Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The trouble with Avigdor

...is not that he is a fascist - although there are very good arguments in support of this - but that he is a demagogue and an opportunist and doesn't really stand for anything.


A conversation with an acquaintance, a long term Olah from Europe, this morning.

She - I really hate myself for thinking this, but sometimes I wonder whether Kahane was right

Me - (Jaw slapping against my chin)

She - (hurriedly) Oh, he was an odious man, no mistake about that, but you wouldn't remember just how bad it was in the 90s, with all the suicide bombings and so on. The problem is that the neighbours only respond to force. And that's something that Lieberman understands.

Me - So you agree with Lieberman's motto - 'No Loyalty, No Citizenship?'

She - (shrugging her shoulders) So, do you think that the Arab population of the country do not have any responsibilities towards the state?

I told her that, obviously, all citizens of a state have certain responsibilities that come together with their rights (this is a basic premise of Jusirprudence, but one which many people chose to ignore), but that the position of Israeli Arabs was far more complex than a simple slogan, and that Lieberman carefully avoids engaging with this inconvenient truth.

She - (Arms folded) Like what?

Me - Like the fact that Lieberman's slogan applies, in theory at least, as much to the Haredim as it does to the Aravi'im.

She - Oh...

Me - And, more to the point, Lieberman doesn't seem terribly interested in supporting some of the key pillars of the Hebrew State.

She - Like?

Me - Like civil weddings, for example.

She - Oh...

(She is religious, and believes in preserving the Jewish Character of the State of Israel)

(Digression - On the whole - and I suppose I can say this because I have no emotional or historical connection to Eretz Israel - I don't mind whether Israel is described as the Jewish State, or anything else for that matter: what does matter is how the state treats its minority populations, recognising that they deserve special protection because of their status.)

Me - And soon he'll order all shops to sell Pork on the Shabbat

She - Stop! You're pulling my leg now

On the last point, yes I was. But the trouble is Avigdor is that he is trying hard - too hard - to be all things to all people - the minority Arab population of this country aside, obviously. The parlous relationship between Israel and the neighbours at the moment has opened up a rich mine of anti-Arab sentiment that he is happy to tap into - but the bigger issue, one which I suspect will become exposed pretty soon, is that he doesn't actually have any solutions. This is all well and good when one is in opposition - power without responsibility, and all that - but once he enters government, something that is looking increasingly likely with the split vote betwen the major parties - he will have to either toe the line of the senior party in the governing coalition or, not to put it nicely, excrete where he eats.

The blessing - if there is indeed one - is that I doubt that the next Knesset will be a very long one. It will be impossible, barring a major suprise today, for any one party to build a stable governing coalition (short of the formation of a Unity Government, which I doubt will happen), and when things do begin to fall apart, Avigdor the meddler will certainly be at the centre of things.

Hopefully, that will mean that he will go the same way as The Pensioner's Party, Shinui and all those other surprise packages from past Knessets - into oblivion.


One other thing:

Israel, broadly speaking, is a functional democracy. Democracy isn't perfect - as Churchill put it, it's the worst form of government, except for all the others - but it does try to give everyone a voice in how the country is run.

Sometimes, this means that the country will be run by people with whom one disagrees fundamentally. So be it. That is the way it goes, and one should accept these things with a good grace. If one believes that one's political ideology is the correct one, then the job is to convince others of this fact, rather than to force one's views open them, accuse them of stupidity or worse, or actively seek to subvert that basic principle of one man, one vote.

Do go out today and vote. But use your vote wisely.

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