Analysis

Israel's Election Results Prove the Center Has Won and Ideology Is Dead

Uniformity, ideological emptiness, and a lack of willingness to change: Israel is united in its desire to keep ignoring its problems

Benny Gantz, head of the Kahol Lavan party, dances with ultra-Orthodox Jewish men during his visit to the Western Wall, March 28, 2019.
Sebastian Scheiner,AP

The results of Tuesday's election proved beyond any doubt that Israel is one big center, with far fewer differences of opinion than one would think.

We’re all one nation: Not a polarized society, not torn and not split, as people lament here day and night, but a big consensus, far broader and deeper than we thought. And that isn’t good news at all.

Concealed behind this apparent unity is uniformity, ideological emptiness and a lack of courage to adopt clear positions, not to mention fight for them. There’s no civil war awaiting, but rather a forlorn tune: “We’re all one nation,” a requiem for any new idea, sang by the national choir to lull any change.

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The far right has been totally beaten, there was no radical Jewish left here in the first place – and we are left with one large and deafening national unison on most issues.

The center won again on Tuesday, and it is perhaps its biggest victory ever. The differences between the two blocs are minuscule, hardly visible to the naked eye. Yamina was battered again and Otzma Yehudit was knocked out, as it deserved. The Zionist left was saved by the skin of its teeth, after it was well-diluted, Meretz by Ehud Barak and Stav Shaffir, and Labor by Orli-Levi Abekasis. Everything converged toward the middle.

One could think that there is an ideological abyss between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz. We had two golden opportunities in recent days to learn that this is not the case. Netanyahu proposed the annexation of strategic parts of the West Bank, and Gantz said that Netanyahu wouldn’t keep his promise, while he, Gantz, would remain in the Jordan Valley forever.

Then chief of staff Benny Gantz and PM Netanyahu have lunch in Olga, April 6, 2012
Avi Ohayon/GPO

What’s the difference? There is no difference. Gantz, who wants a “secular” government, went to place a note in the Western Wall, just like Netanyahu. Such is the nature of Israeli secularism.

The results on Tuesday demonstrated that Israelis don’t want anything different, not the far right and of course not the far left, only the center. One part calls his middle “Likud” and another calls his middle “Kahol Lavan.” Only the figure of Netanyahu divides the two camps. And that, of course, is not a real ideological difference.

It was also proven Tuesday that there are not many buyers for blatant racism. Israelis want racism, but in small doses, and under the table, not front and center. After Tuesday, it’s impossible to claim that Israel went to the right. It certainly did not go to the left. It went to sleep.

Such a society deserves a national unity government, the surefire recipe for more comatose years. When there’s no radicalism and no innovation on either side, there’s no argument, and when there’s no argument you can only continue with more of the same, the same thing that has caused Israel to be the repressive society that it is,nity to be a society in denial, which hides from its real problems and favors the trivialities of escapism.

The election once again proved that those who propose change have no chance in Israel. Except for an up or down, in and out referendum on Netanyahu, Israelis don’t want any change. They’re happy with what they have, and mainly with what they are fleeing from. Just give them their vacations and their shopping malls.

The kind of executive that will arise from this election is almost insignificant. No real change will emerge from any possible coalition. That’s why the idea of a national unity government is so popular in Israel: It guarantees the longest afternoon siesta. After Tuesday, a national unity government is very close to being implemented, guaranteeing a few more seasons of hibernation. What more could Israelis want?