Putting yourself in a position where you are expected to write on a regular basis – worse yet, where you are expected to write something that someone else might actually want to read – is a rather odd thing to do, especially when you aren’t being paid for it. You can’t just go on living your life in the normal way: it’s difficult, after all, to remain nonchalant when you haven’t posted anything to your stupid blog in two days and your readers – all seventeen of them – will give up on you if you don’t come up with something interesting and brilliant in the very near future. So everything that happens in your life, every news item you read, every thought that passes through your brain, is processed through a little mental filter: How can I use this as something to write about? The most unlikely things become metaphors: a problem getting a computer fixed becomes an example of all that’s wrong in the Middle East, simply because otherwise what’s there to say about a broken computer?
So it comes as something of a relief when two things connect in such an obvious manner that you don’t have to strain for a metaphor; when events in your inner life so perfectly mirror events in the greater world that the words flow effortlessly. I’m talking, of course, about This Week’s Great Coincidence: the semi-official beginning of Israel’s election season, and my impending wisdom-tooth extraction.
Just thinking about it is breathtaking: at around 10:30 this evening we will hear – barring the kind of surprise defeat that has become a sort of personal specialty – that Shimon Peres will be the Labor Party’s candidate for Prime Minister in our next election; and a mere ten hours after that, out comes Mister Lower-Left Back Molar.
Dental work and Israeli politics have more in common than pain, of course: For example, just as I know that I have only so many teeth in need of various forms of dental torture, we Israeli voters know that our next elections must take place some time in the next three hundred sixty three days. At the end of the process, we’ll have a new Knesset that will be… that will be… I think I need some more Novocaine, please.
Writers who are paid for their labors have even worse problems than I do, of course; many of them even have worse teeth than mine. Having to write to keep the wolf from the door means that they need to come up with endless articles any time an election looms: exactly when will the current government fall, what parties will compete, who will split, who will merge, what will Ariel Sharon call the new party that he may or may not form, and what new and exciting sixty-year-old geniuses constitute the New Generation of Israeli politicians? Yes, I think I’d like to rinse and spit now.
Thankfully, I don’t need to write to keep the wolf from my door; my wolf already lives inside the house. (Actually, he’s a Canaan Dog – essentially a wolf with a couple of mutations that make him goofy rather than fearsome. He’s got good teeth, too, the son of a bitch – but I digress.) So I can reveal a secret or two that the professional reporters probably won’t tell you:
- You can safely ignore all news reports about when the next elections will take place. After all, what are the possibilities? The last date for elections (based on when the current Knesset was elected) is November 7, 2006; and even if our government falls tomorrow, the earliest likely date for elections would be in April or May 2006. So all the hoopla about timing is really a waste of ink and effort; what’s six months more or less?
- You can safely ignore all reports about Ariel Sharon splitting off from the Likud (or, rather, given their relative sizes, about Ariel Sharon forcing the Likud to split off from him). Of course, I’m in favor of a Likud split; but it’ll happen when and if it happens, and Arik (who, like the off-screen Soviet leader in Doctor Strangelove, loves surprises) is hardly going to let us mere voters know his inner thought processes. We should accept that everything we read on the subject from now until the split happens or doesn’t happen is chicken-feed – that is, “news” released by an interested party in order to further an agenda or distract us from something else.
- You can safely ignore reports about mergers and splits among Israel’s various right-wing parties. I’m not saying that mergers and splits won’t take place, of course – heaven forbid! I’m just saying that it really doesn’t matter. Every election season, the Israeli Right decides that the reason for its inability to seize control of the country is because of some technicality: either there are too many right-wing parties splitting the vote, or there are too few, or they need a charismatic new leader, or whatever. Every election season, somebody comes up with a scientific opinion poll showing how Magic Merger X will result in thirty Knesset seats for the far-Right, and yet somehow it never seems to work out that way.
- While it would be nice if it mattered who runs the Labor Party, it probably doesn’t.
Once we know when the elections will take place, which parties are actually running and what they claim to represent, and what’s happened in the real world in the mean time, we can start paying attention again. We actually will get to vote at some point; and when we do so we should vote responsibly, if we can find anyone responsible to vote for. I may even come out with some endorsements; that plus a few million dollars from foreign sources could easily put my favored party into fifth place.
And the result? After the elections are over and a new governing coalition is formed, we will once again discover how Israeli politics is different from dental surgery: after the tooth comes out and my gums stop bleeding, I fully expect that my mouth will be in better shape than it is today.