The chicken without a head

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (Jan 7, 2018) – When you cut off the head of a chicken it continues to run for awhile before collapsing. It’s not alive, because it’s headless and it’s not dead, because it’s still running. In her Ha’aretz column today, Iris Leal uses this phenomenon as an apt metaphor for the present government of Israel: it has lost its head but it’s still running.

The public has been made aware because of the many police investigations that are currently going on. The prime minister is being investigated on three different counts. The minister of the interior, who already has a criminal record because of a conviction when he was a member of a previous government, is again being investigated for corruption. So is the leader of the government coalition who has had to resign his post as a result.

Many citizens in Tel Aviv demonstrate every week against corruption in high places. So far, however, there’s no evidence that their calls are being heeded by the public at large. We seem to be getting used to the chicken without a head

Within the government itself, ministers are pulling in different directions to gain points with those who may vote for them next time around.

Within the government itself, ministers are pulling in different directions to gain points with those who may vote for them next time around. The minister of defense wants to bring in the death penalty for terrorists (by all accounts, he only has Arabs in mind). The minister of the interior wants to close down convenience stores that operate on the Sabbath. The education minister, who is the de facto representative of the settlers, wants to annex at least part of the territories (always referred to as Judea and Samaria, not the West Bank).

Other ministers seek to draw attention to their competence as potential successors by introducing popular measures. The minister of finance promises tax cuts, the minister of transport wants to name a train station after Donald Trump (obviously, he hasn’t read Michael Wolfe’s bestseller about the self-proclaimed genius in the White House).

The most cynical of all proposals (and the competition is tough) comes from the minister of health (who has got himself into a position where he is the minister of health without being part of the government). Representing one of the ultra-Orthodox parties he seems to anticipate that the current prime minister will lose the next election and that the leader of the Yesh Atid party may replace him. The latter is a fierce opponent of the ultra-Orthodox and will try not to have them in his government.

Now the ultra-Orthodox don’t serve in the army and don’t go to university. However, this their leader would like to bring in a law that the prime minister must have served in a high ranking position in the Israel Defense Forces and must have a university degree. The leader of Yesh Atid has neither qualification. The cynicism shouldn’t escape us.

It’s quite possible that there will be a change of government in the next election, though it’s by no means certain. But even if Israel gets a new prime minister, will liberals have reason to rejoice? That’s by no means certain. It could even be worse if any of the members of the current government, who now seek attention in the hope of being considered, become prime minister.

The miracle of Israel is that despite its political leaders and notwithstanding the security risks it’s facing in both the North and the South, the country is doing well. But for how long?

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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