Comedian Joan Rivers.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
American Jewish celebrity Joan Rivers, who died tragically last year, famously asked, “Can we talk?” In response to an inquiry about the origin of the comic catchphrase, she explained once that her approach to her comedy was: “Let’s stop this nonsense!” She said: “I always try to be very honest – my humor is truly stripping everything. Bam!” Israeli politicians should take a cue from this approach, and so should the voting public and the media. Let’s address the real issues in the March 17 elections, and not be sidetracked by the red herrings being cast in the political net.
The most recent example is the media assault against Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett for his role as a commander at the time IDF shelling killed civilians in Kafr Kana in 1996. Bennett called it an “orchestrated campaign” against him.
“I did go to Lebanon to defend residents of the North and for eight days, together with dozens of fighters, we did exactly that,” Bennett said. I will not apologize for that. I am proud of it.”
Last week, the media focused on the corruption allegations against several members of the Yisrael Beytenu party. Senior figures in the party, including Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum, are suspected of funneling funds for personal and political gain. Yisrael Beytenu leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is convinced that the investigation was politically motivated.
“Had the current affair broken the day before elections were called, or two days after the end of the election campaign, I’d have understood,” he said. “But the fact that it was declared two weeks after the disbanding of the Knesset is strange to me – and that’s an understatement.”
Whether Liberman and Bennett are right or wrong is a moot point. But as we approach the elections (there are under 70 days to go), it is high time Israelis begin addressing substantive subjects. Here are at least 10 issues to be addressed: • Making education a top priority, from kindergartens to universities, for all Israel’s citizens.
• Reducing poverty and the growing gap between the rich and poor.
• Allowing young people to purchase apartments or rent them at more reasonable rates.
• Helping the aged, especially Holocaust survivors, to live out their lives in dignity.
• Changing the political system to prevent political extortion by smaller parties.
• Resuming peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, while working against its unilateral moves.
• Gaining support for Israel in the international community against Iran becoming a nuclear power.
• Increasing international trade and relations with friendly countries around the world, especially in the Middle East.
• Countering rising anti-Semitism and the global delegitimization of Israel, including the BDS movement.
• Maintaining Israel’s leading role in hi-tech and other spheres, including medical and agricultural technology.
There should be serious discussion in the public domain about these and many other subjects, and we urge politicians to speak out on issues that affect us all.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a good start on Monday by proposing a radical change in Israel’s political system, although his solution may not be the best one and this should be a subject of national debate.
To enable the English-speaking public to hear the political parties engage in a serious dialogue about substantive issues, The Jerusalem Post is again arranging a series of election debates, in conjunction with AACI, The Jerusalem Great Synagogue, TLV Internationals and Ohel Ari, in six cities around the country: Netanya, Ra’anana, Modi’in, Beersheba, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The debates, due to take place from March 1 to 14, will be moderated by Post editors and reporters. Representatives of the main parties will be invited to present their positions, and they will field questions from the moderators and the audience. The exact dates and venues will be announced in the next month.
We urge all Israelis to get involved in this election campaign and show the world, once again, that Israel is indeed a vibrant democracy. Let’s not allow political diversions or the latest scandal to sweep us away. To paraphrase Joan Rivers, Let’s talk!