DVAR ISRAEL: SHABBAT, JANUARY 12, 2019
THE ISRAELI ELECTIONS
On April 9th, millions of Israelis will go to the polls and elect the 120 representatives who will form the 21st Knesset. The Israeli political system is often turbulent and capable of producing lots of commotion during the course of routine operations, a phenomenon that is only escalated in the periods leading up to an election. The 106 (now 86) days that will pass from the moment of declaration, "the opening shot across the bow," if you will, until the day of the elections will be eventful to say the least. They will include: dramatic declarations, unforgettable interviews, a new poll every twenty minutes, countless hours of talk, debriefings, interpretations of the political situation and somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred hours of jokes and assorted satirical programming.
The first week and a half after the elections were announced were crazy. It was as if I was living within an episode of Eretz Ne’hederet, by far the best satirical TV show in all of Israel. Here is just a short list of what I experienced while I was back home for the break: the elections were called after it became clear that Yair Lapid would not support the Recruitment Law. A law that requires every citizen in the State of Israel to be recruited to the IDF (except for special communities like arabs and yeshiva students). Over the past couple years this law has resurfaced as a hot topic issue in Israeli politics. Many Israeli politicians and citizens alike believe that the law is unfair as it creates a “double standard” among Israel’s population.
In the short time I was home, it was clear that the craziness of Israeli elections was in full force. On December 25th - the "Gesher” political party was announced. Two days later, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz established a new party called "חוסן לישראל." Two days later on December 29th, Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked set up a new party under a joint leadership called "הימין החדש." On New Year’s Day, Labor Chairman Avi Gabai appointed Shelly Yachimovich as opposition chairman, replacing Tzipi Livni. On the same day, the chairman of the ״מחנה הציוני״, Avi Gabai, announced the dismantling of the partnership between the Labor Party and the party headed by Tzipi Livni. The following day, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon announced the name of his new party: תלם - a national state movement. With what has occurred in the first two weeks, the sky is the limit on we might see in the ninety days remaining until the elections in Israel.
It has been said that you need a degree in Political Science to even begin to understand the Israeli political system. There is a lot going on, with many parties and many voices. One could easily misunderstand this reality as indecision or weakness. But Israelis will tell you the contrary. The complexity of the Israeli political system is one of Israel’s greatest strengths. It is the democratic process at its height. There is no other country like Israel in the world. No other country that faces the same challenges in the same way as Israel. Its democratic process is a reflection of that reality and I look forward to watching the process unfold with you in the weeks and months to come.