View from Netanya

ELKAN’S VIEW 7th January 2015

 Israel is beginning to warm up for the elections on 17 March, which sadly offer no clear possibility of a radical change in leadership. Bibi is a Prime Minister who is increasingly viewed as having run his time. A change is badly needed but there are no exciting alternatives.

While Britain is now beginning to discover the reality of the problems that coalition government can bring, Israel is stuck with a proportional representation system that might have been a good idea in 1948, but which always produces coalitions. The effect of raising the proportion of the vote needed to secure a member of the Knesset to 3.25% does not seem to be having any particular effect.

To our shame, political scandals are the daily currency of Israeli life. The fact that a former president, a former prime minister and several ministers and officials are either in prison or appealing sentences is a tribute to the rule of law in this country. In the Middle East context this is unique, but it says many sad things about the ethical standards of the Jewish state.

The recent primaries within the Likud party have strengthened Netanyahu’s grip. The scandals within Avigdor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beitenu have seriously diminished his influence, and the biggest political winner could well be the American Naftali Bennett and his right-wing party HaBayit Hayehudi. The Labour Party under Isaac Hertzog does not seem to be a serious contender, especially since he has teamed up with the political gadfly Tzipi Livni. She changes her political party frequently, and is one of the leading Israeli advocates of the two state solution, a policy which is increasingly seen here as being unattainable with the present Palestinian leadership.

However “a week is a long time in politics” and there are currently almost 10 weeks to the election and anything could happen.

And by the way, New Year’s Eve at the Dead Sea was delightful – strawberries, sparkling wine, and a magnificent firework display brought in 2015 in the traditional way!