The Changing of the Israeli Guard

January 24, 2013 12:38 am 0 comments

An Israeli family casts a ballot at a polling station in Tel Aviv on Feb. 10, 2009. Photo: Flash90.

Israel had a party on Election Day.  The weather was beautiful and people went to the beach and the parks by the tens of thousands.  They were in a very good mood.  And why not? For all the gloom and doom about Israel, its neighbors and its neighborhood, Israel celebrated its place in the very exclusive club of free and vibrant democracies. There are multiple parties (including the Pirate Party) and a free press to air the issues and the candidates. Women vote, ultra-Orthodox Jews — including ultra-Orthodox women — vote, poor people and rich people vote, Arab citizens vote. The Arab League, which explicitly rejects the legitimacy of the State of Israel, encouraged Israeli Arabs to get out the vote, something they didn’t do for the Saudi or Yemeni or Omani election. Oh, yeah, right — Arabs in those countries don’t get to vote; they have no elections.

The Google Doodle celebrated Israel at the polls.

The votes haven’t all been tallied, but a few things are clear about Israel and its electorate.

  • Nearly 70% of Israelis voted. Remember, this is a country in which there is no early voting and there are virtually NO absentee ballots. (Diplomats stationed abroad and members of Israel’s Merchant Marine only.) If you want to vote, you go to the polls on Election Day. And they did.
  • The guard has changed. Unexpectedly big winner Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid (There is a Future) is 50 years old. Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) is 42. Shelley Yachimovich who inherited the venerable Labor Party is 52. Bibi Netanyahu — previously seen as the perennial youngster — is now the elder at 63. Women are in: Likud has 6 among its 31 expected seats; Yesh Atid has 7 in its 19; Habayit Hayehudi has 3 among its 12 seats; and Labor — headed by a woman — has 3 women in its 17 seats. (Seat numbers may change slightly as more votes are counted.
  • The issues have changed. Labor declined to talk about foreign policy, focusing on income inequality. Yesh Atid made its name on civil society issues, economic growth, education, drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the Army, and rooting out corruption in government. While not rejecting the mantra of a “two-state solution,” Yesh Atid would maintain the large settlement blocs and united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Habayit Hayehudi has been described as “a mixture of hard-right principles on the future of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians and liberal ideas on social issues.” Likud has been the party of economic growth for years.
  • Left, right and center have shifted. Left and right in the U.S. are terms with social significance: abortion, gay rights, taxation, guns, etc. Most Israelis are “left” on the U.S. social scale, but in Israel, left and right have been almost exclusively defined by a willingness to cede land to the Palestinians in exchange for a political settlement. Polls in 2012, however, show that while 70.6% of Israelis favor negotiations with the Palestinians for peace, only 31% believe those negotiations will yield peace. It makes “land for peace” or “the two-state solution” less relevant to people’s definition of themselves — they may want meaningful negotiations, but they know they won’t get them. That makes “right-wing” or “left-wing” less important than a single position on a single issue such as drafting the Orthodox or income inequality. This is the reason for the startling rise of two parties that didn’t exist a year ago.

The American administration will want to cast the decline in Likud seats as a personal defeat for Netanyahu, hoping to find a more congenial partner. The Washington Post (no surprise) carried the President’s water, calling it both a “lackluster campaign” and a defeat for Netanyahu. (The U.S. should only have voter turnout figures like Israel.)

But the case could equally be made that since Netanyahu can make a coalition to HIS left (Yesh Atid) or to HIS right (Habayit Hayehudi), and because both of those parties can sit in a coalition with him and with each other — but neither can make a coalition to IT’S left or IT’S right, Netanyahu has emerged as the centrist and the kingmaker, more secure in a broader base.

None of the above means Israelis no longer care about security or that Iran has ceased to be a threat.  But there is maturity in understanding that Israel does not control the decision of the Iranians to build a bomb, or the ability of Hamas and Fatah to find unity, or the ability of the Palestinian movement in general to accept the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. It is out of the Israeli voter’s hands to determine how the President of the United States views Israel and its houses. Israeli voters expect their government to secure and protect them the best it can. They wanted the government to have taken a harder line against Hamas in the November fighting in Gaza, but there was no rebellion against Likud on that score.

Israeli voters chose parties committed to issues that affect them on a daily basis, while the constellation of parties — center-left, center and center-right — appears committed to a secure Israel with Jerusalem as its capital.

That, plus the youth movement and rising female representation, is something to celebrate in a democracy that has emerged and triumphed in dangerous and inhospitable soil.

This article by Shoshana Bryen was originally  published by the American Thinker.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.