Meretz Symposium Day 1: Elections, elections, elections

I’m not even going to try to give a proper run-down of the wisdoms I gained today. We’re waking up at the (pardon the expression) crack of the cock’s ass tomorrow morning because we’re going to the Knesset. So forgive me if this blog post seems a little lacking. Suffice it to say that my mission to listen, learn, and hopefully change my perspective on Israeli politics has been fulfilled and exceeded many times over.

As most of today’s speakers pointed out, our trip falls in a very interesting period. Bibi Netanyahu recently called an election, which will be on January 22nd, and so the focus is now on the campaigns. Being affiliated with an extremely small, fringe party on the center-left gave me the ability to see the following things:

1. Doesn’t matter where you are, if it’s election season, no one will want to talk about anything else but the campaigns.
2. I didn’t think it was possible to exceed the deep despair embedded in the American Left, but the Israeli Left really takes the cake (which is a shame and a mistake).
3. 50% of the kids in schools are born to ultra-Orthodox families, which scares many people.
4. Obama’s reelection would hurt Bibi’s campaign. But if Obama visits Israel before the Israeli elections, such a move would hand the election over to Bibi on a silver platter, since Bibi has been begging Obama to visit for ages.
5. The editor-in-chief of Ha’aretz is a hipster, albeit an extremely knowledgable one.

Two best quotes of the day:

Naomi Chazan, an Israeli academic and politician. She thinks that the election is fascinating, since we don’t know who is going to be running and what their campaigning for until about a month before the elections themselves. She brought up the issue that will change the game in the campaigns: whether or not the Palestinians will go to the UN to become a non-member state. If they go before Obama wins, it’ll hurt them. If they go on November 29th (the anniversary of the UN partition of Palestine), the candidates will be forced to discuss the issue again.

The most important issue in this election is not whether or not we’ll attack Iran, but whether or not we’ll be a democratic society.

Shlomo Brom, a former Israeli military general. He discussed the changing zeitgeist of the Arab world. He said that the most important political power is on the streets, and that the Arab world is searching for its self identity not in terms of resistance to the West, but in terms of internal cohesion.

Rationality has nothing to do with political goals. Rationality is whether, in your political goals, you can do what is necessary.

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