Nineteen years ago, when Benjamin Netanyahu first became Israel’s prime minister, the peace process with the Palestinians dominated the national elections. There were other issues of importance, but all else paled in comparison….
Two decades later the situation looks much different to voters as they head to the polls on March 17th. Today, most Israelis recognize there is no peace process and that efforts to conclude a viable agreement with the current Palestinian leadership are increasingly unrealistic. And so, while a leader’s position regarding the peace process and the Land of Israel still matters, it’s far from being the first thing voters look to when making their decision.
What matters to Israelis now is the quality of life, and the issue most impinging on their happiness is the widening gap between the cost of living and the average household income.
Yes, Netanyahu is the most well-spoken of Israel’s politicians, and, yes, he understands Israel’s chief ally, the United States, better than any of his peers. But those are qualities more geared toward international diplomacy. When it comes to what matters in this election, many Israelis view the … upper class Netanyahu as being disconnected from the daily realities and struggles of the people.
Supporters of Israel abroad, both Jewish and Christian, primarily focus on security threats and the peace process, but these have become secondary concerns to average Israelis. For people who only see one or a limited number of facets of Israeli life, it can seem incomprehensible that the Jewish state would fail to elect the leader most qualified to tackle those particular issues.
But Israel is a living, breathing nation that faces the same types of environmental, economic, criminal justice, transportation, and a host of other issues with which every other country wrestles. It is not defined solely by its borders and battles against terrorism. And Netanyahu has failed to convince ordinary Israelis that he is as adept at addressing these concerns as he is at preventing the international community from imposing harmful terms of “peace.”
At any rate, with the peace process in such a quagmire, few believe that any prime minister, be they from the left or the right, would attempt to make far-reaching and dangerous concessions. And if they did, their government would simply be toppled and a new one elected….
When it comes to diplomatic issues, Netanyahu is generally accepted as good at what he does. But for a growing number of Israelis, there are more important concerns and Netanyahu has not provided the answers.
At the same time, polls show that a majority of Israelis do not see a better or more competent alternative to Netanyahu. So “Bibi” is likely to remain Israel’s prime minister following the upcoming elections; but he will have a lot to prove beyond demonstrating his commitment to the borders and security of Israel.
By Ryan Jones – Excerpts from “Israel Today” February 2015[Friends, there’s much wealth in Israel yet much poverty—largely among ultra-Orthodox and Muslim families with lots of children. Many of us are quite challenged by the high cost of living. Let’s pray for the election, the hearts of voters, and God’s leadership choice for Israel. He is faithful, raising up leaders and throwing down others.]