Don’t Repeat the Folly of 2013

The lesson is clear. The 2015 election campaign must not be allowed to reenact the crazy spin of the previous election and the insane turmoil of the outgoing government.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Celebrating the swearing-in of Israel's 33rd government. Jerusalem, March 18, 2013.
Celebrating the swearing-in of Israel's 33rd government. Jerusalem, March 18, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The 2013 election campaign was crazy. The main issues supposedly on the agenda weren’t discussed at all. The leading candidates were trendy screen-candidates without political experience or political maturity. The parties were fake or lunatic corporations that didn’t represent the Israeli public.

With Iran on the verge of the bomb, the occupation on the verge of perpetuation and the Middle East in turmoil – the previous election was held as though Israel was situated in south California.

The election concentrated on the inane assumption that the great enemy was the ultra-Orthodox and the threat to Israel’s survival was the budgets for yeshiva students. Less than two years after the great, impressive social protest of the summer of 2011, the protest’s values were abducted, exploited and castrated. The result was a superficial, false and idiotic election campaign, which was completely cut off from reality and led Israel to an unprecedented slump.

The government that was set up after the 2013 election was also insane. Nobody headed it, nobody was loyal to it and nobody liked it. Nobody governed the government, and the government didn’t govern the state. The one who seemingly filled the prime minister’s position (Benjamin Netanyahu) was a powerless person, who actually lost the election.

The one who stood at the government’s power center (Yair Lapid) was the one who won the election, but wasted his victory and abused it by handing the power over to someone else (Naftali Bennett). Those three conservative white men loathed each other from the day the government was formed to the day it croaked. They didn’t agree on anything and didn’t do anything. Instead, from morning to night they were busy with positioning themselves. This is why the political, economic and social management faltered. This is why none of the cabinet’s ministers worked seriously on the issues at hand with the others. The television and Facebook talents did what talents know how to do – advance themselves, instead of serving the general good.

The fanatics in Israel are still a minority. But when the central leadership is inferior and the political center is cynical the fanatics have a field day. When the officials elected by the middle class and the representatives of enlightenment betray their duty the fanatics triumph.

This is what happened during the short, grotesque term of the 2013-2014 government. Since Netanyahu and Lapid had no common agenda Bennett foisted his own agenda on them. Since Yesh Atid became addicted to excluding the ultra-Orthodox, it handed the state over to the settlers. Lapid’s refusal to set up a strong center-left bloc and his decision to form a brotherhood with the leader of Habayit Hayehudi were the original sin.

After the crime came the punishment. The little brother Bennett swelled and grew into a big brother, while the big brother Lapid shrank and shriveled into a small brother. The ideological vacuum of a government centered around a man without ideology was rapidly filled with nationalist-religious fanaticism. The rapid crash of the great white hope led to deep despair and spreading darkness.

The lesson is clear. The 2015 election campaign must not be allowed to reenact the crazy spin of the previous election and the insane turmoil of the outgoing government. This time the parties must do the opposite of what they did two years ago. They must set up a broad center-left bloc and conduct a responsible dialogue with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Anyone who didn’t get it at the beginning of 2013 must get it at the end of 2014. The great threat to Israel today is posed by the fanatics. The 2015 election campaign must overcome the fanatics, isolate them and free Israel of their stranglehold.

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