Platforms, not attacks

The big stories about politics in this election cycle have had almost nothing to do with policy, and everything to do with personality.

ANOTHER ROUND of elections is upon us (photo credit: REUTERS)
ANOTHER ROUND of elections is upon us
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘We hear about mergers, divisions, hit lists, speeches and videos,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said of his fellow politicians this week. “The one thing they all forgot to say is what they plan to do for the good of the public.”
Kahlon is right. The big stories about politics in this election cycle have had almost nothing to do with policy, and everything to do with personality.
Instead of telling us how he thinks Israel should deal with the conflict with our Palestinian neighbors, Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz mocks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for having voted in favor of the Gaza disengagement, before resigning from the government because of his opposition to the unilateral withdrawal.
Instead of telling us how he plans to deal with the massive overcrowding of Israeli hospitals, Netanyahu is complaining about Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and the media, and the Likud is releasing videos calling Gantz a “weak leftist.”
Instead of suggesting ways to lower the costs of housing, food and other basic needs in Israel, Labor MKs have been mostly busy fighting among themselves. They took a break from that after this week’s primary – but not from constantly complaining about Netanyahu, and accusing Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid of wanting to be in Netanyahu’s next government.
Instead of trying to find a model for the relationship between religion and state in Israel that will reduce animosity toward religious people and the rabbinate, and allow more people who want to do so to convert to Judaism, Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz and National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich are arguing over who will be first place in their merged lists, and who will get a ministerial portfolio.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, including Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, which has been focused on socioeconomic policies.
But this election cycle has been overwhelmingly dominated by personality politics and mudslinging.
With headlines about overcrowded hospitals across many newspapers, now would be a good time to hear how different parties would remedy the situation, for example. There have been many complaints about the way the government handled rockets from Gaza, but how would parties across the political spectrum respond differently? There are endless questions of this kind that could be asked about myriad issues which impact millions of Israelis’ daily lives.
Yet, despite politicians appearing on television and radio programs every day, as well as in countless interviews online and in print, few are willing to answer such questions. They come prepared with their talking points and attacks on their rivals, but not with real policy ideas.
Voters need to know more than whether a candidate is Bibi, with Bibi, or against Bibi.
Unfortunately, past elections have created a poor precedent, by which many parties do not release a detailed platform, or any platform at all. They throw around the words “Right” or “Left” or other identifiers – haredi, Sephardi, Arab, middle class – as though these are somehow meant to be enough to understand what a party thinks is the correct path for Israel’s future. They seem to think that these clichés are enough for voters to decide who to choose, even though there are so many choices in this and every election.
Many parties seem to be nearly identical, except for the difference between who sits at the helm. Israelis need more than that from their political parties – they need to know what the parties will do for them.
We commend the few parties that released a detailed platform ahead of the 2015 election. There are less than two months left until the next election on April 9, and all the parties running should be following that model as soon as possible, so that voters can become as educated and informed as possible before casting their votes.
Israelis deserve to know what their politicians and political parties stand for: from the ideological underpinnings of their ideas to the actual policy solutions that they are offering. Voters need to have enough information to make the determination as to which party, in their view, would be best for the country. Attack ads are not enough – we need to see platforms.