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Both in the United States and Israel elections have become the main topic of conversation and interest. In the United States, it is the midterm congressional elections that have dominated the public conversation. Needless to say, the conversation has been vitriolic and bitter and the continuing lack of civility in American political life remains troubling to many,

though it is hardly unexpected. There is much precedent for it over previous elections and political controversies.
Here in Israel the mayoral elections have taken place. However, there is little indication from these local elections as to the true mood of the country and its electorate. Many of the candidates in these local elections have been scarred by scandal and personal troubles. Nevertheless, it seems clear to all that Israel is headed for a general parliamentary election in the near future.
All of the major political parties and personages are gearing up for these elections. The posturing and promises have begun and millions of shkolim will be expended in order to sway my vote. The Israeli political system is particularly contentious and many times indecent. Yet, in spite of all of these shortcomings, somehow the country runs exceedingly well no matter who is in power. 
This almost begs the question as to why elections should be at all necessary. But the main requirement for leading politicians is that of ego and that will explain almost everything that goes on regarding the electoral system here in Israel.
Israel has a very large number of political parties which divide up the vote amongst themselves. Even when the Knesset raised the threshold for obtaining a seat in parliament a few years ago, there were still so many parties and factions within parties that coalition governments became a necessity, though coalitions by their very nature are precarious and volatile. 
Netanyahu has been the longest serving prime minister in the history of the State and according to most political opinions, probably will emerge from the next election as the prime minister once again. How many partners he will have to include in his coalition government and who those partners will be is really the main topic regarding Israeli politics today. 
It is striking to me to notice that the issue of peace with the Palestinians is almost absent from the public discussion of policies today. Most Israelis have long ago given up on Abbas as a productive partner in any peace process. It seems that the American government also feels that no headway can be meaningfully achieved currently. So this issue, which dominated Israeli politics for decades, apparently is not at the forefront of discussion for this forthcoming election cycle.
The perennial issue of yeshiva students and army service remains a hot button issue, which serves both the interests of the secular and religious sections of Israeli society. In a cynical moment, I feel that no one really wishes this issue to be resolved since it serves the political interests of so many.
There will be the usual social issues of income inequality, help for the poor, better integration of the different segments of Israeli society, and public observance of the Sabbath present in the election campaigns. I feel that most Israelis are in a live and let live situation regarding all of these issues but that the politicians must find issues and causes around which to rally their base. 
I do not see any new political stars on the immediate horizon and therefore this coming election will basically be a recycling of the characters and issues of the past two elections. But fear not, elections will always occur because human beings crave the noise and dissonance that they engender.
Shabbat Shalom.
Berel Wein

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