TLR 157 – And Now for Something Completely Different?
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’
Seven weeks of hindsight are sufficient to see that the Israeli general election of January 2013 was not merely the most important the country had seen since 1992, but actually on a par with ‘the upheaval’ – the now-legendary election of May 1977 that ended the hegemony of the Labour party and movement in Israeli politics that stretched back to – and in fact long-preceded – the country’s establishment in 1948.
But the greater an event’s importance as signaling an inflection point in history and a shift to a new trend and a new direction, the more difficult it is to say with any degree of confidence what that new direction is and what the nature of the new trend will be. Thus although it was obvious in 1992 and even more so in 1977 that things were going to be different, no-one dreamt that Menachem Begin, the veteran leader of the Israeli nationalist right would make peace with Egypt – and even after Yitzhak Rabin’s victory that returned Labour to power in 1992, the idea that the tough ex-general would recognize the PLO and launch the Oslo process seemed absurd.
Begin’s victory and Labour’s defeat in 1977 culminated a process that started at least in 1973 and probably much earlier. Rabin’s return in 1992 was even less surprising in terms of the political pendulum. But what has happened in 2013 is in a different league, because the entire structure of party politics has been thrown out, to be replaced with – what?
The correct answer to that is the pundit’s favourite fall-back: it’s too early to say. After watching the practitioners of what Yair Lapid correctly calls the ‘old politics’, as well as the leaders of the ‘new politics’, during and after the election campaign, it is possible to state categorically that we are in uncharted territory, that the times are indeed changing, that this is very different. But is it something completely different? Is it a revolution?
We don’t know yet, but I think we will within a year, two at most. This point in time, with the completion of the coalition-building process – which, even more than the election results, confirms that something new is afoot in Israeli politics – is ideal for identifying and assessing the forces that are driving the revolution. Whether its leaders will continue to blaze a new trail or whether they will succumb to inertia when they have to face the nitty-gritty of government, they have already chalked up some remarkable achievements which will have lasting impact.
B: Domestic Politics: The Times They Are a’Changing
a) A new generation with a new agenda
b) An across-the-board phenomenon
c) Re-engaging the disengaged
d) Redesigning the political map: a work in progress