Opinion

What Difference Is It Who Won the Election?

A man wears Kahol Lavan shirts on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv, April 9, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

It’s Saturday evening. A family gets into its white Porsche on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard. Before climbing into the back seat, one of the children takes a last long gulp from a McDonald’s cup, then bends down and carefully places the cup exactly in the center of the sidewalk.

He doesn’t lift his eyes to search for a trash can, nor does he try to hide his deed. He doesn’t put the cup on the wall of a nearby building or even on the edge of the sidewalk near the street. The cup stood there proudly, half full, right in the middle.

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As the wheels of my baby daughter’s carriage reached the abandoned receptacle, the window on the side next to the driver, where the mother of the family sat, opened. I seized the opportunity.

“Your son left this cup on the pavement. Maybe it should be thrown into the trash,” I said (without a jot of preachiness, I swear). The mother, who seemed a little confused, glanced at her son, and I, my husband and the baby continued walking.

A few meters farther on, with a screech of brakes, the Porsche came to a complete stop beside us. The window on the side next to the driver was still open, and from it, the father sent me a burning glare and yelled, “So why didn’t you pick it up yourself?”

He didn’t stay to hear my reply (no great loss, since it would have come out stammering due to my shock). He hit the gas in a way that wouldn’t have shamed a Formula 1 racer and in seconds, the luxury car had disappeared up Israel’s most prestigious boulevard.

While I was still eating the dust that the family left behind it, I pondered the severe damage I had caused. Hitherto, the boy and the rest of his family had known that it was completely, absolutely, perfectly all right to leave their trash wherever they pleased, because some sucker or subhuman in a reflective vest would always come along after them to clean it up.

But now, they’ve learned that if anyone says anything to them about it, the right and proper response is to attack them – because who are they to tell them anything? On my account (and that of the father of the year), several young citizens have learned that after you’ve finished urinating from the diving board, you should go even further and drown the swimmers in the pool.

Tuesday night marked the end of an election campaign that some have called the most disgusting and superficial in Israel’s history. But it’s hard to blame our local politicians for ignoring the core issues and adopting a violent, shallow, arrogant manner when the voting public is comprised to a not inconsiderable extent of people who themselves are violent, shallow and arrogant.

One might wonder about the factors that caused the Israeli street to degenerate into its current state – decades of failing to invest in education, more than half a century of control over another people, or the feelings of persecution whose roots lie deep in centuries of exile. But the reasons don’t change the reality. What difference does it make which electoral bloc was larger or who forms the next government if that’s how people act in their daily lives?

No government, regardless of its composition, can fix overnight the absolute contempt that many Israelis display toward their fellows. When you’re preoccupied solely with yourself, values have no value.

In the coming term as well, the destruction of democracy and the undermining of human rights will apparently continue to worry very few people. The majority will continue striving for the day when they too can acquire a white Porsche for themselves.