Also Bankrupt: The Israeli Political System

OK, Lehman Bros went belly up. Far as I am from wealth, I still find this upsetting. I find it even more upsetting that the Israeli political system currently has about as much credibility with the public as Lehman’s assets had with its creditors. The ruling party’s vote tomorrow for a new leader comes down to a choice for a receiver, which may be why the public is unenthusiastic but prefers corporate lawyer Tzipi Livni – if you can believe polls, which you can’t. My article on the reasons for the bankruptcy is now up at the American Prospect:

Yossi Sarid entered Israel’s parliament 34 years ago as one of two young, rising stars. The other was Ehud Olmert. Today, Olmert is prime minister, but the operative word here is “today.” Last week, the police recommended to prosecutors that Olmert be indicted for bribery, money laundering, and other forms of corruption too numerous for anyone outside the fraud squad to keep track of…

Sarid, on the other hand, resigned from the Knesset two years ago after a long, principled, and impassioned career… “I felt more than a small measure of apathy, if not to say despair, with the political system,” he told me last week, in the deep melodious voice that can still make a phone conversation hint at a stump speech. “I felt … that the system no longer mobilized the resources of my soul.”

The melancholy last acts of the two careers point to the malaise of Israeli politics. The system itself appears virtually bankrupt, lacking the basic asset of public trust and no longer offering a clear choice between competing ideas.

Read the whole article here, and return to South Jerusalem to comment.

1 thought on “Also Bankrupt: The Israeli Political System”

  1. While you attribute at least part of the current stalemate to Bush supposedly being “an idiot”, we also had the super-involved Bill Clinton directly pushing the “strong, able to make an agreement” Arafat and the flexible Barak failing to come up with an agreement. You are quite right that the current lull may only be temporary (G-d forbid!). Going back to the 1920’s the country saw periods of Arab violence which ended up sputtering out partly because of force being used against it (by the British and later by the Israelis) and by exhaustion by the young fighters who carried out most of the violence. Some years later, a new generation of young radicals arises and says “we see why the previous generation failed to drive out the Jews, this time we will get it right!” and they would start a new round of violence, which also would end up sputtering out. There have been numerous cycles of this pattern. Meanwhile, the Arab side hasn’t yet learned that this behavior doesn’t pay, each new cycle thinks it has discovered the magic solution (guerrilla fighters in the 1920’s-30’s), full-scale armed force (1948, 56, 67, 73), the failure of that, return to civil uprising (Intifada 1, late 1980’s), suicide bombings (Intifada 2, 2000-2003), rockets and missiles (2006-today). Meanwhile Israel has only grown and gotten stronger throughout each of these cycles of Arab violence. Maybe some day they will catch on and see that it isn’t working and a more moderate approach will come from the Arab public.

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