Editorial

Israeli Elections Now

To put an end to this government of gloom, it would be best to hold elections, and the sooner the better.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) sits next to Education Minister Naftali Bennett during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, 30 August  2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) sits next to Education Minister Naftali Bennett during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, 30 August 2016. Abir Sultan (Pool)

Do not underestimate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s obsession with media issues. Even if the establishment of the public broadcasting corporation doesn’t look like a matter that ought to be threatening the future of his government, the premier has already proven that when it comes to his image and reflection in the media, he will stop at nothing, even if the entire country could be hurt.

Although Israel’s being one of the world’s leading countries in frequency of elections – every 2.8 years on average since the 1990s – is damaging to government stability and the economy, it is also the case that Netanyahu belittles the democratic process and chooses to threaten elections every time that some law, legitimately passed, doesn’t please him.

But in the case of the current government, the harm of its remaining intact is greater than the damage elections could cause to governance and stability. The Netanyahu-Naftali Bennett government is the worst Israel has ever had.

During its short tenure, messianic fantasies of annexing the occupied territories have become realistic. More than any other government, this one has advanced nationalist, anti-democratic legislation aimed at increasing the power of the tyrannical majority and undermining the delicate infrastructure meant to protect minorities in the State of Israel. With a ruthless pincer movement, this government raised its hand in favor of chilling laws (like the expropriation law) and isolationist ones (the boycott law), while in parallel advancing laws aimed at harming human rights groups identified with the left.

The Netanyahu-Bennett government has championed incitement on a weekly basis; demonstrated clear intolerance toward the voices of Arabs who didn’t conform to the criteria of the Knesset’s nationalists and acted to silence them and make them disappear, using draconian measures like the dismissal law.

Along with benighted legislation, Bennett also sought to conduct state-sponsored brainwashing of the next generation. Bennett issued a civics textbook that was rewritten to serve the settler-right narrative and increased the involvement of religious NGOs in state education. His party colleague, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, worked to restrain the only institution with the power to stop democracy’s deterioration with a series of conservative appointments to the Supreme Court.

This makes speculating about the reasons and motivations for Netanyahu’s caprice regarding elections unnecessary. Even if the prime minister is seeking to distort the public agenda because he fears being indicted, or, alternatively, because he can’t deliver the goods to Trump and freeze settlement construction when Bennett is in the coalition, it doesn’t really matter. To put an end to this government of gloom, it would be best to hold elections, and the sooner the better.