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Sep 14, 2008

which is more serious?

Reading the papers over Friday - Shabbos made me think about something. I do not remember which paper it was (I think it was Mishpacha, but I am not sure), but there was an article comparing the US election season to the Israeli one.

I do not now remember the point the article was trying to make, but it made me think about a different way of comparing the two.

Right now we are heading into primaries this week in the Kadima party. This may simply select a new Prime Minister, and it may throw us into a season of national elections.

We have tended to think of the US style of campaigning as being one void of issues and seriousness. Rather it is a media show, with each candidate simply trying to try to get off a better 7 second sound bite than the other guy, and who looks better on television.

There is an element of truth in that, as the increase in media exposure over the past thirty years or so has changed the style of campaigns to be more media and publicity based and less issue based.

But I think we have exaggerated it to a certain extent.

While we think of the US campaigns as being void of discussing actual issues and full of PR, we also tend to consider the elections and campaigns in Israel as being extremely serious, discussing different worldviews on issues such as security finances, economy, education, etc. The PR in Israeli campaigns is very immature - there are laws limiting the advertising, for example. Israelis tend to care less how the candidate looks, and more of what his (or her) positions are.

Tha Kadima party has four candidates vying for the top spot. Have we seen a single debate between any of them? All four? Just the two front runners? Have we seen any interviews in the newspapers detailing exactly what each candidates positions are for policy on various issues? Have we seen anything detailing what the differences are between any of them?

And it is not just in the Kadima party. In previous election years - how often have we held real debates between the various candidates and parties?

The modus operandi in Israel has been for the candidates to stay as silent as possible on as much as possible. They have realized that the less they speak, the more chance they have of winning the election. In Kadima you can see that in Tzippi Livni. She is considered the front-runner, and she has said the least of all the candidates. Ariel Sharon was a master of staying silent and not telling people what his plans were.

So, while in the US they have held debate after debate, in Israel we have none. True the debates int eh US are not ones in which policy can actually be discussed in detail - they are limited to 90 seconds of talking time for each question posed. How can anything be discussed thoroughly in that little amount of time? Yet at least they have to talk and tell the basics of their plans and policies. In Israel there are no debates, no talking, no real publicity.

The candidate simply portrays an image via the media, who decide whether they like a certain candidate or not, and they try to stay quiet enough to not mess up that image.

So at the end of the day, whose campaigns are more media based and whose campaigns are more serious? It is time we held our politicians and leaders responsible. They should be telling us what their plans are. Let us make informed decisions.


  1. You are absolutely right. A big part of this is the press. The press here is very partisan and left wing, and therefore has no interest in really investigating anything. While in the US the press is also left wing, there is much more freedom and you have talk radio (people like Rush Limabuagh, etc.) who keep things more honest.

  2. There is still a difference. In the US one party will win and lead by himself the country. In Israel, due to the electoral system, there will be a coalition of various parties based on the result of the elections. Since the outcome of the elections is still unknown, the candidates have to be prepared to build a coalition with whoever is there. The price to pay and the policy to follow will depend on whom you associate with. If the DL or charedi get lots of seats, the policy will have to be more right-wing, since youll need these parties for the coalition. None of the candidates can say now what they will do because they might need to follow a line that will be just the opposite. In the beginning of the state the policies were more ideologically clear-cut because the ruling party was not dependent on small parties.


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