By Shmuel Katz
One of the main goals of this column is to give you a sense of what it is like for us living in Israel. Although I sometimes struggle to get my brain in gear and see what is going on from an outside perspective, there are other times when current events give me lots to work with. And this has been some week, hasn’t it?
Yet when I reflect upon the political stuff from the last week, I feel tired and confused.
Just last week, we had the privilege of hosting MK Rabbi Dov Lipman in the yeshiva as a guest speaker. He is a personal friend and someone whom I have known since we have lived here. We enjoyed his divrei Torah and he patiently answered all our questions about the events in the Knesset.
Since he lives a couple of blocks from us, I was able to hitch a ride home with him and chat on a more personal level. I asked him how he felt about the prospects of potential elections.
He answered that he wasn’t focusing on elections. He has many accomplishments that he is proud of, he added, but there is so much more to do. And he told me that it seems a shame that they have had so little time to get their goals accomplished and that he would be concerned that some of their new initiatives could fall by the wayside.
Well, I guess he is focusing on elections now.
The most frustrating thing is that I don’t really know how I feel about all of it. The country is now in stasis, again. Tons of money will be spent conducting this election and there will be polls released and mud slung—a real circus. The media, which hate Netanyahu and generally lean left, will run story after story about who will beat the prime minister, even within his own party. And the voters, who generally lean right, will . . . I have no idea.
If experience is any indicator, it tells me that the expectations and predictions will change dozens of times over the next few months and that there is no way to come close to predicting what will happen. Yet, since this is Israel, there are opinions aplenty and everyone is busy offering one.
Like the U.S., we are split. We have so many different opinions and, unlike the U.S., a political party for every one of them. Unfortunately, since we use the parliamentary system, our fractured society tends to lead to the early fall of governments. And yes, I know that many of you are wishing that you had a similar system because you would love to see your current government booted out of office as well.
Yet the system is terrible. First, in order to make a coalition government, the leader of the coalition has to make promises to all the parties he needs to join his government, then there is more money spent (on their special interests) to keep them in the fold, and there is endless infighting within the party.
Combine this with the fact that the world (especially the Obama administration) hates us and tries to handcuff us at every turn—it is a wonder that we ever get anything accomplished.
Actually, that is maybe the only real benefit of the early elections. Whenever we feel under siege, the country tends to lean to the right, politically. Reports have come out that the White House is already determined to dramatically curtail an expected increase in the administration’s criticism of Israel and anti-Israel rhetoric, specifically to avoid spurring Israeli voters into Netanyahu’s hands.
Although there is no knowing with them, I would think that our local enemies will quiet down for the next couple of months as well. Terror attacks also push the country to the right. Our enemies want a weak, peace-at-any-cost government, not a hawkish, security-minded government. So it is in their best interests to lie low right now as well. Although, when it comes to doing things that are good for themselves, they have a horrible track record, so there are no guarantees on that front.
So, who knows? All I can tell is that we are once again headed to what will undoubtedly be a hotly contested election, and I am really not excited about it.
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.