If you’re old enough to remember the 1976 movie “Network” with Peter Finch and a young, gorgeous Faye Danaway, then you’ll remember the famous quote: ”I’M MAD AS HELL AND I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.”
During Israel’s general elections yesterday, it seems many of the voters have seen the movie, recited the quote or added some original lines of their own.
What’s clear is that it’s no longer business as usual. The people have spoken. For four years they’ve taken the yellow brick lane to the “Promised Land,” only to find a confused man at the switches behind the curtain. Many may say that “There’s no place like home” but half the voting public don’t want the home Netanyahu is offering.
My brush with Israeli politics came in the form of a postcard addressed to me. It said I was now a registered Israeli voter and was told the location of the election booth during election day, yesterday.
I held the card in my hand and didn’t know what to make of it, what to think, what to feel. I’ve been away from Israel for more than 30 years, in America, was glued to issues affecting the U.S. For years I watched Israel from afar, unable to influence the slightest of outcomes.
Now I’ve been given that privilege, duty. With each passing day I learned more about the issues, attended and listened to Yair Lapid last year when he came to Kfar Tavor, my hometown. Friends threw in their two-cents (shekels?) about whom I should vote for. I read articles. Political horse-trading is common here. Israeli parties who hate each other, have opposing world views, and are the strangest of bedfellows will jump into that same bed, will do and say anything — just so they can be IN the ruling government, to get their slice of the bagel.
On election day I took my twin daughters to see me vote. I dropped the envelope in the box. I didn’t feel elated. We went outdoors, sat on a bench, enjoyed the winter sun.
Judging by last night’s results, many are mad as hell. Voters who sat on fence finally came down and voted differently. Netanyahu’s party, the Likud, is still the dominant party, yet it can’t go it alone. He will have to partner with the elections’ upset, the runner-up in the number of votes – Yair Lapid. Lapid has promised to spread the financial and military (read, the draft) burden among all Israelis, including the Orthodox.
This is a wake up call for the Orthodox. They may be down but not out. And it gives them pause. They no longer have the Israeli prime-minster in their back pocket. If they’re not invited to join Netanyahu to form a new government, they’ll sit in the opposition for the next 4 years. They’ll sit (sleep?) with the Labor party, but also with the Israeli-Arab parties. Will they like themselves in the morning. Will they share tables at the Knesset (parliament) lunchroom?
Hummus and lamb kebabs anyone? How about breaded Schnitzel and potatoes?
It’s also a historic opportunity for the Israeli-Arabs in Galilee and in the Negev and in Jerusalem and in Yaffo. They can shed their stereotype as the disadvantaged. They can pull themselves by the galabia belt and tell anyone that would listen that they’re Arab and Moslem (and Christian), but they’re Israeli, that they’ll consider 2 to 3 years of National Service in lieu of military draft. That will go a long way and convincing the Jewish Israelis to trust them.
Time will tell if we’re headed toward peace with the neighboring Arabs, or toward war, or perpetual uncertainty.
If Faye Danaway was running for office, I’d vote for her.
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teen-age daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com or BN.com.