Challenging politicians to provide clear ideas, evidence

As always my rejoinder is that you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem – make sure that during this election campaign you are part of the solution.

Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
With the Knesset dissolved we are now ready to get into the serious business of preparing for a general election.
The burning issues are the possible return to politics of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former leader of Shas Arye Deri. Additional core questions seem to be whether or not Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s break-away Atzmaut party will actually garner enough votes to make it back to the Knesset at all and whether or not Yair Lapid is going to have 15 or 20 seats in the new parliament.
There are some side issues: how many current Kadima MKs will attempt a return to the Likud; will former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni look to return; and how long Moshe Kahlon, welfare and social services and communications minister, will take as a time out from politics.
Although largely irrelevant to the rest of the population, the question of a unified national religious list and Meretz’s dwindling electoral performance will add some color at the margins.
As you can imagine, with all of these critical questions to be answered I have been glued to the radio, and have been reading every column inch of the newspapers in a quest to seek the answers.
85.54 percent of the time, the media seems to spend talking to pundits and pollsters, making weird and wonderful combinations and then asking 0.001% of the population what they think about it.
By way of example: If Olmert formed an alliance with Chaim Ramon and Tzipi Livni, how would you vote if it was raining when you arrived at the polling station? Alternatively, if Rav Amsalem (formerly of Shas, now Am Shalem) combines with Yair Lapid will Rav Ovadia give his blessing to Arye Deri at the next brit of his great-greatgreat grandson before blessing Eli Yishai?
ONCE ALL these complex issues have been resolved, what will there be left to talk about? My guess is that the closest we will get to a debate on the unimportant stuff will be whether we are going to vote on political and security issues (Netanyahu happy) or socio-economic issues (Shelly Yacimovich happy).
Some have called me naïve, some have called me downright ignorant, but I am sure that there are many thinking people from across the political and social spectrum that could think of a better way to decide how we want the country run in the next 3.5 years (the average life-span of the Knesset since inception) and what kind of country and society we are seeking to build.
I work off the core assumption that all of the politicians that have been mentioned above (and many others) really believe that they are doing the right thing for the country, but that the constant merry-go-round of politicians jumping in and out of politics and to and from various parties is far from relevant to ordinary people’s lives.
This is borne out by a consistently dropping percentage participation in the general elections. If we believe that it is important to reverse this trend, and re-engage with larger portions of the population in the democratic process, we must recognize that there also must be a face-lift for the political process that we see playing out around us.
There will be those that propose a change in the voting system, more regional representation, higher barrier to entry and other sensible reforms. I am sure that a combination of these can improve the logistics of how politics work in Israel, but I am equally sure there is a more fundamental change that is required for this to happen.
There are those that claim that we get the politicians/government that we deserve, and that instead of complaining about our political representative we should be asking ourselves what responsibility we take for changing the situation.
We constantly allow national politicians to make sweeping assumptions about our beliefs as citizens, without challenging them to provide a rationale or evidence.
How refreshing would it be to hear the leader of the Labor Party, Shelly Yacimovich, talk about how she plans to reform the Electric Company and make sure the trains run on time, instead of constantly bashing the tycoons? Her being attached at the hip to Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini makes this somewhat unlikely.
On the other hand, it would be great to hear Netanyahu taking a time-out on Iran to set out a realistic and meaningful plan for the inclusion of haredim (ultra-Orthodox) into society, both the workforce and by carrying their burden of national service. Sadly, he has shown that he cares more about Litzman and Gafni than you and me.
As citizens we continue to pay the price for their avoidance of these questions. It is time to demand that the agenda move to the things that we decide.
We have allowed all sides of the political spectrum to disenfranchise us from being part of the process defining some of the core characteristics of our society as a Jewish and democratic country. Due to the focus over many decades on security issues many social and unity issues have been left behind.
It is time for our leaders to inspire the population in general and young people in particular to excel as citizens, irrespective what part of the society they are part of. Instead we get same old-same old, which increases cynicism and even despair, as people stop believing positive change can ever happen.
In order to do this they must show us an affirmative vision for a unified Israeli society and not define everything in the negative and in the shadow of threat.
My recommendation for voters on all sides is first to ignore polls and punditry and second to demand from their candidates a focus on issues relating to real values that can be prioritized for the next Knesset. A non-exhaustive list might include closing gaps within Israeli society, economic and social; reform of the rabbinate and religious services; resolution of the dual issue of national service and integration to the workforce for haredim; educating all citizens towards a common vision of a Jewish and democratic country.
As always my rejoinder is that you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem – make sure that during this election campaign you are part of the solution.
The writer is the chairman of Gesher, a Jerusalem-based organization devoted to bridging the differences between Israelis and strengthening a shared Jewish identity.