Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Israel's sad loss.

There is noting positive to be said about Israel’s election.  Nothing.  I know it’s just hours after the results have been published and one has to wait to see the makeup of the government.  But, whatever that may be, there is no question that hard line conservatism prevailed.  Bibi’s deplorable campaign built on fear, reneging on his previous commitment two states and finally an appeal to racism, astoundingly made on election day while the polls were still open won the day.  It is said that he is charismatic.  He certainly is a skilled orator and effective spokesman for his point of view.  My view is of a demagogue driven as much by personal ambition as by anything else.  In this vote, he used negativism and scare tactics to convince constituents of other rightest parties to vote Likud.  That gave him enough of an edge to virtually insure another term.  It didn’t change the ideological balance in the country or necessarily in the new Knesset.

Elections are not only won, they are also lost.  Israel’s left has been at sea and adrift for years.  They performed marginally better this time around because they forged a political alliance.  The same is true for Israeli Arabs.  But throughout the campaign we heard that Herzog suffered a substantial charisma-deficit.  It’s hard to see how that works at a time when a party and point of view is trying to reenergize itself.  An Israeli relative who thinks his country is headed in the wrong direction told me months ago that the election would make no difference.  He’s a visiting academic in the US for this and perhaps another year, but will return home thereafter.  My guess is that he didn’t vote.  If Herzog lacks charisma, people on the left or even left of center suffer something worse: a passion-deficit. 

While campaigning, Barack Obama often asked the assembled, “are you fired up and ready to go?”  Yes, they responded.  Whipping up the crowd never hurts.  But I think the question, or the need to ask it, implied that, unlike those on the right, liberals seem to have lost their fire.  They complain about the state of things, have the best of instincts and even intentions, but aren’t sufficiently fired up enough and ready to go.  Israel’s left definitely has that problem.  So do we, but that’s another subject for another time.  If real estate comes down to the three L’s, so too does politics.  Leadership, leadership, leadership is what changes the dynamic.  Israel’s right seems to have it.  The Zionist Union and Israel’s left does not.  At the very least, they have been unable to evoke the passion necessary to win the right to govern.  So Israel, with a government that will likely be more cohesively dominated by the political and religious right, remains on a course.  

If we take Bibi at his latest word, that translates into a path toward a single state with all of its concurrent possibilities, none of them good in either the short or long term.  I don’t think the early Zionists were dreaming about the potential of a one sided “democratic” apartheid state.  Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and also the birthday of the late Stephen S. Wise, a great American rabbi, liberal and an early Zionist leader.  He was my father's friend and mentor.  I don't think Wise would be happy about what happened in Israel on the anniversary of his birth.  What might follow is too awful and painful to contemplate.

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