Commentary on Commentary: Waiting for Godot at the polls

Working in the media during election season can feel like a scene from Waiting for Godot; there is an endless sense of waiting, of moving on a train inexorably towards some destination.

Obama, Romney in Israel 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Obama, Romney in Israel 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Working in the media during election season can feel like a scene from Waiting for Godot; there is an endless sense of waiting, of moving on a train inexorably towards some destination. Although the time and place of the destination are known, it doesn’t make the waiting any easier. The contributors are able to examine pieces of the election, certain polls or momentary scandals, from unique perspectives, but the editor has no chance to get off the moving train and look at these details one at a time. And when the election eventually comes, unless one is living in one of those countries where elections are indefinitely postponed, it isn’t clear that Godot has arrived. So we find ourselves in such a position this week.
For the US election The Jerusalem Post ran several op-eds and a special election page on Tuesday. Hillel Schenker, the acting chair of Democrats Abroad, argued that “we really don’t know” much about Republican candidate Mitt Romney and what he believes. Bryna Franklin, a former chair of Democrats abroad focused her op-ed on why she was switching to Romney, on the Obama camp's “hostility to Israel.” Shmuley Boteach, who is running for Congress in New Jersey and has been a long-time Jerusalem Post columnist, noted that the major hurricane that hit the eastern seaboard had a uniting affect on US politics. Michael Felsen, president of the Boston Workmen’s Circle, argued that American Jews should be worried about declining social trends in the US, such as the percentage of US citizens that are incarcerated. Isi Leibler also noted in his column that this was an “election of great importance for Israel…there is a vast chasm between the approaches of both candidates in relation to the Arab world.” Nancy Soderberg of the University of North Florida, wrote that US President Barack Obama’s record at the UN has been strongly pro-Israel.
The Israeli election also received a great deal of coverage last week. The major story was the Likud-Yisrael Beyteynu merger. Daneil Tauber, of Likud Anglos, who is a candidate for the Likud’s Knesset list, argued that the merger was “diluting the party’s moral strength," and Jeff Barak also attacked the Likud for “abandoning Jabotinsky.” Jonathan Rosen cautioned readers to be wary of slogans and hold candidates to actually do something about major status quo issues, such as drafting haredim to the army. Yehoshua Oz of the Israeli Democracy Institute argued that it is time for the country to embrace big-tent parties on the Left and the Right, “if we hope to restore Israel to a more stable political situation.” David Shaw also contributed a piece arguing for electoral reform that stop the gridlock that stems from having numerous parties and proportional representation.
Another interesting event in the news last week was the visit of the Emir of Qatar to the Gaza Strip. This surprised many since the Palestinian government is in Ramallah and a visit to Gaza gives more than tacit support for Hamas. Why would Qatar, which has seemingly been a champion of moderation in the Middle East, go to Gaza? Kenneth Bandler of the American Jewish Committee, argued that “Qatar has sought to take advantage of shifting political winds, repercussions of the so-called Arab Spring, to use its vast financial resources to extent its regional influence.”
Also last week several writers memorialized events from our past. Gil Troy wrote about the role of the Monuments Men in the second World War, Michael Freund covered the lasting importance of the Balfour declaration of 1917, and Walter Bingham wrote about living in Germany during the Kristallnacht of 1938. Remembering these important past events should put the elections obsession in perspective. With each election there are those that argue it is of the greatest importance. To some extent this is true, long term trends can be set in motion by an election, especially of an extremist like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but many elections come and go without those long-term trends necessarily being impact.
The writer is The Jerusalem Post's opinion editor.
Schenker -
Franklin -
Boteach -
Felsen -
Leibler -
Soderberg - -
Rosen -
Oz -
Barak -
Shaw -
Bandler -
Freund -
Bingham -