There’s hardly a better, more cynical analysis of political power relationships than the Who lyric, Won’t Get Fooled Again, which closes with the words: “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” That’s about the size of today’s announcement that Bibi Netanyahu has called new elections for three months from now. Ostensibly, the reason was that none of his coalition partners could agree on how much political patronage money and legal graft they would allot each other (i.e. they couldn’t pass a budget).
But Bibi always has his reasons for doing things that aren’t apparent to the naked eye. For certain, there is no real leader of the Opposition, thereby no political threat. That makes this as good a time as any. He may’ve possibly worried that the resolution of Ehud Olmert’s legal woes (by no means a given) would allow him to make a run at the prime ministership under the banner of the Kadima party he once led.
The biggest gainer from this aside from Netanyahu will be Shelly Yachimovitch’s Labor Party, whose representation should rise dramatically. The only problem is that even an exponential improvement for Labor won’t put a dent in the far right domination of Israeli electoral politics.
The latest Globes poll says Likud will pick up one seat (to 28), as will Yisrael Beitenu. Kadima will fall from 28 to 4. Its seats will move to Labor, rising from 9 to 18 and TV personality Yair Lapid’s new party, Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) will garner 11 seats. Ironcially, Lapid’s ostensibly centrist party has no future, as all such celebrity-driven parties have died after one election cycle. Barak’s Independence Party will fall from 5 to 2. It should be said that Israeli election polls are notoriously fickle and changeable. Results on election night could look different. But the overall calculus will not change. A far-right firmly in control of Israel will become even more entrenched.
As I’ve written here all too often, Israeli party politics are a sham. The Knesset is a showcase for the nitwits and fools of the ultra-nationalist camp. Those in the center or on the left are at most comic jesters who get to comment, as Lear’s Fool, knowingly and ironically on the action. Almost all the business of state is transacted behind closed and not so closed doors, and involve Bibi and a few senior ministers. They make the most critical economic, domestic and foreign policy decisions, which are then dutifully ratified by the Knesset automatons. The über-right has its hands on all the major levers of power. There is no party or person who can gainsay them.
Unlike in this country, there is no separation of powers, so the Supreme Court cannot apply a meaningful brake to the most outrageous behavior of the other branch (the Knesset and cabinet).
If you read the lyrics of that Who song again you’ll see that they apply remarkably well to Israel’s predicament. All of us had such high hopes for a democratic Israel just as the narrator of the song celebrates his “revolution” and “new constitution.” But we’ve all been fooled one too many times. Which leaves anyone who cares about Israel in the direst of straits facing another four years of Bibi at the helm.
Sorry Richard, but there IS separation of powers in Israel.
The High Court has power to overturn laws and to rule on anything it seems fit including government decisions. It is just about the last brake there is on the left of centre, much to the anger of the right and Bibi.
I agree on the rest of the article, but I think you’re wrong on the constitutional point here.
Richard Silverstein says
It may have the power of review but its rulings are often disregarded by key state institutions. That renders it at best an imperfect instrument, at worst toothless. A true separation of powers would guarantee that the Court’s rulings would always be honored in a timely way. Israel doesn’t have such a system–yet.
This isn’t a blog, it’s a rant and an inaccurate one at that. First, there is a clear separation of power between the government and supreme court in Israel, which has over the years demonstrated its independence many times. Obviously you consider the majority of Israelis to be idiots for voting for parties you don’t agree with…in fact you consider lots of people to be fools, but reading this over the top, uninformed and biased rant, full of personal attacks against people rather than statements, the only fool in the room is you.
Richard Silverstein says
Separation of powers indicates that the Supreme Court has power to rein in the Knesset and key national institutions like the army and intelligence services. Since there is no such concept as precedent and the Court does not have the power to review or strike down unconstitutional laws (there is no constitution), the Court is essentially toothless, unless those institutions are willing to abide by its rulings. Clearly, the security services often are not.
Our Supreme Court doesn’t demonstrate its independence “many times.” It demonstrates it every time it makes a ruling (with the exception of Bush v Gore). Israel’s Supreme Court has made some courageous rulings. Many of them aren’t honored. I could list many such decisions & you know it. So stop prattling about what you think you know when you know precious little.
As for being a fool–the only fool I see here is you. The next time you use such language here you’ll be moderated.
Jay Green says
‘the Court is essentially toothless’
Absolute nonsense. Israel has a series of ‘Basic Laws’ from which the court draws legal justification to overrule the Knesset and other bodies. The absence of a constitution does not render the court ‘toothless’. One such example is the court’s decision to disallow the establishment of private prisons, under the claim that rehabilitation of inmates is not a matter for private business. Just one example out of many.
By the way, Richard, do you read any Israeli daily newspapers?
Funny, there are lots of examples where the rulings of the hight court in Israel are simply ignored. Anat Kamm pointed one of them out… and as a thank you she is now in prison. But you don’t care.
That’s the damned thing about democracy…..people get to vote for who they want.
As I’ve written here all too often, Israeli party politics are a sham. The Knesset is a showcase for the nitwits and fools of the ultra-nationalist camp
So how do you explain that most Israelis don’t think like the “progressives” and vote the way they want?
The Mighty Cynic says
Netanyahu is doing a great job for the cause of truth and justice. As the poster boy for dishonesty, so long as Israel has him at its helm, it is toothless and accountable before the world for much of its wrongs. This is not to say he isn’t a mad man that everyone should stop appeasing — he is.
He will start World War III and have it fought with all of our blood and not a drop of his own. If Israel has no other political leaders when this one has designs to annihilate Israel from the map then Israel is a sham democracy.