Thursday, March 30, 2006

Italy, finally!

Not exactly a happy day in Israel's history is behind us. The election results are in and we are starting to realize that nothing is as we expected.

The front runner Kadima disappointed with 28 seats instead of the 35 expected, and will have to yield important ministries to the needed coalition partners, probably Labor, two religious parties (Shas and UTJ) and the Pensioners - who appeared out of nowhere to claim 7 seats. This coalition will control 74 of 120 seats in the Knesset, enough to push through Olmert's plan of further unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank. But this is where to good news end.

34 seats of that coalition have the reversal of the current economic policies as their main goal ( policies that have saved Israel from bankruptcy after the burst of the hitech bubble), and they will extort Olmert at every and each opportunity. For every settler leaving the West Bank they will demand a million Shekels to stuff the pockets of their clientele, the weak segments of society as they are called, and the Ultra-Orthodox. Millions and millions, which the so-called rich middle class will have to earn, and what can not be earned will increase the budget deficit and simply be left for our children to deal with. The money will not be invested into infrastructure, education, R&D or other drivers of economic growth, it will be distributed in form of unproductive hand-outs, unconnected to personal commitment, effort or performance. The necessary result will be higher taxes, slower growth, higher unemployment, inflation - it is all soooo predictable and yet Israel is falling into the old trap once again. How depressing. And on top of all that, we'll be back at the polling stations in 2 years max. That kind of coalition will disintegrate over the first real crisis. We may not have managed to copy Italy's quality of life, but we sure have mad great progress in achieving Italian sort of government survival times. (Thinking about Italy - we are also nowhere near Italian style in fashion. Too bad.)

By the way, you can think about Netanyahu what you want, and I am by no means a fan of his political maneuvers, but his leadership as Finance Minister and iron guard of the budget will soon be missed - note my words.

However, in my opinion the biggest damage to the country will be caused by the failure of the secular parties to keep the religious out of the government. The return of the inherently anti-democratic ("who votes for us goes to heaven") and chronically corrupt Shas party is going to cost us more than all the security measures against the Hamas terror together. As Sam Harris ("The End of Faith" - a must read!) says: If iron age philosophers hold power over modern society, things can only change for the worse.

Shinui (="change"), my personal pick, was the secular watch dog in the last government (at least for the first two years or so), keeping religious sticky hands out of the public coffers. This time they didn't even make the minimum number of votes to send a representative into the Knesset. Their demand to audit the reports from religious schools with the subsequent discovery of tens of thousands of bogus students saved the public 500 million Shekels every year! With Shas running the show those reports won't even be reviewed - note my words. You have 80 students called Moshe Levy in a school of 100? What a strange coincident. Shas already now demands control of the Ministry of Communications, so they can ban access to porn via mobile phones and the internet, and have sermons of their "spiritual leader", Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, distributed via public TV stations. Worse yet, their anticipated control of the Ministry of the Interior will allow them to meddle also in the future with the secular public's wish to marry or divorce in a civil act without the consent of the rabbinical court. Reminds you of Iran? It should!

An interesting news bit is the low voter turn-out, only 67%, the lowest in Israel's history. Everybody has offered a different explanation, I believe many Israelis concluded correctly that this election will return mostly corrupt, self-centered and incompetent politicians to power and do nothing good for the country.

So why even bother to vote? It was such a nice day to BBQ on the beach...

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