Olmert and Peres – election campaign devoid of excitement
Photo: Yaron Brenner
Those were the elections we didn't feel. Elections, by their very nature, are an emotional matter. You hate someone, you admire someone else, there will always be the one who frightens you, and the one you sympathize with but won't vote for, because what's the point.
Only this time, emotions were cast aside. Activists belonging to the various parties are politely standing next to each other at intersections, not bothering to wave their signs. In a little while they will move to the side and drink tea together. Would you like some lemon, Mr. Kadima? With sugar, Mr. Likud? Tell the kid from Meretz to come quickly, so the tea doesn’t get cold.
Not even one moment will be etched into our collective memory. There is nothing similar to former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, his throat dry as he delivers a famous speech, or other notable speeches, or tomatoes flying in the direction of Shimon Peres.
How can you compare the takeover of the Jericho prison to the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor right before the 1981 elections? They're not even in the same league. Those were elections without a debate, without one decent speech, without violence and devoid of hate, or love.
Kadima's certain victory may be part of the story, but certainly not the entire story. We already had large gaps in previous elections, yet this did not stop chairs from flying in the air.
One can support Olmert or oppose him, but he simply does not get the juices flowing the way his predecessors did. Whoever votes for Kadima on Election Day will do so because he believes in Olmert's management and navigation skills, not because he is one of the people whose picture you put in your wallet.
In the current Israeli reality, this is not necessarily a minus.
Healthy reaction to unhealthy situation
As opposed to what is fashionable to be saying these days, this is not boredom, but rather, a healthy reaction to an unhealthy situation. Past elections, replete with emotions and fury, stemmed from a sort of self confidence. It was a war among brothers that is the furthest thing possible from a civil war.
All of us knew that a day after we hit the polls, foes will again live side by side. Israel 2006 lost this confidence. The Left learned the lesson with the Rabin assassination, while the Right learned it during the disengagement. All of us know today that we must handle our split, wounded society with care.
Nothing is taken for granted when it comes to our internal cohesion. It is akin to a shaky stock, which may plummet at any moment.
Our politicians, whose seismographic skills are beyond doubt, quickly realized this tendency. In my television show two weeks ago, Labor party leader Amir Peretz and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu sat side by side and pleasantly complimented each other. Ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told me, after he formed Kadima, that in his view Netanyahu was an excellent finance minister. Rightist stalwart Avigdor Lieberman does not disqualify anyone and finds it important to note leftist leader Yossi Beilin and him are good friends.
Even Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosaf, who can usually be counted to deliever, refrained from referring to anyone as a blind goat this time around.
New existential threat
Journalism students always learn that the way to a good story is to "look for the angry man." If you find him, he will bring the details with him. Yet in these elections, nobody seems to be angry.
As opposed to the norm, as the elections date approaches, the rhetoric is quieting down. Peretz no longer delivers speeches against the wealthy, BIbi mostly whines about the media, and had silence been an Olympic sport, Olmert would be winning a medal.
Our national instinct – an institution every Israeli has learned to respect – directed us to cast our emotions aside this time around. As always, we cling to each other in the face of the common threat.
Yet this time, the threat is not Arafat, or Hamas, or the Iranians. The thing that scares us more than anything is that we will crumble. That we will turn into a random collection of interest groups that are bound by nothing.
The religious youngster who announced that he "doesn't intend to join the IDF," just like the leftist anarchist who hurls stones at Border Guard police officers, are the real existential threat.
When you look at them, you realize the time has come to put away the fury along with the glory. They will make a return at some point, but in these elections Israelis will vote in favor of Israelism.