Saturday, May 16, 2015

Herzog forgot he lost the elections

Israel's 34th government had a very difficult birth. And when it was finally born, it was greeted mainly with criticism. It was lambasted by the opposition and by the media. Criticism from the camp that lost the election.

But that is how it goes when memories are short and it is forgotten that in a democracy, even one voice can mean a majority. 


Does anyone in the opposition, Mr. Herzog and Mrs. Livni, recall the election we had here in March, and that the people also had their say? 

The elections are perhaps of secondary importance because Livni, as evidenced by her words on Thursday, is concerned over the fate of democracy in Israel. Maybe to alleviate her concerns the losing party should be allowed to form the next coalition. Democracy, the Tzipi Livni version.

Her partner, Isaac Herzog, does not want to be foreign minister. He wants to be prime minister. And to be prime minister he first and foremost needs to continue leading the Zionist Union. And to continue leading his party he must show some mettle against those who seek to depose him in his own home. Because between us, he didn't quite deliver the goods after promising he would form the next government.

And this is precisely what Herzog did on Thursday in his forceful, aggressive speech. He wanted to show the opposition that he is the leader. 

During his speech, however, which was exceptionally unbecoming of the occasion, he forgot to mention just one small thing -- it was he who basically lost the elections. 

Apparently this is a minor, insignificant detail, something the entire opposition was quick to forget during the coalition talks, which, we must admit, were conducted in a considerably inelegant fashion.

And now let us address the coalition talks. Those 42 days -- during which we were yet again exposed to the distortions that have existed for years in the Israeli political system -- were difficult to watch.

In Israel, once the elections end the extortions assuredly begin. The extremely unflattering role of the extorted side, contrary to what one might think, is reserved for the winner. Such is the fate of he who wins elections in Israel.

In these elections the people actually spoke loudly and clearly. The right-wing bloc was supposed to arrive at the coalition negotiations with 70 mandates, more or less. But three mandates for Eli Yishai were lost when his party failed to meet the minimum threshold, and the six mandates won by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beytenu party belong to the Right. Lieberman, however, made his choice and is not in the coalition.

At the end of the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself with 61 supporters. This is not a lot. But this is the reality. We can hope the government will expand. And even if it doesn't -- we can hope for all our sakes that it will be successful.

Herzog's speech on Thursday was a clear message to Netanyahu. The Foreign Ministry portfolio is available. Gilad Erdan, we can assume, will not object to receiving it. Silvan Shalom would be deputy prime minister. This could have been thought of earlier.

Thursday's events did nothing to bolster the reputation of our political system, and not because this government now has the slimmest of majorities. We have seen similar scenarios in the past, lest we forget that the archaic Oslo Accords were passed by a single majority vote (which didn't bother the Left at the time).

It goes without saying that things could be different, but for this to happen the system needs to be changed. And do we need reminding that when the Likud began its election campaign with the slogan "Change the System," it didn't exactly enthrall voters? 

Perhaps the time really has come to find a formula that can spare us the delusions we witnessed on Thursday, where the winner must act like the loser and the loser acts like the winner.

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