Whether the sun is shining or the blessed rain is falling, our life in Israel continues to provide us with interest and amusement as well as frustration and annoyance.
Our homes, or at least those of most people, are warm and dry. The roads are well-kept on the whole, buses and trains run more or less on time, cafes and restaurants provide nourishment and shelter and the daily routine of coming and going, shopping and cooking, looking after children and/or grandchildren, attending lectures, lessons, films, theatres and concerts goes on as usual. Life on the whole, provided one doesn’t live in the area near the Gaza Strip, is reasonably pleasant. It’s only when one opens a newspaper or watches the news on TV that the black mood descends.
Because somewhere, beneath the surface, out there in the sphere of political machinations and manoeuvring, dark currents are at work. I’m talking about Israel, but I know that in other countries similar or worse trends are at work, albeit of a different complexion and intensity. I’m not comparing events in Israel with the drastic developments in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Syria, even Iraq and Iran, where people turn out in mass demonstrations to voice their dissatisfaction with the ruling elite, are beaten, arrested and even shot for daring to do so, and in many cases are even forced to leave their homes for fear of bombardment. That situation has given rise to the refugee problem that is providing us all with harrowing examples of human suffering, reminding us of what happened to Jews in Europe not that long ago and preying on our minds and consciences.
But here in Israel all is not sweetness and light. Far from it. I have always tried to present the more pleasant side of life in Israel, and it certainly exists, political differences notwithstanding. But the grim state of public life at present cannot be ignored. After all, what sane country has to hold three general elections in the space of less than a year?
The fact that Israel’s electorate seems to be almost evenly divided between those on the right and those on the centre-left is creating a situation of near-deadlock every time an election is held. Coalitions coalesce and disintegrate according to the mood of the moment and the inclination of the politicians involved, and still no firm decision can be reached.
The truth is, that a coalition, even a broad, almost wall-to-wall coalition, could in fact be reached were it not for the intransigence of one man, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The sad fact is that he has been indicted on charges of corruption, bribery and similar unsavoury actions, but as long as he is prime minister he cannot be tried before a court of law. Until a week ago he was doing his utmost to evade justice by claiming immunity, and using every trick in the book to stymie due process. In this, sadly but also inevitably, he was aided and abetted by members of his party. The details of the offences with which he has been charged are enough to send any ordinary citizen to jail, and this is obviously a fate he and they would like to avoid. The sad conclusion that seems to emerge is that Israel is being run by a cabal of corrupt kleptocrats who do not care that there is no functioning government, no budget allocations and no stable rule.
So why are Israelis not turning out in their thousands to demand the removal of the ruling elite? If Lebanese, Syrian, Turkish and even Libyan citizens are prepared to put their lives on the line to gain justice, why not us? My personal feeling is that people are either too dispirited by what they see happening, too supportive of that same cabal, or too worn down by the routine grind of earning one’s daily bread and keeping one’s head above the waves that seem to be surging all around us.
Another, third, election looms ahead in a few weeks. We can only hope and pray that this time at least a resolution of some kind can be found. If we don’t all turn out and vote the prospect is that this stalemate will continue indefinitely, with a dreaded fourth round of elections in the offing.