakers. 
 
The cops aren't quick to act against teenagers, and even more reluctant to demand a lower volume from the mosques. The sound of prayer reminds us that we are in the Middle East, and that it's easier to tolerate annoyance than to demand anything from Muslims.
 
It's no surprise that the clamor has led right of center politicians to speak out against the mosques. Proposed legislation has ignited Muslim politicians of Israel as well as Palestinians to charge once again that Israel is acting as an occupier of Arab land, and on this occasion threatening the residents' freedom of religion.
 
Ultra-Orthodox politicians initially opposed the proposal, but got on board once assured that it would not quiet the sirens that signal the onset of Sabbath.
 
Those sirens do not approach the volume that comes from mosques.
 
The anti-mosque proposal is yet to pass through the several readings  and the committee consideration required for new legislation. Even if it does pass all the hurdles, one can guess that the level of enforcement will not exceed that currently employed on the basis of  existing noise restrictions.
 
Among the predictions is that some mosques will get the message and seek to avoid trouble by reducing the volume, while others will increase the volume in order to send the Jews a message of who is the real voice of authority in this place.
 
Officials will ponder if the complaints from Jews living close to mosques is worth the risk of setting off the Muslims in yet another wave of protest that will involve its own noise, trouble for the police, and perhaps another wave of violence.
 
Looking across governments, the most important influence on what they do is what they did yesterday, last year, and a decade or more ago. Only a few things change, and they usually change in small measure.
 
If a politician seeks a big change, chances are that it'll take a lot of energy that will limit what can be invested in other matters.
 
Where will Trump put his effort is one of the matters the chatterers are guessing about.
 
Comments welcome, but not too loud
 
 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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