Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Home and Away

Home advantage is a huge factor in any arena. The crowd, stadium familiarity and so on. Ask the Kiwi cricket team - they can tell you what a hoodoo it can put on your play.

Now ask Ariel Sharon how things are going on the home front. No matter how many innings he has played and how many times he has walked out onto the pitch, there is currently no real advantage for him to play at home in Israel. In honesty, he probably, for the first time in decades, would rather be strolling down the corridors of the United Nations. Yes indeed, this government's form overseas is comfortable for the fans and in stark contrast to the lowly performances on home soil.

If Israel was an international sports team on tour, they would be quite enjoying the fixtures of late. Following on from a well-received ground (maybe heart) breaking Sharon speech from the UN pulpit, we have watched Israeli representatives rise to leadership roles in UN organizations. Iran has been widely condemned for its world map reconstruction addiction, Syria continues to spank itself repeatedly even in the the face of a unanimous (thought slightly toothless) UN Security Council resolution and today the word on the street is that an official UN Holocaust Day is set to be placed in stone.

All in all then, a grand way to spend the last rays of summer for Sharon - basking in the slip-ups of Israel's neighbors and bathing in the delights of what appears to be some healthy diplomatic spin-offs from disengagement. Sure, not all of these things are thanks in any part to Israel, but nonetheless they do strengthen the sense that changes in the world are set to continue.

Back home then though... and the last rays burn and Sharon is close to drowning in his own bath water. (Keep in mind that we have said that before and yet he's always found an emergency snorkel to get some extra air into his long-lasting political lungs). Still, the challenges are great and they go well beyond the efforts of Palestinians to get Israeli streets back on CNN Breaking News.

Unable to get his own Likud MKs to turn up for drinkies at the start of the winter Knesset session, Sharon has now postponed the Knesset vote that is supposed to approve 2 new Ministers and Olmert as Finance Minister. This Prime Minister who we are told has large support nationwide appears unable to pass important laws through the Knesset. In any normal democracy (oxymoron?) and such being the case, one would have to put a shekel on elections climbing over the horizon much sooner than we would have hoped.

Friends, it's no secret that there's something wrong with the electoral system that causes this instability. Five (maybe six) Prime Ministers and five (maybe six) elections in ten years. What does that tell you? Too many parties? Too lower threshold for a party's entry to the Knesset? Yes of course but also some quite incredibly controversial dilemmas that Israeli leaders (more than others) are faced with every morning. The challenge is to balance the desires of as many of the factions as possible. It might well be that Sharon has come to a dead end in that respect - even more so within his own party... (but the fat lady is nowhere in sight so don't put a shekel on anything yet!)

Still home is where the heart is so it's only right to end with a few positives. First, what a nice initiative - a virtual Ulpan class is set to hit our living rooms shortly. Nice! Not a moment too soon either.

And lastly, a heart-breaking, heart-warming story of ultimate belief, courage and commitment to life here in the Jewish homeland. David Hatuel, whose 4 children and pregnant were murdered by Palestinians has found the strength to move on - away from tragedy and home to new love where his lost loved ones will remain with him in spirit.
What an example for all of us. Makes you think twice about ever opening one's mouth to complain or bemoan the difficulties of life in Israel.
Mazal Tov!


Ittay said...

how would isrealis react to increasing the knesset threshold to 10 seats. I think its a great idea. You would have labour, likud, one religious and one arab party. Would it be more workable?

Michael Lawrence said...

Ittay - here is where the difficulties begin. Reducing the Knesset to so few parties would really be non-representative of the wide range of people in Israel. Example - if I am a Religious Zionist and the only reli party is chareidi and non-Zionist, who do I vote for?
The advantage of many parties is better representation but at the cost of stability.
The threshold works as a percentage and I think maybe 4% might be healthier than the current 2% - you might get 7 or so parties rather than the 12 or so now.
Let me know what you think further on this topic.

ifyouwillit said...

I don't like this system, but I'm a narrow minded Brit that looks up the system I grew up on! Another problem we have here is that we're a country of hot headed Middle Easterns.

Governments can fall, be bought down by the nation or the parties, and a real democracy can lead to early elections (unlike the US model, but we've all seen how that "works").

In a country where the party you vote for could be voting for terror or quiet, everyone wants to get involved, and everyone thinks they know best.

As for the Ulpan TV channel, sounds great. U think they can give you a weekly slot giving an actualia?!

Ittay said...

Perhaps you are right in that increasing the threshold to 10% would go be unfavourable to many. What then about using the Australian model of electorates. Israel could be divided into 120 regions where each would have its own federal member. That way the federal member would be accountable to his/her constituents rather than in the current Israeli system where it is unclear to whom knesset members are answerable.