Thursday, March 30

A Stench of General Elections in the Air as False Alarm

General election fever in democratic countries is a time of excitement. This takes place every four or five years when the citizen gets ready for the one day that he/she feels like a king or queen as the right to vote for a government of one’s choice is exercised. All the political parties gear themselves up by making empty promises and populist statements that can never be fulfilled. Despite these pitfalls, there is a dearth of polls - most of which are misleading with questionable predictions as was in the American Presidential Election of November 2016. The polls in Israel are no less accurate yet they have their pundits.

In Israel, election results are predictable, especially today. It is a foregone conclusion that the right and the extreme right wing will win the elections if held today. No party will get an absolute majority, but the right wing block with its plethora of parties with similar ideologies will form the next coalition government that will be even more radically right wing than the present.

It all started with PM Netanyahu wishing to close down the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation in order to privatise it and make it more cost-effective as well as being more of a government mouthpiece. This would mean firing 1000 employees.

The Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon was prepared to go with Netanyahu on this and in the end, Netanyahu changed his mind after consulting with the employees’ representatives who felt that they were on the firing line. Netanyahu opposed the move but Kahlon was not prepared to back down on Netanyahu’s original decision. The closing down of the IBA is scheduled to occur on 30th April 2017. This would be replaced by a new broadcasting company called Kan that would receive a smaller budget. It would also be run by the Communications Ministry and tow the government line. In other words, Israeli and TV services would be handcuffed to a certain extent and lose their independence.

At the time of writing both Netanyahu and Kahlon are on the edge of brinkmanship and no agreement on this issue has been achieved by these two players despite the numerous meetings between the two. 

According to latest reports, an agreement between Netanyahu and Kahlon has been reached. A compromise has been made. No elections for the time being until the next storm in a teacup when we shall all be getting a feeling of deja vu for the umpteenth time.

National elections for the Knesset must take place once every four years, though early elections have occurred more often and few governments have reached the four-year limit.

General Elections in Israel have a habit of being very predictable. The Israeli electorate for the most part over the years has moved away from the left of centre and towards the right and extreme right. There are no signs that this trend will change in the foreseeable future.

The right wing parties - Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home Party, Yisrael Beitenu, Yesh Atid (a sitting on the fence party that could under certain circumstances move to the right as its leader, Yair Lapid, is a shallow populist and adapts his views to suit his electorate) would probably form the next government. Yesh Atid has a problem with sitting in the same coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, who are not well disposed towards Yesh Atid. Nevertheless with a little push and shove and monies pledged to their ultra-Orthodox yeshivot as a bonus, this problem will undoubtedly be solved.

The present government is the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. It is unfortunate that it is a government with no foresight and prefers to allow the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict to remain unsolved. It is a government that puts great emphasis on illegal settler expansion for which the taxpayers pay the price. Those who oppose the occupation are viewed as traitors and automatically categorised as BDS supporters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Democracy is also being eroded and people are being intimidated for their views if they do not coincide with the ruling government coalition. The stormy Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev,  a great pundit for PM Bibi Netanyahu has threatened to withhold state funding for cultural projects that she defines subjectively as being hostile to Israel according to her narrow definition of culture. She does not even have minimum knowledge or understanding of Western culture and is condescending towards those whose appreciation of Western culture is important. A person in her position should be tolerant and accept all forms of culture whether North African, Oriental, Western or whatever, especially in Israel which is a melting pot of different cultures. So what if artists are not always portraying Israel in a positive light on stage.

Even in Judaism, the Orthodox establishment rabbis are becoming more intolerant of those who are different and many of them are even racists. Examples are Rabbi Dov LiorIsrael’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and  Rabbi Yosef Elitzur.  They have the final say on Halachic rulings as to who is a Jew and whether couples can marry according to their narrow interpretation of Halacha if one of the partners “Jewishness” is suspect. Under this government, the ultra-Orthodox parties have never had it so good. Under this government, there has been a rise of Jewish religious extremism and it is truly frightening. The Jewish Home Party is predicted to increase its strength according to the latest polls. It is a party that is racist and composed of people like MK Bezalel Smotrich, whose far-right views can only be described as virulently racist. He is a typical example of the ideology of the Jewish Home Party that is not very far from fascism. If one wishes to find a parallel to South African apartheid ideology, it is in Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party with its bunch of intolerant bigots and herrenvolk.

The Netanyahu Government under pressure from this despicable Jewish Home Party also has a Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked - a young, attractive Jewish Home Party Party firebrand with an agenda of wishing to appoint judges with right-wing views to the High Court of Appeal. She has already antagonised the present Judge President, Miriam Naor and senior judges.
This Jewish Home Party is a danger to democracy and is even interfering with the Courts to enforce its own agenda. The same can be said of the leader of this despicable party of Jewish Nationalist extremists, Minister of Education (or Brainwashing Indoctrination), Naftali Bennett, makes no bones about the education system he would like to envisage.

If general elections in Israel would result in a new government that is more open, does not erode the Israeli Court system nor tries to monopolize culture and with it censorship of films and books not supportive of the government, as well as improving the education system rather than letting it slide into the agenda of the Jewish Home Party and its inherent racism, perhaps there would be hope for a government that is all embracing of all Israel’s citizens irrespective of race, colour or creed, then the time will be ripe for elections. Naturally an honest desire for peace with our Palestinian neighbours involving making the compromises to achieve that even though the Hamas camp is not willing to negotiate. At least some moves will be made in the direction of negotiations. If the Palestinian leadership (Hamas and the PA) are not willing, at least Israel can go on record as making a genuine effort by halting settlements as starters.

Having premature elections, when there is no sign of any change, is a pointless exercise in futility and frustration. It only consolidates the present governmental stench of the right to extreme right wing party hacks in all their colours.

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