I don’t usually watch sitcoms, and what I think of those I do happen to watch haphazardly, certainly isn’t worth an article the day before what are probably the most critical elections we have ever had.
However, the new sitcom on Channel 11 – Motek Bool Ba’emtza (Honey Spot-on in the Middle) – is an exception, first and foremost because it went on air two weeks ago, with the last chapter to be broadcast Monday evening, the evening before the elections.
There are many reasons why red lights started flashing in my mind the first time I was exposed to the series.
The first is that I keep hearing all sorts of people around me saying that it is an excellent series that reflects our political reality spot-on.
The reason people around me have bothered to make these comments is that they know that I recently published a book on the job of MKs – a job that they refuse to take seriously, and do not miss a moment to ridicule, which suggests that in their opinion the book I ought to have written should have read something like what the author and director of the new sitcom, Shmuel Hasfari (author and producer of the highly popular Polishuk), wrote and introduces in his new production.
The second is that anyone who knows anything about the proceedings in the Knesset cannot but notice that even though the sitcom highlights some real problems in the Knesset’s work (which I shall elaborate on below), 90% of the situations portrayed are simply completely imaginary, and could not possibly occur in real life as they are presented in the sitcom (for example, that after several weeks in the Knesset, Motek finds herself as chairwoman of an important committee).
The third is – as I wrote in my book – that the job of the MK in Israel (and of MPs in general all over the world) is very serious, and one of the problems is that the general public is ignorant about what this job is, and that very few MKs are familiar with the many components and nuances of the job and, what is most important, what is not part of the job. For example, activities to promote their own reelection are not part of the job for which MKs are paid by the Knesset, and for which they enjoy parliamentary immunity, though they are certainly legitimate activities that MKs are allowed to engage in.
BRIEFLY, THE sitcom is about MK Motek Mordechai (played by Gili Itskovitch), who is a 25-year-old reality show dropout, whose father is in prison because of some financial scandal, and Motek is seeking ways to repay his debts.
With no understanding in politics whatsoever, she finds herself one day in the Knesset as a member, after she was placed in the unrealistic 10th slot of a centrist party – Bool Ba’emtza – a party totally lacking in any sort of visible ideology, after two of its original MKs resigned from the Knesset, and a third one committed suicide.
The current parliamentary group is made up of the party leader (played by Kobi Maimon), who is also the only male left in the group, and who serves as economics and reforms minister, and six female MKs who look and act like a conniving freak show, and for whom he has little respect (the feelings are mutual).
Motek’s main aspiration, besides constant communication with her fans from her days in the reality show, is to pass a law that will oblige the education system to teach everyone the basics of personal financial management.
Those who “assist her” are a bunch of “parliamentary advisers” who, like many of their counterparts in reality, behave as if the sun shines out of their backsides, and are primarily experts in dirty tricks and up-to-date communications technologies.
He who is out to get her, or at least to make a quick buck at her expense, is a corrupt lobbyist, of Russian origin (played by Avi Kushnir), who works for the banks, and who gets her to submit a “social” bill of sorts, which she believes will help raise her rating as a social MK, but which has already been submitted in the past at the lobbyist’s instigation, bringing down the hapless MKs who took his bait.
The sitcom is right in presenting the problem of overly powerful and occasionally corrupt lobbyists who manipulate innocent and gullible MKs. The Knesset and some of the more conscientious MKs are aware of the problem, and have attempted to limit lobbyists’ activities in the Knesset.
The problem of recycled bills is also known, and in view of the enormous number of private members’ bills that have to be dealt with both by the Knesset and the Government Committee on Legislation, they ought to be reduced in number.
However, to the best of my knowledge, this phenomenon has never been used for criminal purposes by lobbyists. If suspicions of such an event were to emerge, it would be dealt with in all seriousness by the Knesset’s Legal Department, and the appropriate factors in the State Attorney’s Office. I have personally known each of the legal advisers to the Knesset from 1980 to the present, and none of them looked, spoke or behaved like the ridiculous figure of the legal adviser as portrayed in the series.
Incidentally, the sitcom is also right in presenting at least some of the advisers as having an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
There are thoughts in the Knesset of increasing the number of advisers that each MK is entitled to, from three to five. Undoubtedly, some serious thought will have to be given to the questions whether there is really need for more advisers, and what the advisers should be doing, given that even though they are employed by the MKs themselves, it is the Knesset that pays their salaries to perform tasks directly connected to the job that their employer is supposed to perform as an MK, which does not include political party work, or helping the MK in his private capacity.
The sitcom is also right in pointing out the phenomenon of “atmosphere” parties, whose candidates before Knesset elections are selected haphazardly – frequently candidates without any political experience, relevant qualifications or ideological background – just because they are believed to constitute an attraction to a certain group of voters.
However, Spot-on in the Middle is so ridiculous a party that it is not clear who it represents, and in what sort of perverted constellation it gained membership in the government.
I believe that portraying the political system through a set of crooked mirrors will not help cure the maladies that undoubtedly exist in it and must be dealt with.
Since the party ridiculed is allegedly a centrist party (the likes of which does not exist), I sincerely hope that the sitcom will not cause electoral damage to the center-left camp in Tuesday’s elections.
Of course, no political camp is above being satirized, and satire is legitimate as long as no malice is involved. In this case, perhaps no malice was meant, but if this is so, someone simply didn’t do his homework properly.
The writer was a researcher in the Knesset Research and Information Center until her retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, soon to appear in English.