In the civilized Kingdom from whence I came (up, I was always told), one’s voting preferences were very much a private matter. Indeed, an inquiry as to the identity of the political party for which even a close friend or relative intended to exercise his or her democratic right would have been as welcome as asking them whether their style was more missionary or doggy (currently, I’d take either).
Not so, however, in the jungle I now inhabit. On a par with every Israeli’s entitlement to know how much you forked out or received for your home is his right to be informed as to whether or not you will be assisting in putting in place his government of choice. And not possessing the Briton’s finesse for small talk – NW4’s and 11’s “Who are you eating/davening byyy?”, for familiar instance – the native will have no inhibition about accosting even a virtual stranger with “Who are you voting for?”
My stock four-letter response these past months, “Bibi”, has raised quite a few eyebrows in my midweek Tel Aviv stomping grounds (though rather fewer in those of the Jerusalem of my long weekends).
Polling day for the 20th Knesset is this Tuesday, but I have taken little or no interest in the campaign . . . a sign, I am sure, of my (still) having one foot out the door, but also of having been relaxed in the knowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would still be in Residence at the top of Rechov Aza when I return, at the start of May (coalition building in the jungle can take a good month and a half), from watching England lose its Test series in the Caribbean.
But, getting my thrice-weekly Yonit (right) fix a few evenings ago, I was rudely interrupted by her lead item: it seems that my having taken for granted a Likud victory has been more than a little misplaced, with the centre-left Zionist Union alliance now two or three seats ahead in the polls . . .
I almost spilled my box of Kleenex. What the bloody hell?! The thought of that spineless runt Isaac Herzog – co-leader of the alliance, but who has only been in charge of Labour for 15 months and possesses all the charisma of a lentil seed – running the country is a terrifying one; and, if the polls are correct, it is a sure sign that many of the natives are losing all reason. Although our late fathers were friends, the sole encounter between their sons left this one somewhat less than enamoured: see Curbing My (Irish) Enthusiasm. In just a few seconds, I had seen the ‘man’ (and my instincts in such matters are generally reliable).
In the interests of even-handedness, the following is the most flattering English-language interview with Herzog I could find . . .
“You wanna know something . . .” Dear, oh dear! Just the drone of those adenoids is enough to make you lose the will to hear. If, heaven forfend, he should become Prime Minister, the creep will be exposed to continuous media scrutiny (and bias), with every non-hearing-impaired person who cares about this country begging for their Bibi back.
So, come Tuesday, I will be voting along “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” lines. Netanyahu is running for his fourth term (third consecutive). It is not difficult to see how familiarity has bred contempt (or merely boredom). And it has become über-trendy to bash him. Of course he could have done some things better. But, if you believe Israel to be “broke” merely because many of its citizens cannot afford to buy apartments in the heart of its financial and cultural capital, or that the way to go is to be more conciliatory to the Arabs, then perhaps – like the “idiots” and “lunatics” proscribed by UK legislation – you should not be allowed to vote at all. Bibi has steered a remarkably steady ship through extremely turbulent waters and years, during which for much of the world – cowed by and cowering before Islamofascism, or influenced by its all-pervading disdain for the Jew – Israel could do no right.
With Islamic State now on our borders and – thanks to that jug-eared tit in the White House – a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, the security situation must get a lot worse before it gets any better. And, if Herzog becomes Prime Minister, Hamas and Hizbollah will be laughing all the way to their tunnels. It is not difficult to imagine the next war in Gaza. It is, however, to imagine Isaac Herzog leading us through it.
Changes, as Dovid Bowie once proclaimed (“I still don’t know what I was waiting for . . . and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet”), are not always for the better. And those now pining for Bibi’s demise may, with a limp dick like Herzog in his place, have plenty of time to repent their naivety in having cared about who owned what in and around Rothschild Boulevard.