Oh, no! Not another election, I cried when I heard the news on the radio. Once again, after enjoying an uplifting symphony concert we get into the car, turn the radio on to catch up on the day’s news and are hit with the devastating information that since the government is in an untenable position, the decision has been made to dissolve the sitting parliament (Knesset) and set the country on course for another election just about one year after the previous one.
We all know what this means. We have been here five times in the past three years. It means endless discussions on the radio and the TV, as well as never-ending recriminations by commentators and politicians amid accusations of back-stabbing and failure to live up to promises and expectations. Above all it means the vision for some (and nightmare for others) of the return to power of a prime minister charged with grave criminal offences.
The one pleasant surprise in all this was the civilized, even friendly, way the two leaders of the outgoing government, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, summed up their year in office, took their leave of one another and reviewed the way they had managed the country. Even so, the collapse of the government cannot help leading to a long, painful and expensive election process.
One solution is to follow the advice of a friend and simply refrain from listening to or watching the news. Easier said than done. I agree that hiding one’s head in the sand could prove to be the one way of avoiding stress, but then one risks being ill-informed when the moment of truth arrives on election day.
Among my many sins, I managed to garner an M.A. in Communications from the Hebrew University at one stage of my life. Admittedly, the focus of my studies was not so much the content of the news but rather the linguistic style (register) of various (Hebrew) news programmes on television. I felt that my background as a translator and editor equipped me for this, and it undoubtedly was a fascinating exercise in language analysis for me. At least, as I thought at the time, I wasn’t devoting my thesis to analyzing the cultural impact on Israel of the American TV series ‘Dallas,’ as one of my fellow-students did. At the time it seemed to me to be an extremely weak topic for a thesis, but I must have been wrong, as the student concerned went on to have a successcul academic career.
In those far-off days (the 1970s) there was only one TV channel in Israel, and each evening most people sat down to watch the fare provided. By now the plethora of channels, as well as access to foreign ones, means that the audience in Israel cannot be analysed quite so easily. Above all, it means that people are exposed more easily to differing views, though it seems that the viewing audience tends to choose channels and programmes that fit their world-view.
The date for the election has not yet been set, but because of the need to allow political parties time to organize and possibly regroup, the prospective date has been set for some time in October or November this year. Thus, we face four or five months of some kind of legislative limbo, with the Knesset unable to pass new laws and the interim government unable or unwilling to introduce or pursue policies. In other words, the country will find itself in a stalemate which bodes ill for its economic and social stability.
Biblical-style visionaries are claiming that the good Lord promised the Land of Israel to the Jews, and this underlies the Zionist ethos. As is often the case, Jews argue among themselves as to how much of the Promised Land is concerned. And when it comes to defining Zionism it is difficult to pin it down. Others (mainly Moslems) point out that the First and Second Temples lasted only a few hundred years each while the El-Aksa Mosque has been sitting atop the Temple Mount for over a thousand years. Whether any of this proves anything is a moot point, and the argument tends to go in favour of whoever is in a physically and military stronger position.
So we will just have to sit and wait for the decision at the ballot-box, and somehow learn to live with the consequences. Because that’s democracy.