Professor Discusses Israeli Politics
Yoram Peri, a professor of political sociology and communication at Tel Aviv University, offered his analysis of Israeli politics during a lecture Tuesday afternoon.
It is the weakness of the politicians that creates a vacuum, which is filled by the military.
This article was first published in The Daily Bruin.
By Lucy Benz-Rogers
Yoram Peri, a professor of political sociology and communication at Tel Aviv University, offered his analysis of Israeli politics during a lecture Tuesday afternoon in which he discussed the political trends in Israel and the ramifications of military influence in the government.
In the lecture, Peri described some of the problems he believes Israel is facing, specifically what he sees as a lack of strong political leadership.
"Israel is in the most severe political crisis in its history," Peri said, referring to the high turnover rate in top government positions, the large number of prominent Israeli officials under criminal investigation, and polls showing a very low level of trust among Israelis for their government.
Trevor Johnston, a fourth-year political science student who attended the lecture, said he agreed with Peri's analysis of Israel's struggles.
"I certainly don't believe the description of Israel in crisis is beyond the pale," Johnston said. "Anyone who follows the news and reads the Jerusalem Daily can see this."
Peri said he does not foresee an end to this situation for at least six months to a year, as he believes none of Israel's political parties seem to be offering any new solutions and that there is a lack of dialogue among the Israeli population. "I see no change in the major issues, only a continuation of the crisis," he said.
Peri said Israeli politics have been staunchly partisan for a long time. With the creation of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's centrist political party Kadima in 2005 and 2006, Peri said he saw some hope for progress.
"We thought we would see major political change," he said. "Then the war in Lebanon happened."
As a result of the conflict with Hezbollah last summer, Peri explained, a large number of Israelis lost faith in their political leaders and began aligning themselves with more right-wing parties.
"The lack of belief in the possibility for change has brought Israelis back to the right and reinforced the belief that the military should be involved in politics," Peri said.
Peri said he believes there is a disillusionment of Israelis with their politicians, which is one reason Israel began to rely more on military leadership. He cited numerous cases in which Israeli politicians rely heavily on the military for guidance on foreign policy.
"It is the weakness of the politicians that creates a vacuum, which is filled by the military," Peri said, adding that the military's power still is moderated by other forces in Israeli politics.
After the lecture Peri took questions from the audience, which consisted largely of academics.
Johnston said he disagreed with Peri's distinction between political and military leaders.
"He addressed the military but not its civilian complements such as Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) and Shin Bet (the Israel Security Agency)," he said.
Sarah Zelcer, a third-year political science student, attended the lecture and said she found it interesting, and that she found the topic of the military's role in Israel particularly significant.
"It seems like the military being so intertwined with politics would be a big deal ... especially in the Middle East," she said. "He was obviously very well-read. ... It was very informative and I'm glad I came."
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2007