"Prime minister failed to mediate between Lieberman and
ultra-Orthodox parties, sending Israel to its second election in six months",
says the Ha'aretz English edition headline of May 30th, 2019.
As a storyteller for social change, I often seek to make sense of
political events by having conversations with people. Anger, confusion and deep
mistrust in political leadership and its motivations were the responses I
encountered this time. "We have yet to heal from the April 9 elections",
people said, referring to the highly toxic and divisive recent campaign.
In seeking to make sense of political events, I am always equipped with
my gender lens, my dear and trusted companion that constantly urges me to ask
questions such as: "how does this effect women?", and, "what can
women do to change this reality?". Hence, I turned to my colleague and
mentor, journalist and political commentator Anat Saragusti, and asked her to
write a short article that will shed light on the dramatic events of the week.
The Banality of Ego
By Anat Saragusti
The main reason behind the decision to take Israel through another
election could be summed up with one word: Ego.
Neither advance espionage equipment nor sharp political savvy would have
exposed any other reason for the Knesset to convene at the dead of night on May
29 and decide to embark on another election in three months.
The decision has no practicality to it. It’s all personal. Netanyahu
claimed to have won the previous election. But when it came time to put his
mandate where his mouth is, he failed. The bottom line is Netanyahu couldn’t
form a government. And that is why he didn’t win. Furthermore, the negotiations
Likud held with its potential coalition partners proved that even the demands
set were, how to put it? Completely personal. All they were interested in was
the Immunity Law and the High Court Override Clause. These two were meant to
provide Netanyahu with a safety net if and when it was decided to indict him
after a hearing. These two prerequisites presented by Likud weren’t meant to
better the lives of the public, nor Netanyahu’s voters. Neither was designed to
deal with the burning issues on the public agenda: A failing health system,
social gaps, the deep divides within society, crumbling infrastructures,
lagging public transportation, the withering agriculture, a sinking welfare
system, the ever-expanding exclusion of women, the precariously escalating
incitement against Israel’s Arab citizens, the delegitimization of the left,
and above all – for better or worse – the presentation of Trump’s “deal of the
century” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which will now be postponed for
Good or bad, the reveal of Trump’s deal could have altered reality, if
only for bringing diplomacy back into the agenda, rejuvenate the discourse
around peace, and perhaps even lead to some kind of breakthrough.
This decision must be looked at through two different prisms:
A profound crisis of faith in the political system. When everything is
personal, when leaders betray the mandate given to them by the public, when
cynicism overtakes sincerity, something in the fundamental pact between us, the
public, and our elected leaders, is fractured. The contract which states that
we vote for them and they promote the issues we care about was not fulfilled.
This crisis painfully expressed itself in the last election with the
generally low voter turnout, but particularly low among Arab citizens, who
barely crossed the 50 percent threshold.
The second prism is the practical implication of this decision: the
continued freeze over all government activity – the way it has been since the
last election was announced in December. A transitional government can’t make
important calls, further new topics, allocate budgets or anything.
And above it all hovers, of course, the gender perspective.
These ego struggles were played by men. It’s hard not to sink into the
poignant notion that what happened was the result of male thinking which
considers everything a zero-sum game. It’s either you or me.
The outgoing Knesset, which managed to sit for solely a month, was
characterized by an especially low number of women. But that’s only a small
part of the picture. If a government had been formed, it is doubtless that not
only it would’ve had few women, but that women wouldn’t have had a real seat at
the table, and it is highly unlikely we would’ve seen a woman in the security
cabinet, where the critical decision regarding state security, war, and the
peace process are made.
Neither side of the political map had enough women with experience, or
an ambition to sit on these forums. For this to change in the upcoming election
seems far-fetched. Issues that matter to women, such as violence against women,
equality in the job market, breaking the glass ceiling and more – were not set
front and center in the previous election. It seems dubious that parties
seeking our votes would make gender the top of their agenda – not simply by the
makeup of their slate, but in a more rooted way, which brings to the things
that matter to us to the forefront.
So we all lost in these ego games: The politicians who voted against the
conscience and interests, the state – which will now descend into heavy
spending, the political system itself, and the voting public, of course. What
transpired here is a malevolent use of the democratic toolbox.
Many thanks to Daniel Gouri De-Lima for the English translation of the article