I was at two parties on Monday and Tuesday night. Monday night was the Obama Inauguration party at Zolli’s Pub in Jerusalem, and Tuesday night was the Meretz watch for the election results at the Tzavta Club in Tel Aviv.
Monday night I told a reporter that “the good guys won” in the States, and “we can only hope that the good guys will win in Israel tomorrow as well.”
Well, maybe the good guys didn’t win, but the bad guys definitely suffered a serious blow, and at the Meretz gathering, there was a tremendous amount of young energy — for the first time in years. Tzavta was packed — standing room only, and when the sample results came in –– there was a huge roar from the crowd, a sense of genuine achievement and rejuvenation, punctured with shouts of “Bibi Habayta” (Bibi go home) and “Hu ha, mi zeh bah, medinat harevacha” (Look what’s coming, the social welfare state).
A lot of work was done to double the number of Knesset seats from 3 to 6 (almost 7). And many people were involved in bringing about the achievement. And there was also an outpouring of appreciation for Zehava Galon and the whole team that masterminded and managed the campaign.
I sat for half a day as an observer at a polling station (kalfi) in Tel Aviv at the (High) School of the Arts, alongside a Likudnik who turns out to be a doctoral student in genetics, and a Kadima observer who lives in Modiin and works in Tel Aviv. You get to see an interesting cross-section of the Israelis while being an observer. Likud Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who doubled as the Likud campaign manager, came in to vote, accompanied by a couple of house photographers. It’s known that he lives among the Tel Aviv lefties, and hangs out at their pubs. I couldn’t resist commenting that I had a few recommendations for different approaches to running the Education Ministry. He said he’d take them into account. Only later would he fully grasp how poor their election campaign actually was, and how much people have become disenchanted with the Likud and Netanyahu’s leadership. One young guy came in asking which letters were for Yair Lapid’s party. “Who’s Yair Lapid?” was my comment. The guy just smiled — I did tell him that the letters were .פה
Neither of us could have expected Lapid’s amazing result, coming in a strong second. A woman came in saying she couldn’t figure out how to vote for Hadash (the Communists), claiming they had no letter. I went into the voting booth, and sure enough there was a pile of Vav’s that I pointed out to her. When her husband, theater professor Avi Oz came in, who has supported Hadash in the past, I understood the context. Some names ring bells. There was a 20–something woman vamed Vilan, and I asked if she was related to Abu Vilan. She smiled — “he’s my uncle”. And then there was a guy named Hirshfeld, and his father was listed as Yair. “Are you the son of Yair Hirshfeld?” (one of the architects of the Oslo Accords). Of course he was. So I followed with “He was in Hashomer Hatzair, Vienna, one year after me on the machon, from Hashomer Hatzair, New York.” The most moving moment for me was one of the two 93 year olds who came in to vote. One of them had this crumpled ID card that was literally falling apart, but she refused to exchange it for a new one since it was issued by Yitzhak Greenbaum, the Minister of the Interior in the 1st Israeli government. Greenbaum, who had been a leader of Polish Jewry and was a member of the Polish parliament, later moved to Kibbutz Gan Shmuel after he left the government, and his son Benyamin Greenbaum was a well-known kibbutz educator.
By the way, my son Adi also wandered around on election day being the house photographer for young Labor Party candidate social protest leader Stav Shaffir. When we asked him whom he had decided to vote for, since he had been deliberating between Labor and Meretz, he said Meretz, because he was upset that Shelly Yachimovitz was ignoring peace and the settlements in her campaign. That’s also what upset him about the social protest movement. And even more so about the Freyerim (Suckers) Share the Burden movement, one of the main themes of Lapid’s campaign. When I tried to defend them, he responded “Don’t they understand that the point is not to share the military burden, but to end the need for spending so much on the military?”
Anyway, it’s clear that Netanyahu will form the next government, but it will be a very complex and shaky government. Most observers are convinced that it won’t survive a full term, and that something very interesting is developing here.