Thursday, March 7, 2013

Israel's Knesset Baffles Americans With All Its Parties and Coalitions

Nadene Goldfoot
One of my friends is taking a course at our local college about the Middle East.  He rather sneeringly commented that Israel had 16 or 25 political parties and didn't really see it as a democratic society because of this, knocking the amount of parties in this way. I had to keep announcing that Israel is a Democratic society, even though it is run more on the plan of England than the USA.  Actually, Israel has 34 parties for its 7.4 million people.

The USA of course has only 2 major parties; Democrats and Republicans and a smaller Independent party plus the Tea party, an off shoot of the Republicans. Democrats and Republicans are about like the North and South today of the Civil War we had back in the 1860's, both taking different stands.   However, the USA contains a population of  313,914,040. That's almost 314 million.   Israel's population is 6 million Jews and 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs.  How is it that such a small population has so many parties, he wondered, and what were all these coalitions?

I have to laugh at this.  The Arabs have their own political parties totaling a little over 5.  Arabs make up 20.4% of the Israeli population.  Some even vote for Jewish parties.  .They all fill up the 120 seats in the Knesset.   Jews have many, and one reason is that I realize that Jews are independent thinkers.  We're not a society of sheep.  Everyone has an opinion. We all think our opinion is the correct one and no one is bashful about it.   As Chaim Weizmann had said, he was the president of 3 million presidents! He was Israel's first president and served from February 1, 1949 to 1952 when he died.  He told this to Harry Truman when he heard how many people populated the USA.   Israel is a Democracy,  perhaps even more democratic than what the USA has become because of this.  In this way, all diverse opinions are heard and discussed.

Coalitions are made up of groups of the parties, so they have had to learn to agree on enough issues to keep the government working.  Matching up certain opinions that will attain a common goal is what happens.  Right now Netanyahu had to call for new groupings and is busy trying to put together his new coalition.  He has more than his share of problems to consider.

In 2009 on 22nd January Likud, Netanyahu's party, came in 2nd with votes and got 27 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament).  Kadima came in 1st, but Netanyahu was able to put together a coalition with Yisrael Betenu and some smaller religious parties.    Labor had been Golda Meir's party, which is far more liberal.  They lost out with all the attacks happening from Palestinians and people wanted and needed more protection and better security measures taken.

"For the 2013 election, Likud and Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home), the party led by Avigdor Lieberman have formed a joint party list, though they have maintained separate political platforms."  Although originally Likud was against the Oslo Accords, "Netanyahu has said: "If we get a guarantee of demilitarisation and if the Palestinians recognise Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement".  Support for the settlements has remained an important issue for right-wing voters. Netanyahu is considered a strong Prime Minister by his people and has drawn the red line about Iran's nuclear program.  His job is to keep his people alive and safe.

Netanyahu is in the process of forming a broad coalition.  He's been given a small extension of time to do so.   Things he is taking into consideration in this formation are "the main stumbling blocks which include the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements."

Some of the parties are Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Kadima, Shas, Labour, Hatnua, Jewish Home, Yesh Atia, United Torah Judaism, Hadash Balad (Arabic), and so on.  Some parties are Socialistic, one is anti-Zionist, on the left, on the right, all varied.  Remember that this political enterprise is made up of the Ingathering of Jews from all over the world and are more representative of people than the United Nations.  There is a recent large contingent of Russian Jews who had been deprived of their religion for too long and come from an opposing environment than the USA, of which there are but few Americans in the country.  English speakers mainly come from England, Canada, Australia, South Africa  and less from the USA.  I've read where the Knesset can get hot and loud in their discussions.  Now that's freedom for you.

It reminds me of the standoff we new Olim (immigrants) had at the Mercaz ha Klitta in 1980 with the Russian Olim.  It was Russia against Americans.  Each side picked their best Hebrew speaker to "discuss" our opposition to higher prices in the dining room.  The Russians had taken over the office where letters from our family were mailed.  We couldn't get our mail.  I took over the office with my beautiful female German shepherd, which the Russians all loved, being dog lovers.  The war was over, and I had lost my shyness!

The United States was originally made up of people from England, and those who had already gone to Holland to live but wanted to maintain their English language and roots.  It wasn't until quite a while later that people immigrated to North America from other countries.  The late 1800's and early 1900's brought in many immigrants.  Israel was hit immediately with immigrants from all over the world and has had to handle problems that ensued.  Ethiopians came by air and were settled in the high colder mountain of Safed and Russians came and were settled in the desert because those places had empty spaces at that particular time.  The problems were unbelievable but happy ones.

 Jews were returning to Eretz Yisrael.  This is not just any old state created by a paltry few political dissidents. It's created by a religious group highly in need of their country who have been mistreated for 2,000 years.   Israel's Jews  have grown from 600,000 to 6 million, the same number  we lost in the Holocaust.   Indeed, it was Joshua himself who entered Canaan  with 600,000 Jewish slaves from Egypt.  This period of time has been prophesized in the Bible.  It makes us realize the importance of what's happening today.  Jews returning to Israel is a big deal, at least as impossible a feat as walking on the moon.

After all, Israel was created to be a Jewish state.  This does not mean apartheid in any shape or way and never was designed to harm native Arabs.   It's to be the haven for Jews treated by anti-Semitic people after being the scapegoats of the world for 2,000 years.  It's to be a state living with a native population  which are the minority but receiving the same blessings that the Jews are to receive.  It's turning out to be a state of ideas and creativity that is being shared with the world who is still against her.  It is the shining light that it was  designed to be.

There has never been one place in the world where Jews could live in  peace since the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and this is what the intentions are.   Now we have one teeny state in the world that is Jewish  amid 48 Muslim states that are mostly huge in size in the Middle East with Palestine about to be the 49th..  This one state of Israel sits on land that was originally a section of King David's Israel founded by the Israelites.   Jews have been baptized in fire and are made of steel today.  They are still like the fruit, the Sabra, of which they are named if born in Israel, prickly on the outside but soft on the inside.  They have come home and wish to live in peace.  .

Update:  12;49pm
Update: 3/12/13

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