Friday, June 13, 2008

The Sorry State of Israeli Politics


Haaretz journalist Daniel Ben Simon has decided to quit journalism and enter politics. His "swan song" article explaining why, is a primer on what is wrong with Israeli politics.

    • Israel [is] more a loose federation of tribes than a normal state. The well-to-do areas voted heavily for the left, headed by Shimon Peres, while the poor and downtrodden gave Benjamin Netanyahu's right a handy majority.
    • I cannot forget my shock upon learning that Kiryat Malachi, the town most harmed by the market economy, was about to grant then finance minister Netanyahu, honorary citizenship. In a shady political deal, Mayor Motti Malka granted honorary citizenship to the man who bankrupted his town.
    • I [have] tried to sound the alarm of worsening poverty, but the political system ignored it. At all the political conventions I [have] covered, there was not one single discussion that did not relate to Gaza or the settlements or borders or Jerusalem or threats from Iran or Hamas or Hezbollah. The political system was enslaved to the external threat, real or imagined.
    • Investigative journalism [cannot] keep pace with political corruption. In a single year, a prime minister, a president, a finance minister, a welfare minister and a minister without portfolio found themselves in the dock or under investigation.
    • In recent months, as I told people of my plans, many found it hard to believe: Why politics? ... Some wondered if I knew what I was doing, others questioned my sanity. But mostly, I encountered apathy - which in politics, is cancer.
    • Every meeting screams gloom and frustration. Gloom at the situation of Israeli politics and frustration at the inability to change. People came to those meetings to scream to me about the country they have lost and their extinguished hopes.
    • At every meeting, I heard ... You'll be eaten alive. Eliminated, destroyed. That is how the Israeli public sees Israeli politics: ruthless, take no prisoners.
    • I covered the French election last year and saw hundreds of thousands in the streets and at the polls, an impressive act of living, breathing democracy. A similar spark is evident now in the United States. Only at home do we see democracy fading.
I wish him good luck in trying to change this situation. Israel certainly deserves better politicians and better politics than what it currently has.

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