Friday, March 20, 2015

Post Election Redux

The Family Enjoying a Lovely Sunday - er - Election Day
We Need More Election Days
The greatest aspect of the elections are the fact that the entire country has off on a weekday. Once every two (to four) years, the people of Israel finally get to have a Sunday. I miss Sundays. The country would be so much calmer if people had a day to shop, spend time with their kids, or just hang out, unrelated to Shabbat. My proposal: Once a month during the summer months Sunday should be a day off, with the extra eight hours spread over the other four days: nine hours from Monday through Thursday, and a short workday on Friday from 8am to 1pm. If only.

Votes in the Toilet
Losing fully 25 percent of your base really is pretty bad. Part of that can be blamed on the Chardal elements of the party moving to Eli Yishai's Yachad party, led by their Rabbinic leadership, including Rav Tau of Har Hamor, Rav Dov Lior, and Rav Aviner. Fully 40 percent of Yad Binyamin's electorate (presumably the entire population of Torat Hachayim) voted for Yachad which did not reach the minimum threshold, thereby throwing almost 120,000 votes (about 3.5 Knesset seats) in the toilet. 

Bibi's Brilliant Scare Campaign
Many people did vote Likud, fearful of not just of a Labor government, but even more fearful of a Likud-Labor unity government. If you're nervous about territorial concessions, that's the nightmare scenario. Think about it this way: when was the last time a left-wing government (which could only survive in the Knesset with Arab support) made a major territorial concession or peace agreement? Somehow, the right-wing governments (with left-wing support) are the ones that give back land we've never gotten back. It's a good bet that Netanyahu wanted the right wing to fear that he would do exactly that, hoping to scare people into voting for him. It worked, pretty well.

Alienating Your Base
To me, the Bayit Hayehudi loss began almost immediately after the election, surrounding one simple issue: Day School Tuition.
No, we don't spend nearly as much money as our friends in the Diaspora. No, we cannot understand how they make ends meet, especially in the United States, with tuition costs out of control. But tuition still represents a major, major expense for the Religious Zionist community, with tuition costing at least ten thousand shekel per child (after elementary school) per year, and up to twenty thousand shekel for kids who dorm. That's a lot of money for many, many families, and was clearly an issue motivating many voters during the last election.
No problem, Bayit Hayehudi told us. We've got you covered. We'll take care of it - especially the Assistant Minister of Education, (future former) MK Avi Vortzman. They won't so far as to promise to reduce tuition by a staggering forty percent!
What did they do? They sent an urgent dictate to all schools: lower tuition by ten percent. Having no choice, the schools did exactly that, and lowered tuition by ten percent. The government then transferred to the schools, exactly zero. Nothing to cover the tuition reductions. Efes. So, what do you do when you're income is reduced? You cut back on services to cover your losses. Parents were left frustrated, especially when the Bayit Hayehudi then ran an ad campaign proclaiming that "We kept our promise! Problem solved!" Hardly. The whole cynical experience left every parent who pays tuition with a bad taste in our mouths. No one that I know is crying for (future former) MK Vortzman, who will soon see himself (together with Orit Struk and Shuli Mualim) out of the Knesset.

Naftali Bennett's Upcoming Decision
Then Naftali Bennett tried to expand the party to include first popular journalist Yinon Magal - who's traditional-religious (how many votes did he bring to the table?), so we looked the other way. Then he ridiculously tried to bring former soccer player superstar Avi Ochana as well, prompting a mini-revolt within the party. I got the sense that voters felt like, "Hey, if you're trying to make the Bayit Hayehudi into the Likud without catering to the Religious Zionist sector's needs, no problem. We've already got a Likud with plenty of religious members of the Knesset. So we'll vote for them." Speaking with a neighbor about this issue the day after the election, we discussed the fact that in the end, the Bayit Hayehudi is a sectorial party, and my neighbor said, "And I'm very, very proud to belong to this sector." I agreed with him. I am proud as well, and my vote reflected that pride.
In the end, Naftali Bennett faces a choice that he must  make in the near future: Does he want to be the head of the Likud? These elections clearly showed that the Bayit Hayehudi will never be that. It's a "sectorial" party, representing the needs of its constituents, which often overlap with national goals, but sometimes do not. Or, will he be happy being the strong, charismatic leader of a very vibrant, very important community in Israel, knowing that he can be Finance Minister or Minister of Foreign Affairs, but that the head of Bayit Hayehudi will never be Prime Minister, at least not the way Israeli elections are currently configured.
We'll never be Likud-2, and we should stop trying.