Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Food Jewish Identity Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    Home of Freud and…Pita? Israelis Make Culinary Mark in Vienna

    JNS.org – Several Viennese Jews have made a lasting impact on the world. Sigmund Freud’s investigations changed the face of modern psychology. Composer Arnold Schoenberg’s innovations in atonal music changed the face of music. These days, even more Jews — in particular, Israeli Jews — are changing the face of Vienna’s culinary scene with innovations in…the art of the pita. Freudians may find a psychoanalytic motive for the local appeal of the Israeli eateries popping up in the Austrian capital. Walk […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    In Iraqi Kurdistan, a Genocide Before Our Very Eyes

    The two bullet casings are already beginning to rust. Sheikh Nasser Pasha plucks them from the ground. “Look, one is from an AK-47, one from an American M-4.” The casings are strewn on the ground atop a long mound of dirt with a few bits of white sticks on it. It would appear unremarkable if one were walking by it. A closer look, however, reveals the white objects are pieces of human bone: arms, legs, and a single human skull. […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    Israel and the Apartheid Narrative: 2 South African Student Leaders Weigh In

    JNS.org – About two-dozen people file into Dodd 175 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on a Thursday night, scouting out seats and picking at the kosher pizza in the back of the lecture hall. Miyelani Pinini knows the drill. A former student president of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, she’s attended and even organized her share of free-pizza events. But now she and a fellow South African student leader were the stars of this […]

    Read more →
  • Food Spirituality/Tradition The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    The Brewish State: Israel Taps Into Growing Craft Beer Bazaar

    JNS.org – It’s widely known that Israel has penetrated the wine market, with some of its sophisticated Israeli blends surpassing historically excellent wines from areas such as the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But what about beer? For decades, Israel has offered solely the Maccabi and Nesher brands. Not anymore. “There is a huge push of people making beer at home. The country is approaching over 30 craft breweries in the last year or two, making nearly 200 beers,” says Avi Moskowitz, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →