Examining the boundaries of power

The results of our second elections present a last opportunity for reflection and change.

By
October 5, 2019 19:48
4 minute read.
Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill. (photo credit: YOUSUF KARSH)

The second round of elections in Israel seemed to focus only on the question of “Bibi”– yes or no. However, the results of the election show that the actual main issue was about the boundaries of power. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a distinguished statesman who, for the past decade, has led Israel to many achievements. However, some of the voting public felt alienated and not duly represented. They felt as if one man had a monopoly on the job of prime minister.

Netanyahu, who admires Winston Churchill and sees him as a role model, must now remember the blow Churchill received in 1945 when he wasn’t elected and the necessary amendments he made in order to be reelected in 1951. The results of our second elections present a last opportunity for reflection and change.

There are no winners and apparently no real losers in the current elections. Blue and White is the largest political party; the Likud Party headed by Netanyahu, who – for good or bad – was the focus of the campaign, has one less mandate, but enjoys wider support from the various Zionist parties. When facing a standoff, it is necessary to take a deep breath, forget the campaign slogans and examine what the elections were truly all about.

Churchill is quoted as having said “time is a lousy ally.” In the case before us, the period of time that Netanyahu has been prime minister has created the feeling of a monopoly, both among his supporters and among the opposition. People don’t  like monopolies. They do not like monopolies in the financial world and apparently not in the political world either. Therefore, when a strong oppositional force like Blue and White was presented, it was easy for people to relate to the alternative.

Churchill is also quoted as having said “responsibility is the price of success,” which is also relevant to the last election. Netanyahu has many successes historically and internationally; leading battles in an “international jungle,” economic growth, relatively quiet borders, relations with Russia, the US, and India, as well as improving relations with neighboring Arab countries and forging international ties. 

But alongside these successes, there are areas where – emphasized by his opponents – where Netanyahu wasn’t successful: deterrence, the cost of living, as well as his personal behavior.

Emphasizing these areas is the job of the opposition, and these issues are presenting a difficult challenge for Netanyahu and a difficult test of his power. In my opinion he passed the test but must now be open to hear what the people are saying, as exemplified by the results of the election.   

Another point regarding the allocation and boundaries of power as ordained by the election result has been the subject of many discussions in the YESHA Council.  During these discussions, I opposed my more idealistic friends by saying that their expectations in realizing all their ideological aspirations – which we all believe in – is not relevant at this time. There is great difficulty in realizing them immediately, due to the lack of support among all of the Israeli people and the international community.

As a result of the position I took, there were those who attacked me both on a personal level as well as publicly. When I attempted to explain the boundaries placed on a state, the obligation to act according to court rulings, and the limitations of international law, I was told that I do not understand the concept of  a government with the ability to rule and that it is our goal to change the laws, the judicial advisers and the judges.

Among the Right, there has evolved a competition over who is more right wing and who can implement more right-wing aspirations. Everyone participates in this “competition”: political candidates, political lobbyists, members of Knesset and even occasionally the prime minister. While we were busy competing among ourselves concerning who is more right wing, we lost the center. A governing party cannot represent the farthest extremes only.  In order to work our way into the hearts of the people, unite them and lead the nation, it is necessary to reach out and touch the hearts of the center.

When the Labor Party chose left-wing Meretz as its “twin,” they almost didn’t get enough mandates to be elected. I don’t know what Blue and White’s political position is on many topics. They have a collection of good and talented people who individually hold contradictory and opposing ideas. They used the slogan “Israel Before All” but what they meant was “just not Bibi.” It seems this was attractive enough to turn them into the biggest party. What they will do with the mandates in their “cockpit” is yet to be seen.

For my political home, the Likud Party, the election symbolized the urgent need for self-examination. Do we appeal only to the extremes of the political spectrum or do we want to continue to be the governing party that needs to work its way into the hearts of all the people?

The writer is mayor of Efrat and chief international envoy of the YESHA Council. He is a member of the Likud Central Committee.


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