by Liza Farachdel
Three weeks away from the elections, and I havenâ€™t a clue yet as to who will get my vote. First of all, given the recent game of musical parties (similar to musical chairs, except that when the music stops, youâ€™ve got to join whichever party you happen to be closest to; strangely, the maturity level of the players is very similar to the maturity level of those who play the actual musical chairs game), I canâ€™t keep track of which politicians are in which parties.
With politicians switching alliances more frequently than I change clothes (does that say more about them or more about me? Never mind, donâ€™t answer thatâ€¦), itâ€™s impossible to know what any of them truly believe, which, unsurprisingly, directly affects my ability to actually believe anything they say.
What makes these elections more interesting, though, are the repercussions that recent Palestinian elections will have on the various party platforms. Parties that previously advocated peace talks as a primary feature on their agenda are being forced to search for different issues on which to focus, given that negotiating with Hamas is not really seen as a big vote-getter these days. As such, security continues to be an important issue, especially now that an organization advocating Israelâ€™s destruction has become the major player in the Palestinian political scene. Welfare and economic issues are also featuring prominently, with each of the main parties scrambling to get its message across that only their party can save the economy and the country.
Much welcomed and long overdue, the current head of the Labor party is Amir Peretz, an Israeli of Moroccan descent who grew up in a Southern development town. Itâ€™s the first time that an individual with a background such as this has held the leadership of what has traditionally been considered one of the elitist Ashkenazi parties, so it is truly wonderful to see that another barrier has been broken. Whether or not an individual who has never so much as held a cabinet position is capable of leading the government is debatable â€“ other politicians who found themselves in a similar position â€“ albeit with at least minimal ministerial experience â€“ failed miserably. The fact that he facilitated change and more than left his mark as chairman of the Histadrut is certainly a point in his favor (though Iâ€™d be lying if I said that he didnâ€™t wreak havoc on my life more than once with his tendency towards striking the entire public sector on numerous occasions), but running the Histadrut is not like running the country, and quite frankly, Iâ€™m not sure heâ€™s up to snuff.
Of course, chances are slim that Mr. Peretz will get to lead the country anyway, as it seems the victory has already been sewn up by the Kadima party, led by Ehud Olmert. I see the Kadima party as something of a phenomenon, sort of like Ariel Sharonâ€™s joke on everyone. As the public knows, Mr. Sharon went against his former party (and more than a handful of those citizens who voted for him) by executing last summerâ€™s disengagement. Members of the Likud tried to destroy him politically, but he beat them to the punch by leaving and forming a new party, almost bringing Likud to the brink of disintegration. While Kadima was trying to figure itself out, Mr. Sharon became incapacitated, leaving this motley crew without its unifying force. Suddenly, the Israeli political scene became the best reality show in town, everyone glued to their media of choice, waiting to discover how things would turn out. It just doesnâ€™t get any more exciting than this, folks!
But I digress. The Kadima party. What started out as an assortment of disgruntled, opportunistic politicians without a cohesive vision has slowly turned intoâ€¦ well, what has it turned into, really? Their current platform seems to be, â€œfollow in Sharonâ€™s footsteps, bring up his name at every opportunity, and try not to make wavesâ€. This last bit blew up in their faces earlier this week, however, when Omri Sharonâ€™s personal diaries surfaced in a scathing report on Israelâ€™s Channel 10 news, showing the lengths to which heâ€™d gone in order to shore up support for his father several years back, with all sorts of political appointments and deals. This alone is not terribly encouraging, and it certainly doesnâ€™t help matters that Mr. Olmertâ€™s name was mentioned on more than one occasion in conjunction with said appointments and deals. It should be interesting to see if this little scandal affects Kadima at the polls, though Iâ€™m not holding my breath.
The best thing to come out of all the political posturing is the plethora of young, new faces in many of the parties. Unfortunately for Ariel Sharon, it seems that his actions and subsequent illness may have brought about the cataclysmic shake-up that was needed. Out with the old guard and in with the new, and hereâ€™s hoping that it is a change for the better. Now that prospects for peace have been unexpectedly pushed to the back burner, letâ€™s hope that the long period of stagnation in Israeli politics is over, and the incoming Knesset freshmen will indeed focus their energies on strengthening all sectors of Israeli society, instead of only strengthening themselves.