The 2015 Israeli Election May Be Decided by Super-egoists

There may not be any clear winner in the upcoming election. The decision regarding the future prime minister may well end up in the hands of Lieberman, Lapid and Kahlon - hardly an outcome to be welcomed.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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Ariel Sharon
Ariel SharonCredit: Haaretz
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

The Israeli voter can be excused for feeling confused when looking at the results of the almost daily polls appearing on TV and in the newspapers purporting to predict the results of the coming elections if they were held that day. On occasion, he might even feel that some of the pollsters are attempting to manipulate the voters or the politicians when showing the results that might be achieved if some groups were to merge and run together in the elections.

In any case, the major contenders at this stage seem to be able to attain no more than 20 or 21 seats in the Knesset. Others seem to hover below that magic number. Does this mean that Israel is headed for political deadlock, unstable coalitions and another early election? How did we get into this bind?

The development, or if you like the descent, of the Israeli political arena from two big parties and a number of smaller ones, to a large number of small parties who compete for the voters’ support has many explanations. But it is clear that the overriding reason for this unwelcome change is a number of politicians with outsized egos who have played major roles on the Israeli political scene in recent years. Not for them the constraints of established political parties. They can forge their way on their own, creating new political parties and trying to destroy existing parties.

The most famous of them all was Ariel Sharon. A great general, angered by not being appointed to the IDF’s top job, he joined the Liberal party wing of the Likud, left it to form his own party, Shlomtzion, dissolved it in order to join Likud where he became the leader of the settler’s camp, and then left Likud to form Kadima, dragging with him a trail of Likud politicians that included Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and Shaul Mofaz. There he established the tradition that there is no need for internal elections and the leader of the party appoints the slate of candidates that the party will field for Knesset elections.

It was a tradition that was followed by Olmert when he inherited Sharon’s mantle, and by Livni when she broke away from Kadima and formed her own party, Hatnuah. It is a form of party dictatorship also practiced by Avigdor Lieberman and Yair Lapid in the parties they run. Moshe Kahlon has decided to adopt this model of leadership in the party he has founded, Kulanu. These politicians brook no opposition among the ranks.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. Livni, after running her party into the ground, has decided to take on – or is it to take over – the Labor party. Not prepared to participate in the Labor Party’s internal elections, she insisted on sharing the leadership of the party with its elected leader, Isaac Herzog, and parachuting the retinue of her followers into safe slots on the Labor Party’s list of candidates for the Knesset. The combined Herzog-Livni list is now fishing around for some “superstars” who might be parachuted onto the list to give it some more luster. So much for democracy.

By the looks of the recent polls there may not be any clear winner in the upcoming election. The decision regarding the future prime minister may well end up in the hands of super-egoists Lieberman, Lapid and Kahlon, individually or collectively. The first presents himself as the pragmatist prepared to go either right or left, the other as the man who will bring down the cost of living, and the last as the savior of the middle class.

But actually their goal is to be the arbiter who will decide on the election’s outcome, exacting the best price for themselves. That is hardly an outcome to be welcomed. The final outcome should be in the hands of the voters. If they vote for the super-egoists they will leave it to them. If they vote for democratic parties they might determine the outcome.

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