Grievance Politics

By Shlomo Maital  

    How can one understand politics, in which elected representatives seem to engage in behavior that is ruinous, destructive and against the interests of those who voted for them? 

     Example?  A handful of crackpot Republican congresspersons block the US Treasury’s ability to borrow money (raise the debt ceiling), threatening the unthinkable: US default on its bonds, disaster not only to the US.

     Example?  Netanyahu and henchmen race to destroy Israeli democracy, bringing immediate and huge damage to a stellar economy driven by hi-tech.


      Grievance politics.  Don’t get mad, get even. 

       Netanyahu is being prosecuted for corruption.  He has a grievance with the justice system.  Conclusion?  Wreck it. 

    His henchman MK Simcha Rothman, head of the Knesset Justice Committee, ruthlessly bulldozes the legislation through the Justice Committee, brooking no debate or opposition. Why?  Rothman burns with anger because in 2005 Prime Minister Sharon ordered the Jewish settlements in Gaza to be withdrawn and the courts supported him. 

      Grievances.  Let’s get even.

      The cost to my country Israel will be immense, and it has begun.  Here is New York Times columnist Tom Friedman (few know Israel better) and how he sees it:

    * What is at risk:  Friedman:  “The Economist ranked Israel as the fourth-best-performing economy in 2022 among O.E.C.D. countries. And in 2020, Israel ranked 19th among the economies in the world, making the top 20 for the first time in its history, based on G.D.P. per capita — ahead of Canada, New Zealand and Britain.   That’s right: Israel has been enjoying a quiet economic miracle in the past few decades, and no Israeli leader deserves more credit for that than Netanyahu.”

* Who is driving the destruction:  Friedman:  “Because in the absence of a credible answer, the only thing one can believe — the only thing foreign investors increasingly believe — is that the whole process is being driven by a small group of far-right authoritarian ideologues, an extremist right-wing think tank inspired by the Federalist Society in America and a prime minister who seems so desperate to escape from his trial on 2020 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust that he is ready to change the rules of the entire Israeli Monopoly game to secure his own get-out-of-jail-free card.  Now, that is scary.”

    Netanyahu will get even.  Rothman will get even.

    But we, the people of Israel, will pay the price.

      Hi-tech drives Israel’s wealth and economic growth.  It is fueled mostly by foreign (US) venture capital.  Who would invest in a country where courts are impotent, and offer no redress if crooked politicians steal your money?

      Money has already fled Israel.  The shekel has lost value, falling from 3.08 per dollar to today’s 3.54. 

      All this, by a coalition government that won the Nov. 1 election by 30,000 votes, out of 4.7 million, implementing a policy 60% of Israelis oppose, and driving huge disaffection with the Knesset (8.5% of Israelis ‘trust’ political parties). 

        Does democracy end with an election?  In Israel, maybe it does.

      The US is similar.  Trump spits bile because he lost the 2020 election, and fuels the grievance of his supporters, spurring them to even attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.  All, driven by grievance.

       And Putin?  Grievance in spades.  The West ruined the USSR and its empire, he thinks.   Putin will get even, even if it destroys Ukraine and his own country Russia as well. 

       In the end, it will become clear to all, including the aggrieved, that getting even – pulling the Temple down around you and sowing destruction – is disastrous. 

      But good heavens, the cost in lives, suffering, deprivation will be enormous.