Individuals who feel uncomfortable in their marriages often assume that the grass is greener elsewhere. It doesn’t need much of an upheaval for a partner to act on that fantasy and leave the existing union in the hope of greater success elsewhere. I can think of no better metaphor to describe what’s happening in several of the political parties in Israel, now when the date of the general election has been announced. Politicians’ fantasies about doing better with other partners abound.
*The first to split were Naftali Bennett, the leader of the pro-settler Habayit Hayehudi party who held the educational portfolio in the last Netanyahu government, and his close colleague and collaborator Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. They’ve announced that they’ve left their former political colleagues and formed a new rightwing Orthodox cum secular party they hope will attract defectors from the dominant Likud. Characteristically, they’ve also said that they may seek to bring in what’s left of their former party after the election, presumably in a kind of group marriage.
- It has now also been announced that the Labour Party has broken its alliance with Tzipi Livni’s party. The joint party was known as the Zionist Union. Polls indicate that neither Labour nor the Zionist Union would do well, so Labor is trying its luck on its own or perhaps in a new alliance. According to current opinion polls, both Labour and Livni will need an awful lot of luck to get anywhere.
- Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party is also being depleted. Two of its sitting members, each with ministerial responsibilities, are leaving the fold. One is joining Likud in the hope of doing well in the primaries, the other might try his luck with another party. The economy doesn’t seem to do as well as Mr. Kahlon had hoped and promised, so his partners are going elsewhere to distance themselves from the minister who’s likely to be blamed.
- Before the last election, four Arab political parties came together. Had they gone separately, more than one of them might not have got the minimum percentage of votes cast to get into the Knesset. Rumours had it that they weren’t always comfortable with each other, but by coming together they got 13 mandates, i.e., more than 10% of the Knesset. There’re now indications of unrest also there. We’re told that some of the current parliamentarians won’t run again.
We’re only at the very beginning of the campaign. Primaries in those parties that have them haven’t been held yet and the campaign hasn’t really started, but the unrest is already in evidence. No doubt there’ll be more of it – not only separations but also more or less temporary alliances in unlikely and uncomfortable unions. It smells of instability, infidelity and worse.
Those well versed in the comings and goings of party politics tell me that that’s what Realpolitik looks like. The objective isn’t to be faithful or consistent but to get re-elected. They point to many distinguished politicians and successful leaders across the world and throughout history – Winston Churchill, for example – who switched parties for what they regarded as the common good. Today’s Israeli politicians shouldn’t be blamed for emulating them.
Then there’s the other big pre-election question: will Prime Minister Netanyahu be indicted on bribery and related charges? If he is – will he have to resign? In anticipation, he has already declared that no charges should be brought before the election, and if they will, he won’t resign.
Jerusalem 1.1.19 Dow Marmur