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The Jewish Report Editorial

The countdown to elections in SA and Israel

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It is election season in Israel and South Africa, with the Jewish state’s big day coming up on 9 April and ours one month later, on 8 May. Both our nations are counting down to the day that will have a massive impact on the future.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Mar 07, 2019

The possibility of a change in leadership has huge ramifications for any country, and can alter its very nature. Remember the day that former President Barack Obama handed over the United States to President Donald Trump. I rest my case!

And, in South Africa, we know the damage a corrupt leader can have. Jacob Zuma was president of South Africa for nine years (since 2009), and he enabled corruption to become entrenched in this country’s hierarchy. The worst damage came after he was re-elected in 2014. It appeared to herald a free-for-all for crooks, who devastated state coffers.

Benjamin Netanyahu has also been Israeli Prime Minister since 2009. He is the only Israeli prime minister to be elected three times in a row, and believes, in spite of the charges against him, that he will rule for a fourth time.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has prospered and entrenched its start-up nationhood. However, while he has been at the helm, the formerly strong left-wing has weakened substantially, and become almost fringe.

Is Netanyahu good for Israel, and should he stay on for another term? Would he really take Israel into peace talks? Is he the leader Israel needs, or is it time for change?

I can’t answer that for you, but I can say that this coming election in Israel is going to be an extremely interesting bun fight.

Israeli politics is not about which party wins, but which party creates the strongest alliance and – in doing so – what concessions are made to the weaker parties to get them to join the strongest alliance.

Already it has turned vicious, with Likud getting into bed with the Otzma Yehudit party that is a reincarnation of Kach, the one started by ultra-right-wing leader Meir Kahane. Kahane and Kach, with its one seat, were kicked out of the Knesset in 1988 because of their racist ideology. Its ideological descendent is now part of Netanyahu’s right-wing alliance.

And, to make life even more interesting, until recently there didn’t appear to be a natural national leader to the left of Netanyahu. Then, along came former army chief, Benny Gantz. He launched his political party, Hosen l’Yisrael (Israel Resilience) only in December last year.

He has now become the leader of the Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) party, an alliance that is left of centre.

Gantz was the 20th Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, and is certainly a celebrated military man, which always finds favour in Israeli politics.

His party merged with Telem, another new party (started in January this year) under former Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Yesh Atid (a centrist political party representing the secular middle class) to form Kachol Lavan.

Ya’alon was a minister under Netanyahu until May 2016, and left when there was speculation that he would be fired. He resigned from Likud to form his party named in remembrance of much celebrated late Defence Minister Moshe Dayan and his Telem party back in the early 1980s.

The Blue and White alliance looks set for a fight with the right wingers under Netanyahu, or whoever might unseat him in Likud.

Coming back down south, the stakes are just as high, but in truth, there is unlikely to be huge change. There will be battle, but it won’t be for power. The battle will be for just how many more seats the African National Congress will win or lose – sending a message as to whether the majority is backing Cyril Ramaphosa as president and just how strong his support-base is. There isn’t a question as to whether the ANC will win, no matter how corrupt its previous leader was.

But just who will be the official opposition, and by how much? That is the question? As it stands, the Democratic Alliance is the second most powerful party in the country. In the past few years, it hasn’t engendered a great deal of trust. There has been much infighting, with the ugly spat with former Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille being really bad for the party’s popularity. But, as is evident with the ANC whose crimes have been far, far worse, we are a fairly forgiving bunch.

The other contender for the opposition is the Economic Freedom Fighters, under the maverick Julius Malema. The more powerful it is, the worse it is for us.

So, for the most part, we are going to be stressing over what party is the official opposition – and by how much. That is what will have an impact on us.

Yes, the ANC has let us down beyond repair under Zuma, and yes, there is still a massive amount of rot in the government, but I would say there is a large-scale agreement among us that Cyril Ramaphosa is the best person in the party to run this country.

There are no obvious leaders in other parties who could be presidents in waiting.

There are lots of other little parties, but none that at this late stage appear to be about to put up a real fight either for power or opposition.

So, ours is unlikely to be as exciting a battle as the one in the Middle East, and this newspaper will be keeping you updated on both.

May the best parties and leaders win! Behatzlacha!

Shabbat Shalom!

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