Thursday, December 08, 2022

Why Netanyahu Wins and Charedim Lose by Virtue of Winning

Image for illustration purposes only (TOI)
There’s a lot of hatred of him out there. Benjamin Netanyahu - the former and future prime minister of Israel is reviled by many Jews both in Israel and abroad. By both the left and the right. Which makes it kind of ironic that his party keeps winning so many seats. That makes him the lead contender for becoming prime minster. Which he is about to do - being more secure in that position than in years. 

That’s because the Israeli electorate has moved decidedly to the right. Right wing parties - both political and religious - have garnered a record number of seats. More than enough for Netanyahu to cobble together a governing coalition. Netanyahu will therefore be the next prime minister of Israel. And the longest serving one by far. An amazing accomplishment if you think about it - considering how much hate there is out there for him

The animosity against Netanyahu did not come out of nowhere. He actually ‘earned it’ with an attitude of winning at any cost. This has alienated former supporters – both in and out of government (some even in his own Likud Party) - and many of his former voters. He has  alienated  secular American Jewish support with his concession to the Charedi demands to refuse recognition by Israel of heterodox movements to which many American Jews belong.  

Netanyahu has compromised American support from Democrats way back in the Obama years and currently with his pro settler policies and his overt support for Republican politicians who see things his way (instead of trying to remain impartial). He is also a man who lies; makes promises that he doesn’t keep; and is currently undergoing a corruption trial. Not exactly the kind of person you would expect to win a popularity contest - much less an election of such magnitude and importance. Many times!

The obvious question is, ‘How is it possible that a man with that kind of baggage could be so popular?’ ‘…and win the recent election with such relative ease?’

I think the answer is that despite his megalomania, his humongous ego; his ruthless ‘take no prisoners’ approach to politics; and his love of the good life he enjoys by virtue of being prime minister... he loves his country. He does not sacrifice his country in pursuit of the good life he enjoys as a result of his leadership position. Although the left will certainly argue - and describe his policies and achievements as harmful... as far as the Israeli electorate is concerned, Netanyahu has been able to accomplish both achievements for his country while at the same time living the good life. Albeit with accusations of corruption. The Israeli voter does not seem to care about his perks or the accusations of corruption.

That - plus the fact that I believe his right wing policies have gained more traction with voters in recent years. Mostly because of the relentless attacks against Israelis by Palestinian terrorists. And his policies with respect to a belligerent Iran sworn to Israel's  destruction. Which has ironically endeared him to former enemy Arab nations who also feel threatened by Iran. They approve of his policies on Iran. Even though the left in both Israel and America casts those policies as harmful.

Yes, he enjoys living the good life. But as I said - I think most Israeli voters don’t seem care that he does or how he achieves it. They look the other way on that and all his other negatives. Which is why he has been the longest serving Israeli prime minister by far.  Israeli voters may not like him. But they apparently do like his leadership skills and policies – even if the current left leaning American political  leadership does not.

There is, however, one concession he made in pursuit of becoming prime minister that really troubles me. In order to hit the magic number of 61 seats needed to govern, he needs Charedi seats to be partof his ruling coalition. To that end he conceded to their ‘non-negotiable’ demands to restore funding to their schools regardless of whether they offer any kind of secular curriculum at all.   

This is a mistake. If the fastest growing segment of the Israeli people do not get a basic education in core subjects like English and math, the economy will suffer in the long run. True - the country needs ‘learners’. But it also needs ‘earners’. With what seems to be an exponentially growing Charedi population, they cannot all be learners. And earners need to be trained.

It’s true that a lot of Charedim do eventually work – and in many cases find  decent jobs. However, the plain and simple truth is that the vast majority of Charedim trying to enter the workforce are at great disadvantage. Unable to catch up with their secular peers enough (if at all) to compete with them in the job market, Which leaves a great many of them working at menial, low paying jobs.

If they would instead be provided with a better education their prospects would greatly improve. Not  everyone can catch up to their secular peers. Many that do not learn the basics of a decent secular education that will enable them to catch up. Only the best and brightest can do that. I’m glad that they do – as I am glad that there are programs and courses to facilitate that. But the lack of a decent secular studies program leaves a lot of them out in the cold.

How this will all shake out is anybody’s guess. I’m just sorry to see the people that need it the most be denied opportunities by virtue of their poor education - that most people take for granted.