Until now, election campaigns have usually been characterized by extreme positions. Everyone would say everything they thought about everyone else. Conversely, the current campaign is one of inhibition and restraint. A politically correct campaign, if you will. No one speaks about social divisions, no one pokes around in open wounds, no one is rattling the skeletons in the closet. Maybe because in today's (secular) Israel, the bon ton is not to provoke a fight. Maybe because the political parties are trying not to hurt their chances at the polling station. Or maybe because while the problems are important, they are of no real interest to the voter.
Not that the problems have vanished. On the contrary. The ethnic demon, for instance, has already forgotten how the bottle looks from the inside. It has grown so large that one doubts if even a barrel could contain it now. But people in Labor, which is being hurt by the demon, and in Kadima, which is profiting from the demon, aren't talking about it. No one is even talking about the demographic problem and, thus, the entire stage has been left to Avigdor Lieberman's plan for population exchange.
In an interview that ran in the Haaretz Hebrew edition, Tom Segev asked Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni about her position on Lieberman's plan. Those who read her answer carefully will find that there was no nyet there, not even the glimmer of a nyet. She simply doesn't want to deal with the subject at this time.
The next Knesset will no doubt be firming up Israel's immigration policy. This is most certainly of great interest to the Arab public (as well as the immigrants). But the Forum for Civil Agreement (which comprises Jewish and Arab coexistence groups) was compelled to set up a special interview project to get the candidates to speak up about issues of interest to Arabs. The immigration policy is the sort of subject that politicians prefer to address after the elections rather than when the campaign is at its height.
Ostensibly, there has been much discussion of social welfare and poverty in this election campaign. But is that really so? The main thrust has concerned the question of whether Benjamin Netanyahu helped or hurt the economy. But does anyone know what Kadima's position is on the Wisconsin Plan, or what the intentions of the large parties are in regard to children's allowances?
The pledge to draft yeshiva students was an important element in the Ehud Barak's victory in the 1999 election, and in the 15 seats won by Shinui in the 2003 election. In 2007, just one year from now, the Knesset will be asked to decide on an extension of the Tal Law, even though the government has never implemented it. How will the large parties vote? Evidently, they will make their decision on the basis of their allegiance to the coalition when the vote is held. Agreement on this issue runs so deep that the government does not even owe us an accounting. The candidates don't bother to commit themselves to anything. And we expect nothing of them. That way, at least we won't be disappointed.
Other things that are not being discussed: What, for instance, do the parties think of the constitution, which will apparently be coming up for Knesset debate after the election? And which constitution are we talking about, and what will be written in it? Or, what position have the parties taken on the issue of (civil) conjugal union?
Even when somebody does attempt to raise an issue for debate in this election, he is usually speaking to the wall. For instance, we know that Lieberman will fight crime, but it is not clear what Kadima's plan is in this realm. We know by what means Uzi Dayan will attempt to eliminate corruption (five years' imprisonment for politicians) and even what Shas' plan is on this point (eviction from the Knesset). But Kadima is doing everything it can to make us forget that one of the prime architects of its party is former MK Omri Sharon.
Although Netanyahu altered the system of internal elections in the Likud - an impressive feat - has anyone heard the platforms of the major parties in regard to what is permissible and what is not when it comes to political appointments? Or anything on the party finance law? On the issue of capital and government, and the connection between them? Maybe the parties themselves don't know what their position is, because they have found that they can get along just fine in this election without the oppressive burden of having to actually take a position on something.
Ehud Olmert already knows that the outcome of the election has been decided, but he is not willing to tell us with whom he will form the next coalition. He may form a government that will continue to benefit the wealthy, in conjunction with the Likud. Maybe he'll create a "leftist" Kadima collation with Labor and Meretz as partners. It could be another secular, apostate government - or a coalition of capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox, like the one he formed in Jerusalem. Why should we know? What business is it of ours?
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