Just when we thought the world would be watching and snickering at our presidential mess forever, Israel steps up and steals some of the limelight. Brag as they might that their entanglement won’t end up like ours — as one Israeli columnist asked, "What are we, America?" — their predicament gives us something to be grateful for.
As his country and government lost confidence in him, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak pulled a last second play for power by resigning his post, thus forcing a special election on Feb. 10. The sneaky move was no doubt meant to disqualify his popular opponent, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from the upcoming election thanks to a loophole in Israeli law that says only members of the current parliament, the Knesset, can run for prime minister in a special election. Netanyahu’s followers have already come up with options for going around the loophole. The Knesset can pass a law allowing Netanyahu to run for the office, or the Knesset can dissolve itself and force a general election in which Netanyahu could legally participate.
Whatever happens these next few days — weeks — every move is sure to be met by legal challenges and a media obsessed with every little detail. Israel may not have to contend with dimpled, pregnant, hanging or swinging chads. But their mess may very well wind up in the lap of their Supreme Court, too. All this in the mist of a Palestinian intifada which claimed more lives over the weekend.
Some may argue that changing governments to resolve a problem is a real reflection of democracy. However, the ground is always shifting when you employ such a system. The United States may be enduring a rare dose of instability with our current presidential mess, but overall our system is much more stable.
While Israel’s predicament doesn’t diminish the significance of the legal wranglings of our own presidential election, it does put things in a more optimistic perspective. We don’t have to divide our attention between political battles for leadership and bloody battles over holy sites. Presidential uncertainty in the United States simply isn’t the same as the uncertainty in Israel. The consequences appear to be far greater for Israel.
As Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political science professor at Hebrew University noted, "We can take some comfort in knowing that even America is having problems with its election. But when their problems are over, ours will remain."
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