Price Tag at the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I was recently confronted by a right-wing acquaintance who wanted me to explain
why I am displeased with the current Israeli government. “Are you suffering from
economic hardships? Is anyone preventing you from expressing your views freely?
Do you really believe that a left-wing government would manage to bring peace to
the Middle East?” I had to admit that my economic situation is fine, though this
is not thanks to anything the current government did or failed to do, adding
that with the economic havoc in many Mediterranean countries, Netanyahu’s
government certainly deserves credit for the economic stability. And yes, no one
is interfering with my ability to express my opinions freely, and no, I am far
from convinced that at this point that a breakthrough in negotiations with the
Palestinians is possible, no matter what.
However, if I were 40 years
younger, I am sure I would have difficulty making ends meet without help from my
parents, and that I would have qualms about sending my children into the
national education system (I had no such qualms back in the
Furthermore, even from the current vantage point I am very
disturbed by the fact that in 12 cases in which mosques and churches have been
desecrated in recent months by the “price tag” hoodlums, no one has been
prosecuted, and am convinced that if synagogues were being desecrated, the
culprits would be put behind bars in no time.
I am disturbed by the fact
that the prime minister does not seem committed to making a real effort to
negotiate with the Palestinians, and is approving moves that will make a future
territorial compromise impossible.
I am disturbed by the fact that the
prime minister has allowed Israel’s relations with the US to deteriorate as he
has, and is meddling very crudely in the US presidential elections.
disturbed by the fact that the education system is doing nothing to confront the
growing racism and xenophobia that is spreading like a bush fire among our
I am disturbed by the fact that the prime minister preferred his
coalition with the ultra-religious partners to the option of making some
urgently needed changes in the Israeli system of government, and toward ensuring
a more equal bearing of the economic and security burdens among Israeli
citizens, which the short-lived coalition with Kadima seemed to have made
I am disturbed by the fact that the prime minister doesn’t seem
to mind that Israel’s Interior Minister is a narrow-minded, racist reactionary
without an iota of compassion for non-Jews in his soul.
Yes, there are
many things I am disturbed about that together add up to a burning desire to see
a different government in power in Israel.
But I am realistic. In all
likelihood the right-wing-religious political block will become stronger in the
19th Knesset, and the next government will be formed by Likud leader Binyamin
Netanyahu, whose parliamentary group will be even less liberal and “rule of
law-minded” than the current one.
The only hope for a change of direction
in the political balance in Israel today is for a significant increase in the
participation of Israeli Arabs in the general elections, and that is not about
to happen. Furthermore, we know what happened to an Israeli prime minister who
implemented, with the aid of Arab votes, a policy to which the extreme Right
In November we shall be marking 17 years since the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, who did just that. In the current atmosphere in
Israel, such an assassination could occur again. Now it is not that I do not
wish the Arab population of Israel to become more involved in the affairs of the
state, but I accept the fact that no major change is possible in Israel unless
there is a Jewish majority seeking such change. Unfortunately, such a majority
does not exist today.
The hope of some that Ehud Olmert will return to
active politics and form Israel’s 33rd government is nothing but a pipe-dream.
Even if by means of divine intervention Olmert would be chosen by the president
to form a Government, Israel doesn’t need a prime minister who, while clear of
moral turpitude, is not clear of fault on the ethical and even the criminal
level. Besides, the last thing Israel needs at the moment is a prime minister
intent on revenge against the State Attorney’s Office that forced him to resign
the premiership four years ago. The State Attorney’s Office is one of the few
remaining bastions of the rule of law, and when it decided to prosecute Olmert,
it was just doing its job.
Under the circumstances, the only hope the
next government will be better than the current one is that Netanyahu will
decide he wants a more moderate government than the current one, and will
actively seek to strengthen the center-left component of his
It would also be nice if Netanyahu were to declare in advance
that he will not appoint more than 25 ministers and deputy ministers to his next
government, compared to the 39 in the current one. It is said that this vast
government is what made the coalition stable and enabled the government to
survive for four years.
However, the Knesset suffered from a shortage of
available MKs to perform its parliamentary work, and the expense is certainly
not justified in a period when there is an urgent need for major cuts in the
However, my greatest hope is that should the Labor Party find it
possible to join the next Coalition – and this will largely depend on
Netanyahu’s preferences and priorities – it will insist on manning the
Ministries of the Interior, Education, and Labor and Welfare. Dreaming is
still allowed in this country – isn’t it? The writer teaches at the Max Stern
Yezreel Valley College and was a Knesset employee for many years.