IN A few hundred years, a professor looking for an especially esoteric subject will ask his students to research the Israeli elections of 2013.
The students will come back with a unanimous report: the results of our research are incredible.
Faced with at least three grave dangers, they report, Israeli parties and voters just ignored them. As if joined in a conspiracy, they tacitly agreed among themselves not to talk about them. Instead, they bickered and quarreled about totally insignificant and irrelevant issues.
ONE REMARKABLE fact was that the elections were called early -- they were not due till November 2013 -- because of the Prime Minister's declared inability to obtain Knesset approval for the annual state budget.
The proposed budget was shaped by the fact that the state had developed a huge deficit, which made drastic measures inevitable. Taxes had to be raised dramatically and social services had to be cut even more than during the last four years of Binyamin Netanyahu's stewardship.
(This, by the way, did not deter Netanyahu from making election speeches about the Israeli economy being in excellent condition, far superior to the economies of the major Western countries.)
For comparison: the recent elections in the United States were also held in the shadow of a severe fiscal crisis. Two basic conceptions about the solution were presented by the antagonists, the main debate was about the deficit, taxes and the social services. This went on even after the elections and a kind of compromise was achieved just in time to avert national bankruptcy.
Nothing of the kind in Israel. There was no debate at all.
True, the Labor Party, expected to garner about 15% of the vote, indeed came out with a grandiose economic plan for the next years, composed by an assortment of university professors. However, this plan was quite irrelevant to the crucial problem facing the state on the day after the elections: How to stop the hole of tens of billions of shekels in the 2013 budget.
The Likud did not say a word about the budget which it had intended to present to the Knesset. Neither did the Labor Party mention it, nor any of the other dozen or so parties that were competing.
When we put our ballot papers into the ballot box, what are we voting for? For higher taxes, surely. But taxes on whom? Will the rich pay more, or will the fabled "middle class" pay more? What will be cut -- aid to the disabled, the sick, the old, the unemployed? What about the immense military budget? The settlements? Is Israel going to lose its favorable international credit rating? Are we going to slide into a severe recession?
It is obvious why no party wants to go into details -- any serious proposal would cause it to lose votes. But we, the people -- why do we let them get away with it? Why don't we demand answers? Why do we accept fatuous generalities, which no one takes seriously?
Riddle No. 1
ISRAEL IS faced with a severe constitutional crisis -- if such a term is applicable to a state without a constitution.
The ODME ("Only Democracy in the Middle East") is threatened from within, along a wide front.
The most immediate danger faces the Supreme Court, the strongest remaining bastion of what was once a flourishing democracy. The court tries -- rather timidly -- to resist the most egregious actions and bills of the right-wing Knesset majority. Applications to the court to annul glaringly anti-democratic legislation are postponed for years. (Including my own application to annul the law that levies huge penalties on anyone advocating a boycott of the products of the settlements. The case -- "Avnery v. the State of Israel" -- has been postponed again and again.)