The 2019 Cynics Guide to the Elections II: The Benjamins Strike Back
So here we are, It’s election day.
I don’t think it took much to be a cynic about this second electoral go-around; not much has changed, neither the candidates, their positions, nor their promises never to sit with someone in whatever coalition might get slapped together. I could give you the rundown of the parties but I did that last time and once again, to borrow a phrase from the junior Congresswoman from Minnesota: It’s all about the Benjamins.
Having to vote again so soon feels a lot like getting a call from your doctor explaining that they have to redo your colonoscopy because they forgot to hit record the first time.
On the one hand, we have Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu who recently achieved the title of longest-serving Israeli Prime Minister. Although, just like a Colonoscopy, longer isn’t always better. He has campaigned on his usual mainstays of security and paranoia and shaking hands with Donald Trump a lot. Taking a page out of the US President’s book he has really ramped up the paranoia part in the final stretch towards the election. He has gone all out in trying to convince Israelis that he’s the only one who stands between them and various doom and gloom scenarios like the Iranians attacking or too many Arabs voting…or something that gives both him and Donald Trump nightmares.
This election is especially important to him since not only is he fighting for his political life but also fighting to avoid possible jail time. Bibi may either continue his unprecedented run as PM or join a wholly precedented tradition of Israeli politicians of going to jail for corruption.
On the other hand, is Benjamin (Benny) Gantz. He’s the leader of the Israeli resilience party and co-leader of the Blue and White Bloc along with Yesh Atid’s Lapid. Although they are leading the left-wing charge to evict Bibi from the PM’s residence, there is not much to distinguish his party or their positions from some of those of the center-right. Just like in April he is essentially running on a platform of: “Benjamin without the Bibi”. Gantz is campaigning on the fact that he also cares about Israeli security, has fewer pictures with Donald Trump, and European leaders might be willing to take his calls.
If the last few years have shown us anything it’s that you’d be silly to use polling as anything other than a loose guideline, but barring a Trumpian sized upset it is likely that Israel will wake up on Wednesday morning to find that Bibi has the best shot of forming a coalition.
Both Bibi’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White coalition have been neck in the polls although it is likely that the right-wing block will be larger than the left-wing block. The big winner could be Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party, who refused to help Bibi round out a coalition the last go-around is expected to even pick up a few seats crowning him kingmaker of the next coalition.
Once the waking nightmare of perpetual elections is over, we’ll move onto the waking nightmare of coalition talks. Enough parties have promised not to sit with enough other parties that either someone will be made a liar (shocking I know) or we will, God help us, have to vote again.
At the end of the day, the problem is standing in the voting booth and surveying my options I feel like I'm in the back row of a yoga class at a nudist colony: The only thing I can see are assholes. This entire song and dance have left Israel without a government that can make major policy decisions, but with a government made up of MKs that are still getting their salaries.
If only I could do my job so poorly and get paid so well.
It’s hard to determine who will actually win these elections, but It’s safe to say that having had to spend 500 million Shekels on two elections and an estimated loss of 5 billion in productivity and vacation pay, it’s the Israeli public that loses.