Apparently I’ll have my first opportunity to vote. Tzippi Livni, who was granted the authority by President Shimon Peres to form a new coalition government after Olmert resigned, did not succeed in bringing enough coalition partners on board. The major sticking point was that she would not agree to the Kitzbah—or allowance—amount that the party Shas wanted to allocate for families with children or to the amount the Pensioners party wanted.
UPDATE: I think there was another point of contention, which was the issue of negotiations with Palestinians over Jerusalem.
UPDATE2: After Livni accused Shas of extortion, the party shot back and accused Livni of Sephardi racism.
A member of Likud claimed that if she can’t negotiate in forming a party, how can she be trusted with negotiating on the future of Israel? To be honest, I was glad she didn’t give in to the exorbitant amounts that both parties were asking. I think these negotiations need to be somewhat tamed—they remind me of crazy stories you hear about legislators in the U.S. getting bridges to nowhere inserted into an omnibus spending bills so that they can spur economic growth in their region.
I also don’t find the whole child allowance thing very appealing. Maybe it’s my American anti-socialism coming out (hey Joe Plumber!), but I’d rather that money be spent on other initiatives—like the university budgets (ahem!)—that invest in the economy and the people. Spending more money on child allowances will help large religious and Jewish families get by, but it doesn’t necessarily help them advance economically.
Understandably, many of these families are facing economic distress—after all, about 1/3 of Israel is under the poverty line (making this place seem more like a developing country than a developed country). And Israeli s a small country so there are limited jobs and high costs for consumer products. (Have you seen the price of cereal here?) Even if more money were devoted toward job training and development, it wouldn’t eradicate all of the poverty here. This is especially true now that the financial crisis has caused the economy to plummet here and everywhere.
As a result of the failed coalition talks, elections are becoming more likely here. At least I’ll get a chance to exercise my democratic power, but the political scene doesn’t help matters like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the economy or the student budget debacle. Besides, elections aren’t expected to happen until February, and until that time Olmert, who is still facing corruption charges, will be acting as caretaker. So what can possibly get done between now and then?