Israeli elections are less than a week away. Every sidewalk, billboard, and bit of empty space is covered with campaign ads featuring one of the many leaders Israelis will have to choose from. Unlike American elections, where voters usually elect either a Democrat or Republican, the Israeli system is made up of many political parties.
After the votes have been tallied, the president gives the winning party 30 days to form a coalition government – and this is where the real political maneuvering begins. This involves making deals and offering ministerial positions – besides the prime minister spot, to which the leader of the winning party is entitled – to some of your fiercest political foes. If the leading party cannot form a coalition government during that time, the president assigns the next party in line to do so.
This democratic engineering can make for some very awkward partnerships. Current Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition government is made up of parties from the left and right of the Israeli party system, parties that could not find enough common ground to keep the government functioning for a full term.
But life here goes on despite political changes. In Israel, Election Day is a national day off of work. And Israelis I have spoken to are more excited to talk about what they’re going to do with their families on their day off, rather than who they will choose to be the nation’s next leader.
This past Sabbath on the playground, a man approached me wanting to know what a religious person like myself thought about the election, and who I planned to vote for. He listened respectfully as I explained why I want a right-wing government, and why I don’t believe peace with the Palestinians is possible right now.
We spoke for a while, and eventually the man left with his family, but not before telling me he was voting for a far-left government, and believed we could achieve peace with the Palestinians through negotiations. And while I disagreed with this gentleman’s viewpoint, I was happy that we – two Israelis – could have such opposing views and still walk away on friendly terms.
It is much like our political system. We Israelis may like to argue about the best way to achieve peace, but at the end of the day, we know we’re all Israelis, and regardless of our differing views, our futures are ultimately bound together.