The Do-Over Election Performed a Vital Service for Israeli Democracy

Sept. 27 2019

When, on May 30, the new Knesset took the unprecedented step of dissolving itself and holding a second round of elections, most Israelis were frustrated, Evelyn Gordon among them. In retrospect, she has arrived at the conclusion that, whatever sort of government emerges, the recent vote will restore faith in democracy and better reflect the will of the people. The nub of the issue is that, when voting for right-wing parties other than Likud, most voters thought doing so would still help win the premiership for Benjamin Netanyahu:

In April, rightist parties that explicitly promised to support Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister won 65 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. In other words, a clear majority of voters seemingly cast their ballots for a right-leaning, Netanyahu-led government. But after the election, Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the [right-wing, secular party] Yisrael Beytenu, refused to join such a government.

Thus even if an alternative government could have been formed—whether one led by Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz, or a unity government [led by both]—it would have undermined rightists’ faith in the democratic process. Any such government would have looked like a product not of the majority’s will but of the whims of a single individual, Liberman, who “stole” right-wing votes and gave them to the left.

The do-over election showed this wasn’t the case. Liberman’s party not only maintained its strength but increased it, thereby proving him right that his voters cared more about curbing ultra-Orthodox power than about keeping Netanyahu in office. . . . That doesn’t mean Gantz won. [But] nobody will be able to claim the election was stolen. [regardless of what] happens.

Democracy’s sine qua non is that voting actually matters. When people stop believing this, democracy dies.

This is of particular importance, Gordon explains, because of undemocratic moves by both Yitzḥak Rabin and Ariel Sharon that led repeatedly to territorial compromises, leaving the right more cynical about the democratic process. Perhaps, she concludes, the reversal of this trend will be Netanyahu’s “final service to Israel.”

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More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli democracy, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship