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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Election 2006--The Candidates Speak

The room was crowded but not packed. The atmosphere was laid-back and relaxed. Most of the speakers had smiles on their faces. There was quite a bit of whispering in the audience. Such was the sanctuary at Shivtei Yisrael Synagogue, here in Ra’anana Sunday evening where I attended a panel showcasing the various political parties running in the upcoming election. A representative of each party (with the exception of a few) came to speak about their party’s policies.

The main subject of the evening seemed to be security, with most parties’ plans seeming to have been taken from one of two molds. The issue of accountability also came up quite a bit towards the end. The panel was casual, with many of the speakers making jokes throughout the evening. Likud representative Uzi Landau apologized for showing up half an hour late by joking that the last time he came to this panel he was half an hour early so they were even.

One speaker mentioned that in Israeli politics there was too much arrogance and not enough pride. This was proven to be true by several candidates who refused to take the hints of the moderator on time limits, and would continually speak much longer then they should have. Other than this the night ran relatively smoothly- the moderator had to stop in the middle to announce that a car outside was blocking a driveway. An announcement to which Landau rose and announced that it was his car- partially joking but I think partially serious; perhaps he just needed a minute to breathe. When the moderator clarified five minutes later that it was a silver Peugeot, it was the Shinui representative who rose embarrassed saying that it was in fact his car- this time completely serious. What kind of example does this set? When political candidates can’t even arrive on time and when they do, can’t obey parking laws and block driveways, what are they saying to us? What other laws will they break?

There were several other things mentioned that worried me. Kadima, a large party and the current front-runner, couldn’t even bother to send someone from their list, instead sending a representative who lives here in Ra’anana. Someone who seemed to have angered many a person in the audience with his comments and less than diplomatic replies and mud slinging. It was as if the Anglo vote was not important enough to free up a few hours in someone’s busy schedule. To his credit, Yossi Beilin himself showed up and spoke quite well for Meretz, even if I don’t agree with his stance.

The amount of mud-slinging surprised me. Although Tavnit leader Uzi Dayan was promoting pluralism and respect for others, he seemed to be doing much of the slinging. He did however bring up a good point when he referred to Kadima as “a national blind date”. With what would seem to be constant changes and additions to policy, and many people on their list with no political background, Kadima gives us plenty to be dubious of. Landau, continuing Dayan’s metaphor spoke about Kadima’s “Singles Party”, referring to a get-together the party had this past week, where many of the candidates met for the first time.

While quite worrisome one has to remember that these are politicians, and therefore not be too surprised by the speakers’ conduct. No party really convinced me of the merits of their party. This should be an interesting election, so make sure to cast your vote (if you can) in three weeks time.


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