Israel’s Fractured Government, Fatal To Its Nation, Faces a Fix
Leadership splinters and fuels pandemic losses
It is after 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep as I try my hardest to digest a fourth election. Having covered Israel for years and witnessing little progress on the political front, I have finally reached a point of “pen action.” I need to say it the way it is. I’m struggling with the headline, but the words that keep on coming are … well, forgive me, Grandma. I realize it’s not ladylike.
Israel is a nation that brands itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” the “startup nation,” and the “leading democracy.” Yet it is in serious need of medical resuscitation. Not just because of the runaway scourge of COVID-19 that, among other wounds, has left more than 1 million out of a population of about 9 million jobless, but because of the pretenders to power who place personal political posturing above the nation’s well-being.
It’s not merely facing the fourth election in two years. But according to a new study by the Israel Democracy Institute, Israelis will go to the polls for the 11th time since 1996, for a frequency of 2.3 years per government that rivals Greece’s average of 2.5 years when compared to other liberal parliamentary democracies.
Saturday night demonstrations for the past 26 weeks by thousands of Israelis seeking the removal of Prime Minister Netanyahu have not seemed to rise to the urgency level of the cottage cheese protests of some years ago in spite of the severity of the toll – physical, emotional, economic – the pandemic is having on a huge cross-section of the population.
Indeed, it’s virtually impossible to find an Israeli who sees tacking-on the multibillion-dollar price tags of the elections to the untold billions the coronavirus is already causing. Nor is it possible to quantify or monetize the real cost of the pandemic before adding on the price of a new government every few months.
Watching Israel’s political pandering is not unlike watching American holiday movies: identical plotlines filled by different actors in film after film. And with similar results.
In the Israeli version, one white-knight character appears in each production, with names like Lapid, Gantz, or perhaps Sa’ar, rebuked by the love interest (played by the voters who trusted them) after breaking campaign vows during coalition negotiations.
Spinning wheels of fleeting fame are tiresome, and yesterday’s generals are barely holding “new parties” afloat. Blue and White, do you remember Kadima?
Who really benefits from the diversion at such a critical time? Some will say keeping the prime minister out of jail; others believe it to be the only way to replace him. Yet others believe it just might be the path to term limits and much-needed government reforms.
And yet, the enormous budget that will once again go into the campaign should be donated to the crumbling businesses that sustain Israel during the good times.
Economic compensation should be given to young students who can’t handle university tuition, let alone giving a hand to keep their own families afloat.
Where are the values of a democracy that cares for its people?
What are we teaching our next generation? That every time we get into a spat, we end it? The deep divides are keeping Israel from protecting its people during a pandemic – the economic progress that it prides itself on. (Witness the jobless and homeless.)
So the brakes are on the economy once again, the health basket, the education system, and any social project you can imagine. Even much of the positive impact of the Abraham Accords comes to a full stop on the governmental level, too. “Sorry, that MOU isn’t getting signed until we know who the next prime minister is.”
So what is the point?
The political machine is broken, and instead of fixing a botched and impotent system, the wheels of greed continue to spiral out of control.
It is time for a rethinking of a new political structure to replace a parliamentary system held hostage by falling governments. The people of Israel deserve leaders with backbone. The parliament needs a governing body fit for a startup nation to be proud of.