עינב שיף
Einav Schiff
Photo: Nimrod Saunders
Anti-government protesters in Jerusalem carry caricatures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz

Israel's voters have a very short memory

Opinion: One would expect the upcoming elections, if they happen, to hold to account those responsible for health, economic and political crises in the country, in particular the person who acts out of his own interests, but history shows this is not the case

Einav Schiff |
Published: 08.10.20 , 15:25
The collapse of the Israeli political system - specifically the transformation of the elections from an event that celebrates democracy to nothing more than a series of sporadic childish tantrums – has birthed a widespread fixation with what is known as the blame game.
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  • In various surveys, the general public is asked to determine whose fault it is that the country is heading into yet another round of elections. It is then up to the politicians and pundits to draw their own conclusions from the d.
    ההפגנה בבלפורההפגנה בבלפור
    Anti-government protesters in Jerusalem carry caricatures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The first of these conclusions is a popular cliché that the public does not forgive the person dragging the country into fresh elections.
    This proves that there are those who can look back, see the data and still lack the capacity to reach the true conclusion of who is responsible.
    In 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismantled a coalition that was not even two years old, based on a series of sorry excuses. It was later discovered that the true reason was actually a row over a newspaper.
    בנימין נתניהו מצביע בקלפי בירושליםבנימין נתניהו מצביע בקלפי בירושלים
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu casting his vote in Jerusalem in the March 2020 elections
    (Photo: AP)
    Fast forward just a few years and Netanyahu found himself with a pile of legal problems that sent Israel into the political turmoil in which we are still stuck.
    The person who emerges unscathed from the blame game is clear each time, but it appears there is no link between who is responsible and who gets re-elected.
    The Israeli public not only forgives, it also forgets. Some might say pretty quickly too. The public of course has every right to do so.
    There is also no basis to the theory that the person who wins the threatened upcoming elections will be the one who the public believes is best equipped to fight the coronavirus crisis.
    If true, this theory could harm Netanyahu - given the high infection rates across the country, the soaring unemployment and the daily anti-government protests.
    הפגנה נגד בנימין נתניהו ב מעון ראש הממשלה ב ירושלים מעצרים עצוריםהפגנה נגד בנימין נתניהו ב מעון ראש הממשלה ב ירושלים מעצרים עצורים
    Police officers and protesters clash at a demonstration in front of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Reuters)
    After all, it would be reasonable to assume that the country's unprecedented health and economic crises - both of which are going nowhere for the time being - would be a major factor in the elections.
    But Israeli elections, just like the twisted way in which they are covered by the media, tend to be all about political alliances, who will sit with whom, who hates whom, and the unforgettable leaked recordings.
    The pandemic may be a kind of political hurdle Netanyahu has never faced before. But let us not forget that during the 2015 elections, the 2014 Gaza war was all but forgotten, despite it being far from the best campaign Israel has ever waged.
    During the first of the 2019 elections, the so-called enlistment bill, which stated that ultra-Orthodox youths must enlist in the army, was all but dropped, despite being the very reason the government had fallen.
    הפגנת החרדים נגד מעצר תלמיד הישיבה שסרב להתגייסהפגנת החרדים נגד מעצר תלמיד הישיבה שסרב להתגייס
    Young Haredi men protest in Jerusalem over the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox man who refused to enlist for national service
    (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
    There has always been one person who dictated the agenda and that is Netanyahu. He is the one who the polls show will be seen as the culprit if we reach August 25 without a budget, three months after the emergency government was formed.
    Netanyahu's machine is only getting more sophisticated. And he is not expected to lose his grip on politics this time either.
    So what if there is a coronavirus pandemic? Election campaigns can be steered to other topics, such as the legal system, the media, the Arab sector, the protests, Martians, time-travelers and anything and everything under the sun.
    Because in the end, the blame game is just a game.
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