I begin this post on a Sunday afternoon. I will probably complete it later in the week if and when the Knesset decides whether it should dissolve itself automatically or just hang in there until the next “crisis” is artificially concocted by our so-called elected “representatives”.
The current predicament has been produced by the fact that if a budget is not approved by tomorrow (Monday) at midnight, the Knesset automatically dissolves, presaging new elections. How has such a situation come about? After all, a coalition agreement had been signed just a few months ago, following the last election in March (the third in 11 months), and which stated categorically that the budget would be two-year budget, something that the current Prime Minister has pushed for and supported for the past decade or more.
However, suddenly, it seems, he’s changed his mind. What ever could have brought about such an aberration? The largest party in the coalition (after Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud) is Blue-White, which is led (sort of) by Mr. Gantz, signed a coalition agreement and is insisting that the agreement it signed (somewhat naïvely, it would seem now, in good faith???) must be upheld; the Prime Minister’s party is equally adamant that if the Knesset refuses to pass a one-year budget, so be it. On the basis of past “zero hours” in Israeli politics, the likelihood is that about 11.45 p.m. on Monday night, some temporary solution will be found and the crisis will be transmogrified from being acute to one that is ongoing, i.e., until the cycle of lying is has been completed and the scenario repeats itself in a few weeks time.
Could all this somehow be related to the fact that the agreement also contains a clause in which the current Prime Minister (Mr. Netanyahu) and the “alternate” Prime Minister, (Mr. Gantz), agreed to swap jobs a year and half into the life of the current parliament and that once he ceases to be Prime Minister and becomes another minister, however exalted and experienced he may be, he will by law have to resign from the government and thus the last glimmer of hope that he might escape justice by avoiding a trial might be extinguished? Well, on the basis of past events related to Bibi, perhaps so.
Much of all this nonsense is related to the Israeli electoral system. I might have mentioned in an earlier post that, cynic as I am, I believe that the vast majority of the 120 Knesset members represent nobody but themselves, least of all the voters, people the likes of which they never have to face on a personal level.
It used to be asked of the late Ariel Sharon, a former Israeli Prime Minister, how one could tell when he was lying, the answer being, of course, “as soon as his mouth was open”. With the current Prime Minister and Prime Ministerial wannabes during Coronatimes, now that they all wear masks, it has become more difficult to determine when the untruths begin.
This is because the electoral system Israel uses continues that employed by the voluntary institutions of the Jewish community under the British Mandate in Palestine in which the extreme proportional system of representation served as a guarantee of cooperation between different political parties. Parties taking part in those voluntary general elections, held before the establishment of the state, were rewarded after each election by receiving a share of the resources (such as British governmental immigration certificates), approximating to the proportion of the valid votes they received so that even some small dogmatic parties cooperated with one another of their own volition.
The roots of the Israeli electoral system, like many other aspects of Israeli society, go back to Central and Eastern Europe in the early years of the twentieth century when the political traditions stressed an “effervescence” of many parties with a broad range among them, stretching from communism to fascism and everything in between. The politics of the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine, following the tradition of the early Zionist movement reflected this pluralism.
So in order to ensure that all opinions, including minority ones, would be guaranteed expression, representative bodies were elected under a proportional system in which each party had a number of representatives in exact proportion to the number of votes cast for that party so that even parties garnering as little as 1 percent of the total votes would have a voice. This was adopted when Israel gained independence and so it has continued, with just minor changes so that today’s Knesset reflects the heterogeneous population and a multi-party tradition and the only thing that has really changed is that the very low threshold for representation (1%) has risen (to 3.33%).
The “list system” used by Israel is shared with the Netherlands and perhaps some other countries of which I am only vaguely aware. In other words, when we vote, we do not vote for a candidate representing a party but for a party alone. If the people on the party list owe allegiance to anybody, then it’s to the paid-up party members who “decide” if they get on to the list in the first place and if so, where they end up on that list. But unlike the Dutch, we don’t even have the privilege of “promoting” or “demoting” candidates on the list we choose. It’s a take it or leave it situation — which means that elected members never have to come face to face with the voters at large, something which contributes to the fluidity that comes into being as soon as an election is over, with people switching allegiances as soon as they’re rid of the voters. This is about as far away as one can get from what the electorate in the USA or the UK are familiar with.
Not that any electoral system is perfect. Even Boris Johnson’s landslide victory in the UK last December, in which the Conservatives won 56% of the seats, was achieved with less than 44% of the popular vote. In the USA, despite Donald Trump’s claims otherwise, Hillary Clinton won 48% of the popular vote to Trump’s 46%. But in both the UK and USA, elected members of parliament or Congress have to go back and face their voters whereas in Israel, voters and their “elected representatives” are that much further removed from one another.
Add to this the fact that Israel has no such thing as postal voting or an absentee ballot — one can only vote in person at the polling booth designated by the address that appears in one’s ID card and the lunacy of calling a fourth election just a few months after the last one, in the midst of coronavirus restrictions seems even madder than it might otherwise appear. And, as I’ve already mentioned, I believe that the vast majority of Knesset members really represent nobody but themselves, the voters being little more than irritating appendages.
Anyway, it’s now Tuesday morning, a couple of days after I started this post and it would appear that I was a little out in my estimate of timing because two hours before the deadline the Knesset approved legislation that would extend it the day by which the budget is to be passed by 120 days. The Prime Minister had appeared on television on Sunday night to announce that he was ready to compromise (a performance that I didn’t bother to watch, preferring the highlights of the cricket match between England and Pakistan, something more exciting and less predictable than another Bibi show). The televised discussion of the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday afternoon had all the value of a circus show with a superabundance of clowns in action.
And the Prime Minister’s words yesterday evening that this is a time for unity and not one for sowing hatred wouldn’t even make it on to a list of the thousand worst jokes told in the last year. Currently reading Julian Jackson’s book A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle, I came across a sentence that might be appropriate here. It refers to the extreme-right-wing writer Charles Maurras, whose newspaper Action française was dedicated to opposing France’s parliamentary Republic. ‘He created for himself a world into which his deafness had imprisoned him. Perhaps that is an explanation for the final aberrations of this solitary individual, who was cut off from the world and because of this became unhinged.’
Enough! Quite some rant!
Tel Aviv Municipality has taken to reminding people how they can break the chain of infection — wear a mask, maintain a distance from others of at least 2 metres and be diligent to maintain hygiene, all accompanied by the slogan “The return to normality is in your hands”.
But not everyone is in agreement that masks help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. The label at the bottom of the picture below taken in the Yarqon Park the other day informs us that masks do no more than defraud the public.
And not far away the birds enjoy their hebdomadary Sunday feast day before the spoilsport cleaner outs an end to it all!
So they might as well vent their anger on parked cars!
On my way home from my morning walk, I found the footpaths littered with yellow notices. Curious as to what they might be, I decided to have a look and discovered that for 100 shekels (about $28 or £23) I can be 2 grams of marijuana. However, I have to be over 18 and must order via WhatsApp. Delivery is apparently free.
After use, you might need to use one of these!
And just after I took this photograph of these vehicles of mass annoyance, which, once used, can be (and are) dumped anywhere being returned to their “official” parking places …
… I espied the latest in summer maternity wear walking along the opposite side of the street.
And one day last week I strayed and crossed the Ayalon “river”. The valley of the Ayalon was mentioned in the Book of Joshua where Joshua defeated five Amorite kings, asking the Lord to lengthen the day by uttering the command: “Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ayalon”. God seemingly acceded to this request. These days, the Ayalon is a more mundane thing, with the northbound freeway on the left, the southbound on the right, the railway in the middle and the piddly little Ayalon alongside.
And I couldn’t resist taking this tempting photo in the park of a man awaiting his fate!
And to end with, three images I came across yesterday while looking for something I thought I had photographed but, as usual, I couldn’t find.