Tuesday, November 30, 2004

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Political Analysis: UTJ & Israeli Politics, A Zero Sum Game

In watching the current government situation in Israel from the U.S. (and other Western nations), it’s often difficult to fathom what in the world is going on. One moment, a political party declares itself strongly against some government policies, and there are certainly major ones in actions right now to stand against (Withdrawal from Gaza and Secularization come to mind). The next moment, the party is willing to join the government…

Sharon suffered the embarrassing loss after Shinui lived up to its threat to bolt the coalition following Sharon's deal with the United Torah Judaism faction. He promised the UTJ 290 million shekels for education in return for support for the budget. The first vote on the 2005 budget is scheduled for Wednesday night. (IsraelNationalNews)

The Western observer needs to understand that in Israel, politics is a zero sum game. In most Western nations, parties out of power still exercise a minority role, sharing in lawmaking, influencing (somewhat) funding and decision making, and providing representation of a physical area, district, and therefore a group of people (at least some are tied to area’s, in some countries, some are not). Their people, their constituency, gives them influence.

In Israel, this is not the case. Those parties out of power are truly out of power. They represent no one but their party ideology, and when out of power have no say, no influence. Further, unlike most Western countries, where funding priorities are relatively static, even when governments change (a few percent more for schools or the arts, or for the army or for industry), in Israel funding is tied to the party in power. When your party is out of power, your school’s funding is cut, completely, 100%. So when Meretz was in power, Yeshiva’s starved, art’s blossomed. When Shas was in power, Yeshiva’s blossomed, art’s starved.

Usually, this isn’t too bad, as the government changes back and forth every few years (two on average). However, the previous government was left wing (no religious), and the current right wing government with Shiniu also has excluded the religious.

The Yeshiva’s have been starving for a long time now, and starving people will do almost anything to survive.

The question in this case is if personal survival will cost national survival. May Hashem help.

Cross posted to Israpundit and Mystical Paths

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