A Breath of Fresh Air
When Israelis get fed up with all the parties in the Knesset, they tend to found a new one through which they can express both their disdain for what there is and hope for better things to come.
In the 2006 elections it was the Pensioners’ Party that, unexpectedly, gained seven seats in the 120-strong parliament and, because no party has ever had the majority to alone form a government in Israel, the newcomers came to play an important part in the coalition at the time. When things stabilized, the Pensioners Party vanished.
Something similar is afoot now. Knesset member Orly Levy-Abekasis is 45, married and a mother of four. She was elected on the Yisrael’s Beiteinu list in 2006 when the party leader Avigdor Lieberman tried to prove that his isn’t only the party of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. She’s the daughter of David Levy, a staunch member of Likud who has served as foreign minister. This year he was awarded the Israel Prize for his life-tome contribution to the State of Israel.
Levy-Abekasis resigned from Yisrael Beiteinu in 2016 and now sits as an independent. Unless another party takes her in, the only way she can stay a Knesset member after the next elections is by forming a new party, which she says she intends to do. Though she hasn’t even got a name for it yet, opinion polls suggest that her party will gain seven seats (like the Pensioners) in the next elections.
It’s by no means clear what her party would stand for. She’s staunchly Sephardi with an impressive record of social activism away from Israel’s urban – and more glamorous – centres. And it’s not clear, despite her father’s politics and her former membership in Yisrael Beiteinu, whether she’s on the Right of the political spectrum. Her social activism doesn’t quite put her on the Left either.
But she’s different. This may be enough for a lot of Israelis to vote for her, because they’re disappointed by the existing political set up. Though they may be opposed to Prime Minister Netanyahu and what he stands for – and they may fear that he’ll soon have to stand trial on various corruption charges – they may not see a credible and trustworthy alternative, neither in the coalition nor in the opposition. Orly Levy-Abekasis is thus a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to break the deadlock.
The same polls that predict her success also point to more seats for Netanyahu’s Likud in the next Knesset. Hence the rumours that he might want to hold elections before the due time at the end of next year to seize the moment. The implication is that the new party would take seats from the other parties in the current coalition, which is probably why they don’t want early elections.
Thus the mixture of mutual mistrust and seeming instability in the current government. We can only hope and pray that those now in power won’t try to “stabilize” their positions by waging war. The situation on the border with Gaza, with its weekly tragic encounters, together with the Iranian threat via Syria in the North give us cause for concern.
I’m among those who also hope and pray that despite his unpredictability, President Trump will prevent Israel’s hawks from trying to win elections on battlefields. The seemingly good news about a possible reconciliation between the two Koreas holds promise also for Israel, because it would stop Iran from acquiring North Korean nuclear technology.
Jerusalem 29.4.18 Dow Marmur