Wednesday 17 October 2012

Israeli Elections: A Guide to the Befuddled

Voters in Israel will be heading for the ballot boxes in January 2013, and clearly someone needs to explain the confusing array of politicians and parties who are competing in the elections. This I am happy to do.
Warning: The article below expresses the sole opinion of the author and in no way should be taken as a recommendation, a hint, a slight suggestion, or even a dare, to vote for one particular party or individual or vice versa or even viva voce. Politics is a serious matter, and should not be taken lightly. (A well-known academic, who shall remain nameless, once accepted a political dare as a joke whilst drunk at a party in Jerusalem and ended up as finance minister for the past four years. What do we learn from this? Don't play with politics, drink sensibly, and be careful what parties you go to).

Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud Party). Front runner in the polls. Not to be confused with his much younger and immature twin brother, Bibi Netanyahu (prime minister from some time way back for about three very long years). Benjamin Netanyahu, learning from Bibi's mistakes, has been, in the words of a wily political commentator, "one of the finest prime ministers Israel has seen since 2009". His achievements have been both legendary and anecdotal, his anecdotes have achieved a great deal, and his legends have been stuff of anecdotes. Recognizing how stability is held dear by many in Israel, he has staunchly defended the status quo, and indeed, throughout his term of office, he has managed to keep the same hairdo, the same name, the same marriage, many of the same friends, the same coalition (except for the parties that left and others that joined), and the same currency (for which he has won praise, and not a little envy, from many of his European peers). In the past four years Israel has consistently kept her geographic position, the same Mediterranean climate, as well as her participatory-but-non-victorious role in the Eurovision Song Contest. Many commentators put Likud as the winner in the January elections, and judging by his smirk, Netanyahu concurs with this.

Shelley Yachimovich (Labor Bleedinghearty Party). Yachimovich, a former journalist and abrasive radio anchor, became leader of the beleaguered Labor Party in 2011, after then leader Ehud Barak left (unilaterally, in the dead of night, allegedly taking the list of members and keys to the herbal tea cupboard with him). Yachimovich, an active social rights campaigner, won the leadership contest in a close-fought battle against Amir Peretz, trade unionist and binocular salesman, with only four and a half votes between the two. Peretz and Yachimovich had previously been very chummy, at one time allegedly planning to open a hair-salon-cum-moustache-trimming business together in Sderot. Knesset shenanigans since then have made the Labor Party the largest outside of the governing coalition, and hence turned Yachimovich into the official Leader of the Opposition, which is apt as she opposes almost anything you care to suggest. 

Some have suggested that Israel move toward the Julius Caeser Transferable Vote System, where the election results are clear cut and decisive (but often messy)
Ehud Barak (Labour Party, Someotherthingy Party). Former Chief of Staff of Israel's defense forces, and prime minister. Once lived on the 35th floor of an exclusive luxury block of flats in downtown Tel Aviv, though following the wave of social protests, he has since moved down to the 21st floor so that he can have a closer look at the troubles that beset the proverbial 'man on the street'. With this type of bonhomie, and rapport with the common man, Barak has charmed so many people as he passes through politics from party to party, winning popularity before moving on, and winning hearts again and again. Now leader of the… wait a minute I had it written down somewhere… I can't remember, anyway, definitely the leader of a new Party, and likely to remain as leader well into January. The party itself will probably win a few votes, though would probably win more if I could only remember what it's called.

Ehud-is that brown envelope for me thanks just put it on the pile with the others-Olmert. (Kadima, Likud). Former prime minister and mayor of Jerusalem, one time small-town lawyer. He recently trounced the evil State Attorney's Office in court, being declared Absolutely Not Guilty of several nasty malicious allegations thrown at him, and for which he had to step down as Prime Minister in order to cook up a good story, sorry, I mean, in order to defend his innocence. Though he was found guilty on the minor charges of doodling on state-owned headed paper without permission and posing as an honest politician, there are many calls for Olmert to return to the political fray. Olmert has been widely acclaimed as a fine administrator (since his stint as PM all files in government are now stored alphabetically, and are also colour coded), and praised for his loose political leanings, and agile party maneuverability, which allowed him to push through plenty of achievements whilst in office. Finance is not his strong suit though: Olmert drove Jerusalem to bankruptcy whilst mayor, and was on his way to doing the same to the country, before he stepped down as PM early in 2009. Apparently Olmert is keen to get back to the Prime Minister's Office (though this may be because he believes there's a brown envelope left in one of the drawers marked Holiday Snaps by Rishon Tours Photo Services.)

There now, that should help.

Disclaimer: All of the above was correct at the time of publication, but may be subject to changes at any moment due to Middle East idiosyncrasies. Indeed, just as I finished typing the previous sentence, 85% of the above article became obsolete. Management apologises for any inconvenience.

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