Monday, January 13, 2003

Acme Magic Election Winning Card
Surprise, surprise, latest polls (Hebrew) show Likud is back up to 32-33 mandates (seats in the Knesset), following Sharon’s infamous press conference, while Labor is back down to 20. The shocked Labor party (I warned them not to be too jubilant, but would they listen?) has announced drastic measures. They’re apparently considering emphasizing Sharon’s advanced age, for one thing (It’s like a cartoon race, with each team trying to think of the most diabolical plans to stop the other team from winning). Sounds like ageism to me. Maybe they were just having a bit of fun during a boring meeting. Their real ace is their apparent decision to announce that they will not be partner in a coalition with the Likud (Hebrew). Don’t laugh, they are really really desperate. They’re running out of ideas.

Seriously though, this is rather worrying, although it is not inconsistent with what Mitzna has been saying all along. How this is meant to attract voters from the center beats me. A TV analyst explained that it isn’t. The idea is apparently to move (further) left and try to get at Meretz voters. Haaretz says more or less the same thing. Sounds a lot like doomsday tactics to me. Yossi Sarid is probably apoplectic.

But I just don't get it. Even if they manage to schlep some votes off Meretz and the Arab parties and somehow win, who do they create a coalition with exactly? I can feel old fuzzy brain taking over here. This is way too complex for me.

Last week, when Labor was up to 24 and Likud was down to 27 according to one poll Shinui was getting 17mandates. This seems to have grabbed the imagination of a few journalists who have been fantasizing about Tommy Lapid as Prime Minister. Gil (still on his break) sent me this Hebrew Ynet article that suggest that all it would take would be 7 seats, 5 from the Likud and 2 from Labor and for Tommy Lapid to announce that he sees himself as a candidate for prime minister. Haaretz offers an interesting idea:“Even though the polls give Shinui at least 17 seats, they (Shinui) are refusing to consider that a tie between Likud and Labor could force President Moshe Katsav to ask Shinui leader Yosef Lapid to form a coalition. "We aren't that megalomaniac," says Paritzky, "though I think there was such a case in Italy once."” (Emphasis is mine)

Shinui hasn’t dropped in the most recent polls, but I must admit that the chances of all this happening are slim. They were slim last week and they are even slimmer this week. But still, the idea of breaking the monopoly of the Likud and Labor as the two big parties is deliciously tempting.

One day, I daydream, when we have peace (Why are you laughing? is this such a farfetched idea?), the electorate could see the current large parties as irrelevant. Maybe in that faraway, magical kingdom (of Peace), right and left will assume their natural form on the continuum of economic ideologies and not solely on that of hawk-dove. The party with the left-wing economic agenda may be a descendant of Meretz, whereas the party with the right-wing economic agenda could be a descendant of Shinui.

Will there be room for a large Sephardi protest movement? What will the percentage of the ultra-religious be and how will they affect this picture? Who knows? It's only a fantasy anyway. The spell will soon break and we'll be thrown back into reality with a bump. Back to a seemingly hopeless and endless war with the Palestinians. Back to the Likud with its influential criminals, vote buying and shady financing and back to Labor with its just as influential criminals (even if they’re probably not as open about it as they would be if they were in the Likud), vote buying and shady financing (all maybe less overt and hardly covered by the media, but there nonetheless).

When will we be a normal country? Someone asks. We already are, I answer. This is normal. What you dream of as normal - that's a fantasy, an illusion. It doesn't exist. "Normal" countries have their problems too. As Jennifer wrote to me recently: “.... I hate election-time.... but makes me warm and fuzzy to know that you all have to put up with the same %&*$ we do....”. Nowhere is perfect. At least this nook of the woods, with all its imperfections and problems, is ours.