The Centrist Path
Looks like we’re to have the 5th election in 3 1/2 years. I can imagine what most ‘overseas observers’ are thinking. Hey, most Israelis will sprint to unhelpful conclusions, which will likely prolong our political swamp.
For over 20 years, I’ve been writing these letters, extremely aware of the apathy out there, and the stupidity here.
For example, I am currently taking Hebrew lessons twice weekly, when possible, over the phone. Either I read from a simplified Hebrew version of the Jerusalem Post, or we just chat. I have 2 teachers. One is a youngish male, whose political views I do not yet know, the other is an elderly lady, I think a retired teacher. For my Hebrew, she is excellent. She knows the meanings of words and their roots. She explains grammar clearly.
But, when I read something about early, idealistic Israel, she suddenly became quite excited, mentioning that word ‘apartheid’ when referring to our behaviour in the West Bank / Judea-Samaria. (The clever Jerusalem Post purposely uses both terms when referring to that area, in order to avoid controversy). So, when we spoke the following time, I told her that I wanted to chat on a subject, but not politics. She asked why. I said that she was Leftist, and I am Centrist. “There is no Centre!!” she exclaimed. I moved on…
Well, it’s easy to say that the U.S. is currently very polarised, and that the ‘silent majority’ (usually Centrist) do not have a voice. No one appears to represent them. Here in Israel, a country of political extremes and upheavals, we DO have a centrist representative, and that displayed itself for the last year in the Coalition government. This was made up of 8 parties. Eight! And they were from across the political spectrum; left to right. No extremists (religious or not), and, for the very first time, an Arab party. (I must add that this party, led by Mansour Abbas, no relation to the Palestinian President, focused not on Palestinian issues but on Israeli-Arab rights. Quality of life for this important Israeli minority).
But, a very big BUT, Israeli politicians are, like those in other countries, human. And humans have faults. And when mixed up with Israeli politics, these faults can go to your head.
The Coalition survived as long as the politicians put country first. But even that is wishful thinking, because some of the burning issues for each individual party were bona fide, such as the living conditions for the Israeli Arabs.
But, for instance, sovereignty over the West Bank is a thorny issue. Yes, that area was designated for the Palestinian State in the 1947 UN resolution. But the Arabs did not agree, started a war which they subsequently lost. There are consequences to such actions. Even then, Israel tried to negotiate the return of conquered lands, but there came the famous ‘3 No’s’ from the Arabs. The door then opened to settlement of the areas, led by religious zealots who believed that this was God-given land, but followed by many pioneers who loved the land for many reasons, including economical.
Every 5 years, a law needs updating which refers directly to the Judea-Samaria inhabitants. Basically, the Jews there are ‘citizens living abroad’. They retain all the rights of Israeli citizens, just like French residents in Morocco, or Americans in the UK. The Arabs there are, quite obviously, not Israeli. Israel has not annexed the land. They have the rights established by the Palestinian Authority. (Hey, in the future Palestine, you would think that peace can only exist when Jews are welcomed as Palestinian citizens, just as Arabs are here, and Sikhs are in London).
Well, in the coalition were parties on totally opposite sides of the spectrum vis-à-vis the West Bank. PM Bennett himself used to be head of the West Bank settlers ‘organisation’. Agreement just could not be reached. Bennett and Lapid, who will now be interim PM, decided that the dissolution of the Knesset should be their decision, and not Bibi Netanyahu’s, who’s been gunning for them since day zero – he who is still under investigation for a variety of wrongdoings.
What’s my summary of all this waffle? I, a swinging Centrist, remain an optimist. I believe that the silent Centre have tasted a year of normality. Much, including the all-important and greatly delayed budget were passed during this government’s reign. What brought it down was the selfishness of a very few Coalition members (including 3 out of Bennett’s own tiny party of 7). It is maybe too much to wish for, but the way forward is now very clear. 67% voted last time. That’s 33% who did not.
Much of the silent majority are non-voters. It only needs another 5% of those Centrists to get off their asses and vote for one of the potential coalition partners, ideally Lapid. In fact, yes, they should vote for Lapid and push his closer to Likud’s #1 position.
Even a coalition needs electoral strength to move on and perform it’s duties as promised.