Electioneering (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 05/03/12)
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If Israeli voters – the onlookers in our political arena – paid
discerning attention, they would have noticed a surreal spectacle
Tuesday. Just as one political aspirant – Yair Lapid – entered the
fray, another contender – Tzipi Livni – proclaimed her exit. It
almost looked synchronized, as if one hyped political wunderkind
replaced the other neatly and instantly, leaving no gap in the
In many ways Lapid and Livni seem to be cut from the same cloth. They
subscribe to no clear creed or set of values. Indeed, it’s hard to
pin down what they stand for. Though they profusely laud their self-
professed principles, they rarely, if ever, elaborate.
The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that
they are ideologically pliable and that they tout this as an asset
rather than as a liability.
It’s as if articles of faith are undesirable in our present- day
political discourse. The flipside of this is shallowness, a
concentration on short-term advantage, on semblance as distinct from
Indeed, both are big on appearance. Both strike an impressive pose
and are gifted public orators. Livni’s authoritative clipped cadences
are intuitive, while Lapid is a professional performer who resorts to
prepared texts he ably recites with the aid of teleprompters. But the
bottom line in both cases is charismatic.
Both are children of successful politicians, both grew up in good Dan
region neighborhoods, both are self-assured well-off north Tel
Avivians, with similar social milieus, and appeal to comparable
Both place their own political orientations as somewhere in the
undefined Center, which can mean different things to different
people, except that both clearly get a lot of mileage out of anti-
Thus Livni praised herself for “not having given in to haredi
extortion,” while Lapid declared that “we can no longer afford to
carry the haredim” on our backs.
Nuances of the same.
No wonder the hottest speculation at the moment is whether Livni will
join Lapid and whether the twosome will run in tandem. Such guesswork
presents compelling testimony to the trifling tidbits that preoccupy
us. The big picture and undiminished existential dangers pale before
headline-grabbing and ratings-generating inconsequentialities.
This is perhaps why our society rushes headlong into early elections,
without consideration for the price and ramifications. No government
in recent years has lasted a full term (though the present one did
better than most). Untold sums go to waste for party financing and
mounting costly campaigns more often than democracy mandates. There
certainly must be more deserving recipients for these funds.
But worst of all is the warping of our national agenda at times of
increasing peril. Instead of focusing on our collective self-
preservation, we’re too frequently gripped by inordinately prolonged
campaigns that drag out for least six months. Perish the thought of a
quick race, as is common in many other parliamentary democracies.
The very (informal) suggestion of an August or September election
date drew fire from the otherwise gung-ho opposition, which by all
logic ought to urge we go to the polls as soon as can be. Cries of
foul at the very mention of even a marginally shorter campaign
duration should provoke severe public opinion backlash. But they
don’t, a fact that again doesn’t flatter the quality of our political
And when the superfluous electioneering din dies down, we’ll be left
with all that weighed heavy upon us previously – the threat of a
nuclear Iran, Palestinian pressures, the perfidy of the Arab Spring,
our frayed socioeconomic fabric, the real estate bubble, the cashed-
strapped educational framework, health system, police force, public
transport networks, etc.
None of this will go away.
And, last but hardly least, who will be charged with tending to all
the above? In all likelihood it will be another fragile coalition,
concocted from yet another ragtag assortment of factional splinters,
each of which will extract all it can as the price for its
In other words, the odds are that we will be back just where we now
are. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/03/12)
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