By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
One in five Israelis are still undecided about for whom to vote in the March 17 elections. All the parties are after them.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington two weeks before the elections is ostensibly about saving Israel from a nuclear Iran by persuading the Americans not to make a bad deal with its regime, but the real reason is probably an effort to impress upon undecided voters that Netanyahu and only Netanyahu can keep them safe.
Many already believe him. Polls suggest that more Israelis think that Binyamin Netanyahu is more suited to be prime minister than his principal opponent Isaac Herzog.
But things may be changing. Israel’s Comptroller General has just published a report about expenses in the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem and his private home in Caesarea, where the family spends weekends and hol(y)idays. The details are too trivial to record, but the conclusion points to extravagance by both Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu at the expense of taxpayers.
In anticipation of the report, a video has been showing the official residence as run down and shabby implying that the Netanyahus live modestly and simply. For example, the kitchen is shown as less than glamorous; no mention is made of the fact that they’ve built a modern kitchen upstairs where the family resides,
Though the received wisdom has it that the report may hurt Netanyahu and his party, I’m not persuaded. Coming so close before the elections, a case is being made in several quarters that this is yet another attempt by unidentified sinister forces to embarrass the prime minister in order to deprive him of victory. If that message can be put across, it’s not impossible that at least some of the 20 percent undecided may give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt and vote for him.
The issue provides another opportunity to absolve those in power from dealing with important matters, e.g., the glaring social inequality in the country and the absence of any peace initiative. (If these issues do come up occasionally willy-nilly, other political parties are blamed for the former and the Palestinians for the latter.)
By creating a sense of emergency caused by Iran and by the growing presence of ISIS on Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon in the north and wit Egyptian-held Sinai in the south, it’s possible for the government to ignore other no less burning issues.
The installment of the new chief of staff earlier this week provided another opportunity for the government to try to assure us that we’ll be safe in Israel despite the messy neighbourhod in which we live. (So why worry about justice and peace?)
On these grounds and temporarily ignoring Iran, ISIS and the other potential risks Israel is facing, Prime Minister Netanyahu has again turned to the Jews in Europe – after yet another deadly attack, this time in Copenhagen – to urge them to come home to Israel, because only here will they be safe. Israel may be facing dangerous enemies, but it has the means to make sure they don’t get at us. (And when you come, please vote for me!)
This doesn’t necessarily means that the government is wrong, but it does mean that it may use security to cover up its many glaring inadequacies. Instead of taking responsibility, it invariably finds others to blame. Whether, in the end, the non-decided voters will see through it and choose another path remains to be seen.