Israelis will go to the polls in February
In February we, too will elect a new leader. After the resignation of Ehud Olmert, whose administration will go down in history as one of the most unfit and injurious in Israel’s short existence, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (below) was given the commission to put together a new governing coalition.
Israel has a parliamentary system of government. That means that you vote for the party not the person. The party, in this case Kadima, with the most seats in the Knesset (Parliament), has the task of wooing other smaller parties to partner with them in forming a government. A coalition must make up at least 61 seats of the 120-seat Knesset
The problem with this is, that at any time one of your coalition partners can leave the government, leaving you with less than 61 seats, thus causing the government to collapse. In addition, the smaller parties, usually religious, demand huge sums of money from the government budget, in order to join a coalition. The good part is that many more interests are represented in the government, not just two as in the U.S. In Israel you can have a party that is solely dedicated to one subgroup of people. For instance, in the last election a party that won several seats was comprised solely of retirees. Several years ago there was an immigrants party, fighting for the rights of the million immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
In these coming Elections, there are two parties that are virtually tied in the polls.
Kadima (Forward) is the party Ariel Sharon created. He established it when he made the decision to give away Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, with nothing promised in return. In Israel, we called it hitnatkoot, or the disengagement. There were many in his right of center party (Likud) that would not go along with him, so he formed a centrist party called Kadima. Many Likudniks departed with him and many from the left joined in as well.
It is interesting to note a story that I recently heard. A young female politician came to see Sharon when he was proposing the disengagement from Gaza. He was like a grandfather to her. She sat in his lap and cried, pleading with him not to give up Gaza. “Judgment will come upon you if you do,” she declared even as she wept. Not long after that, Ariel Sharon was in a coma and he remains in that state until today. Ehud Olmert (left) went on to lead Kadima to victory in Sharon’s place and became Prime Minister. He finished what Sharon had started, by seeing that the disengagement from Gaza was implemented. As was stated earlier, his tenure as Prime Minister was horrendous. Amid massive scandals and unpopularity, and then seeing that he could not even win the leadership in his own party (unheard of for a sitting Prime Minister), he resigned.
Tzipi Livni has replaced Olmert as leader of Kadima and the popularity of the party has risen dramatically. Olmert’s approval numbers were under 10%. Livni is young, fresh and honest in a sea of scandal-ridden male politicians. Sadly, she is willing to divide up Jerusalem, giving half to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for ‘peace’.
The other party is Likud. Benjamin Netanyahu has led Likud since Sharon’s departure. Netanyahu claims that he will not give up Jerusalem under any circumstance and for years has said he will make no compromise with the P.A. without reciprocity (getting something in return).
Evangelicals love Netanyahu, often citing that his name means gift of God. Ever since the Gulf War where he was on CNN nightly with his handsome looks and perfect English, believers have adored him. And make no mistake, politically speaking he does have Israel’s best interest at heart. Not only is he NOT keen on giving away land, but he also embraces capitalistic principles in a country that still has many socialist tendencies. While serving as Sharon’s finance minister earlier this decade, he was credited with revitalizing an economy that has been devastated by terrorism.
Nevertheless, Israelis don’t have the same respect for him as many Bible-believing Christians. Over here he is seen as a typical, egotistical politician.
Bibi’s (Netanyahu nickname)first attempt at leading the country (1996-99) saw an increase in terrorism and the breaking of promises not to give in to P.A. demands until they fulfilled their obligations under the former Oslo agreements. Netanyahu turned over most of Hebron, a holy city, to the Palestinian Authority, getting nothing in return. This went directly against his oft-repeated principle of reciprocity. With this, he alienated many of the religious Jews and was already opposed by the left. Furthermore, despite being a capitalist, when he became Prime Minister he had to form his government with ultra orthodox parties who demand huge sums of money for their massive welfare programs, designed to keep many religious Jews from having to work, so they can study. (above: Netanyahu pictured with President Clinton and Yassar Arafat)
All these and more led to his dismissal when he lost reelection to Ehud Barak, who now, once again, leads the left wing, socialist Labor Party. He too is running for Prime Minister, but polls have him and his Labor party way behind.
Politics in general is a messy business. There is a powerful demonic spirit of lust for power that often takes over unless one fights against it. Most don’t and end up compromising on so many levels to hold onto power. In the U.S., Senator Ted Stevens, an 84-year-old veteran of the Senate, was convicted on seven counts of making false statements. He could face 35 years in prison. He was urged by friends and foes to step down. Instead he ran for reelection…and won. It is hard to let go of all that power. All over Africa we see corrupt leaders like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe who refuse to let go of power, despite being well-advanced in years and even losing the last election.
Israeli leaders are not immune to such temptations. Elana has befriended a young lady who will most likely be in the next Knesset. She went with her on a tour around the southern cities of the country yesterday where there were several rallies for Likud. She came home and told me how cruel many of the candidates were to each other—IN THE SAME PARTY!—because they are all fighting for cabinet positions and a high ranking on the party list. (If you party wins ten seats, then only the top ten people in the party go to the Knesset. So if you are number eleven, you don’t get in.)
More than anything we want a leader that will protect the security of our country. As you pray for our elections, please pray:
- That God will give us the leader He is voting for.
- That our next leader will be humble in handling power.
- That he or she will be bold in relationship with other countries, including the Unites States.
- That he or she will seek the Lord in earnest for guidance.