New Politics v. Old Politics

When Prime Minister Netanyahu looks at the results of Israel’s recent election, he sees a different outcome than the voters see, or at least an outcome he is unwilling to live with. The outcome of the elections was clear. Israeli voters voted to change Israeli politics. They voted to put social issues front and center and they voted to bring ideals and respect back to the Knesset. Most importantly, they voted against the politics of divide and conquer that has been the hallmark of the last two decades of Israeli politics.

This clear decision by Israeli voters is at the heart of the “New Politics” coalition of the willing between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet. Lapid and Bennet have seized on this moment in history to attempt to change the political order for good. Together they only control 31 seats in the Knesset, but morally they will impact the fate of many more Knesset members and political parties who do not toe the line of new politics.

Netanyahu, along with the the court jester of Old Politics Natan Eshel, are doing their best to break the back of the new leaders in any way possible. They have pulled all the old politics tricks out of the bag, divide and conquer by offering honor, glory and money (read government ministries). Daily, they attempt to bully Bennet through the press and some Rabbis. They refuse to give up on the trusted partners of Old Politics, the Haredim, who are buyable for money and honor. Netanyahu still prefers to partner with the “Old Hag” of Old Politics, Tzippi Livni, and her own turncoat of many colors Amir Peretz, rather than honor the will of the voters. Netanyahu and Eshel are trying to tempt Shelly Yehimovich into the government or tear apart at least 5 members of the Labor Party, who are still loyalists to the ways of old politics, to join the coalition of the dinosaurs of Old Politics.

But it won’t work. Time is on the side of New Politics. Bibi knows full well, as do Bennet and Lapid, that if elections would be held again today, Lapid would be Prime Minister and Bennet would be his #2. The Haredim know this too. The Labor party has enough members of the new political order, including Yehimovich and Miki Rosenthal, for whom, capitulation to the politics of honor, glory and Audis would be unconscionable. So there is a broad coalition of new politics in the Knesset, surrounding the fading caged animal that is Old Politics.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, you have a choice: You can keep playing this game of divide and conquer, create a fractious coalition and celebrate your last short lap around the Prime Minister’s residence. Or, you can pivot and embrace New Politics “Spring.” You can do the right thing and embrace Bennet and Lapid now, not unwillingly in the 90th minute. You can embrace a small and efficient government rather than a bloated one marked by those who desire honor and prestige. You can embrace responsible economics and citizens’ responsibility. You can create a professional government of good people and great civil servants. In short, you can become a leader for the ages. You can create your legacy as the Prime Minister who turned Israel’s economy around and changed politics in Israel forever. It is your decision. Initiate, because time is not on your side.

[Originally published on 18th February 2013 by MIchael Eisenberg]