Think About It: New elections – and what then?

My greatest hope is that should the Labor Party joins the next Coalition, it will insist on manning the Ministries of the Interior, Education, and Labor and Welfare.

Price Tag at the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
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 1970s).
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.
I am 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 youth.
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 possible.
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 objected.
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 coalition.
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 budget.
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.