The odds are that after the elections, we will be back just where we now are.

Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: Ricardo Mallaco)
Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: Ricardo Mallaco)
If Israeli voters – the onlookers in our political arena – paid discerning attention, they would have noticed a surreal spectacle Tuesday. Just as one political aspirant – Yair Lapid – entered the fray, another contender – Tzipi Livni – proclaimed her exit. It almost looked synchronized, as if one hyped political wunderkind replaced the other neatly and instantly, leaving no gap in the overnight-star category.
In many ways Lapid and Livni seem to be cut from the same cloth. They subscribe to no clear creed or set of values. Indeed, it’s hard to pin down what they stand for. Though they profusely laud their self-professed principles, they rarely, if ever, elaborate.
The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that they are ideologically pliable and that they tout this as an asset rather than as a liability.
It’s as if articles of faith are undesirable in our present- day political discourse. The flipside of this is shallowness, a concentration on short-term advantage, on semblance as distinct from substance.
Indeed, both are big on appearance. Both strike an impressive pose and are gifted public orators. Livni’s authoritative clipped cadences are intuitive, while Lapid is a professional performer who resorts to prepared texts he ably recites with the aid of teleprompters. But the bottom line in both cases is charismatic.
Both are children of successful politicians, both grew up in good Dan region neighborhoods, both are self-assured well-off north Tel Avivians, with similar social milieus, and appeal to comparable crowds.
Both place their own political orientations as somewhere in the undefined Center, which can mean different things to different people, except that both clearly get a lot of mileage out of anti-haredi rhetoric.
Thus Livni praised herself for “not having given in to haredi extortion,” while Lapid declared that “we can no longer afford to carry the haredim” on our backs.
Nuances of the same.
No wonder the hottest speculation at the moment is whether Livni will join Lapid and whether the twosome will run in tandem. Such guesswork presents compelling testimony to the trifling tidbits that preoccupy us. The big picture and undiminished existential dangers pale before headline-grabbing and ratings-generating inconsequentialities.
This is perhaps why our society rushes headlong into early elections, without consideration for the price and ramifications. No government in recent years has lasted a full term (though the present one did better than most). Untold sums go to waste for party financing and mounting costly campaigns more often than democracy mandates. There certainly must be more deserving recipients for these funds.
But worst of all is the warping of our national agenda at times of increasing peril. Instead of focusing on our collective self-preservation, we’re too frequently gripped by inordinately prolonged campaigns that drag out for least six months. Perish the thought of a quick race, as is common in many other parliamentary democracies.
The very (informal) suggestion of an August or September election date drew fire from the otherwise gung-ho opposition, which by all logic ought to urge we go to the polls as soon as can be. Cries of foul at the very mention of even a marginally shorter campaign duration should provoke severe public opinion backlash. But they don’t, a fact that again doesn’t flatter the quality of our political discourse.
And when the superfluous electioneering din dies down, we’ll be left with all that weighed heavy upon us previously – the threat of a nuclear Iran, Palestinian pressures, the perfidy of the Arab Spring, our frayed socioeconomic fabric, the real estate bubble, the cashed-strapped educational framework, health system, police force, public transport networks, etc.
None of this will go away.
And, last but hardly least, who will be charged with tending to all the above? In all likelihood it will be another fragile coalition, concocted from yet another ragtag assortment of factional splinters, each of which will extract all it can as the price for its cooperation.
In other words, the odds are that we will be back just where we now are.