Tomorrow, unless something truly extraordinary happens, the Knesset will vote to disperse itself, setting the scene for November 2008 elections in Israel. As we all know, the American public is scheduled to go to the polls in November 4th, but unlike their Mid-Eastern counterparts, they’ll be doing it willingly.
It’s been said time and time again in the Israeli media over the past couple of weeks that no one in the political arena is truly interested in initiating such a dramatic move, especially at such a critical point in time. Nevertheless, it seems we’re heading there anyway.
This isn’t debating
I think I’ve probably said it before: Whoever wins the American elections in November will be a better president, just by going through the elections process, than he could be if he was elected today. The political arena is the perfect training ground for any national leader — but only when this arena features the issues and not the backstage transactions.
Having to undergo 26(!) televised debates, the Democratic candidates had sufficient opportunities to clearly describe to the public their stance on all the major issues. In fact, candidates who had started this campaign with vague platforms and relatively little public experience, had to become savants in economics, foreign policy, and health care — naming just a few of the issues — if they wanted to survive the process of primary elections and to present themselves as viable and serious candidates. They also had to literally “go to the people”, hold local gatherings, tour the country, get to know their constituents first-hand. The American voters have come to know these people rather well, being acquainted with their style of behavior, type of personality — and most importantly — knowing exactly where these candidates stand when it comes to the issues, and how well they understand what they’re talking about.
Additionally, required to clearly state their platform time and time again, these candidates also demonstrate whether they hold an honest agenda or whether they constantly change their positions according to the recent opinion polls. This is crucial information for constituents.
This entire process happens before an American president enters office! He has plenty of time and opportunities to make noticeable mistakes and to learn from them before these mistakes have the potential to cause national instability. Here in Israel, the same process tends to happen after a Prime Minister has been put in office by his party.
In short, what I’m trying to say it this:
The Israeli public deserves to have a series of televised debates where all presumptive PM candidates face each other and publicly answer questions.
This is debating
It is frighteningly amazing how a man such as Ehud Barak can be chosen to lead a major political party in Israel without actually saying anything clear about the issues! Or how both he and Ehud Olmert allow themselves to go public with peremptory announcements every now and then — and then to never go through with their own promises! What’s even more regrettable is the fact that no one expects them to be clear or consistent anymore!
This is absurd. And I’d like to see both the Israeli public and the Israeli media pushing forth the notion that Israeli politicians must follow the example of their American counterparts and publicly clarify their positions during face-to-face televised debates — before they enter office.