Thursday, May 20, 1999

Life in the Styx vol. 6, no. 24 (Old Styx)

Life in the Styx vol. 06, no. 24, May 20, 1999 (Excerpts):

SHAVUOS

Don't forget to make an Eruv Tavshilin! Anyway, I'm off to Princeton for a fin-de-si├Ęcle Pentecost. Because of my accumulated exams, plus the nasty allergies (Gd, gotta love 'Im, has decided to use my face as a filter for the earth's vacuum cleaner -- letting the past week's full quantity of dust and organic goo to derange my allergies; actually, I need to look at everything as a blessing, so thank you Gd for turning my head into a barometer of Air Schmutz), plus having received no feedback, I have changed my lecture topic from Milk & Meat Cases to a discussion about the Book o' Ruth. This is a sign of my future rabbinate as well, I'm afraid.

COMMENTARY ON [1999] ISRAELI ELECTIONS


Two caveats. I have no time for a full analysis (when have you heard that before?). The second is a general problem about my relationship to Israeli politics -- I don't know very much. I am stuck here in the states (hence why this is called "Life in the Styx" remember?). I am woefully ignorant about the nuances of Israeli politics that's necessary for advanced political analysis; I let my senior political analysts, like respected journalist [friend, EG], fill me in on the important details.

That said, here's some commentary.

There was obviously a personal backlash against Netanyahu. Heck, I had thought Israeli politics was above, or below, personality politics but I guess that it's even more so there than America.

That's why I was rooting for Penina Rosenblum to get a seat (almost!). Penina, for those who don't know, was a bikini model turned businesswoman who ran for Knesset on those assets alone. I rooted for her because, even aside from Tommy Lapid (the shock-jock who galvanized anti-orthodox hate into a six-seat parliamentary monster), her only qualifications for office were (a) celebrity, and (b) a pretty face.

If she had won a seat then Israel will finally have made it into a mature nation status -- i.e not defining themselves in terms of whether they exist or not (Stage One: see with the hard right vs. hard left) and not defining even by basic ideological issues (Stage Two, as seen in Lapid vs. Hareidim). Penina would have been a person elected on charisma and flash alone; and only a secure country can have that sort of piffle.

Anyway, as I have said before, Bibi had one thing going for him that the other candidates lacked: America. The only thing that can save Israel's political system is a heavy dose of American government structure. Eliminate the cheezy parliament -- it's so 18th century -- and get with a regional representative system. All politics is local, so we're told by Tip O'Neill, and that's how a state should be ultimately governed. It heightens the need to compromise, lowers defining people by ideology. And make elections every 2 years, or something to make each legislator accountable for his/her actions.

I want a two party system; not because I'm an American with a football mentality (one team vs. one team, with plenty o' cheerleaders). Two parties force everyone to take one general side and accept compromise as the only option. That's why I want the direct election of prime minister kept in place. Notice two elections in a row the multiple candidates all poured down into two: Left and Right. And despite the demonetization of Bibi, the guy is not a right-winger (he's a demagogue, fine, but not an ideologue); he's the same as Barak, a political animal -- and a two party system will generally create a run-off between two moderates.

And, we can learn a lesson about two-parties from this past election as well. Just as in America the two candidates can be "just the same" (e.g. a common idiotic rant back in '96 about Clinton-Dole) a candidate is defined by his bedfellows. Bibi was identified with Shas and thus he lost almost everyone. Barak intelligently played the coalition charge (notice how he brought the negligible Meimad party along, just to get some kinda Gd injection). But Barak also brings with him the ravenous wolves of Meretz and Shinui. And those two parties, one committed to anti-Zionism, one committed to anti-orthodoxy, that will define the next few years in Israel. Gd help us!

Chag Sameach, Happy Pentecost, Chag Bikkurim Tov, Gut Yuntif,

JC :]

FRIVOLOUS POSTSCRIPT

There's a great line in the recent New Yorker (5-24-99, p.72) by Earnest Hemingway about William Faulkner:

"I musn't comment on [Faulkner's book] until I have read it or failed to be able to read it, but one thing I know is that writing would sure be easy if you went up in a barn with a quart of whiskey and wrote five thousand words on a good day without syntax."

I love it!!