Israelis will be voting tomorrow for a new Knesset. Editorials in newspapers like Haaretz have urged Israelis to vote. Friends in Israel who share my politics are urging in their Facebook and Twitter accounts that their followers not give up on the system. That they not let the bad guys triumph. I sympathize. I really do.
But believe me, there’s very little of interest that will happen later today. The right will get stronger. Though Likud-Beitenu, the freakish hybrid created by the shotgun-marriage of Bibi’s Likud and Yvet’s Yisrael Beitenu, is polling only 32 seats, Naftali Bennett’s even farther-right HaBayit HaYehudi is polling around 14 seats. These extreme ultra-nationalists will have no problem cobbling together a governing coalition. The only question is whether Yvet will take foreign minister or defense (after he clears up a little matter of a pending indictment for corruption).
The center-left will continue its irrelevance. Kadima will likely disappear or harvest a pair of seats (parties must poll a minimum of 2% of the vote, which entitles them to two seats). Labor will return to being a somewhat viable opposition from its weak showing under the chairmanship of Ehud Barak. Meretz will remain virtually the same. The Palestinian parties may overall gain a seat. The center-left will be marginally weaker than they were in the previous Knesset, where they were almost unheard.
But what does the average Israeli have to show for any of it? Which party will change anything in any substantial way? Yes, a few may nibble around the edges and reform a bit here or there. But none have any vision for the type of wholesale reform that’s needed to transform Israel into a true democracy and realize a vision of social justice of the sort promulgated by the J14 movement two summers ago.
There is one party, which I’ve written about, that promises to rock the boat in a creative and disruptive way: Eretz Chadasha. It’s founder, Eldad Yaniv, though almost completely shut out by the Israeli media, has produced a series of ten videos called The Method. They explain to the average Israeli viewer the corruption endemic to Israeli society. They name names of some of the most powerful oligarchs who run Israel’s major banks, media outlets and corporations. Yaniv, who’s no leftist bomb-thrower, having worked as a political consultant for various Likud politicians including Bibi himself, knows whereof he speaks. He knows where the bodies are buried and is willing to show you.
Until now, Israel’s media and competing parties ignored Yaniv. This was a sign that he wasn’t polling high enough to endanger them. But in the past few days, a number of liberal columnists and politicians have begun an attack (Hebrew) against the Party and its founder, warning voters not to waste their mandate on a movement that will never cross the threshold and carry enough votes to enter the Knesset.
A high-level confidential source informs me that Eretz Chadasha is now polling enough to gain two seats in the Knesset. The poll was conducted not by that party, but by one of its competitors who stand to lose if Yaniv enters parliament. If your opponent is saying you’re going to win, you know you’ve been successful. Yaniv can take pride that he’s persuaded Israelis truly looking for an alternative to the banality of conventional politics to support him.
My next prediction is that if Yaniv truly becomes the MK he has vowed to be and rocks the boat at every opportunity in the tradition of hellraising Knesset members of the past like Uri Avnery and Abie Natan, that the government will open an investigation into his affairs. He’ll be hauled up on charges, raked over the coals. His popularity will plummet and he’ll be neutered. The powerful own not just the means of production, but the means of policing and judging. They will not suffer a newcomer who threatens their wealth or power.
There is of course a chance that Yaniv will squander his mandate to raise hell in Knesset and fail to represent his voters. Many before him who promised great things have done so. But my hope is that he will turn into a social justice version of Uri Avnery and embarrass the hell out of ’em.
My only criticism of Yaniv is that he’s a one-issue candidate. That issue, corruption and economic inequality, is a huge one in Israel. But there is an equally important and compelling one: the Occupation. On this issue, Yaniv has little to say, which may reflect his Likud roots.