The efforts to topple the walls surrounding the Balfour Street fortress were repelled by the thick Jerusalem stone, with every projectile rebounding forcefully at its launcher. The victory of Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are the result of standing firm, a terrible dread of being knocked out and an unbridled viciousness. Hundreds of thousands of words, curses, invective, lies and venom were the effective tools in the hands of Netanyahu voters, but they didn’t come out of the blue.
It is a culture that grew and developed here for at least a decade, in which fascist and racist ideas and nationalist, messianic, somnambulant religion fused together to create an arrogant society. It also shaped a country that not only submissively agreed to place a mafioso at its head, but also fought hard so he could continue to lead it. Not only did the Chosen People fail to foster an alternative leader and a substitute for a gangster regime, but some of the potential replacements that did run in the election were part and parcel of Likud itself. No less important is the fact that Netanyahu’s voters understood the significance of a possible loss, which would have meant the end of their rule as the dominant class. In contrast, Kahol Lavan voters did not really stand to lose anything.
Netanyahu has done a fine job of integrating Israel into the Middle East, where leaders rule until death. But in contrast to many Arab states, in Israel no protest movement has arisen to say enough is enough and take to the streets to purge the vermin. If there was a need to prove this, the third election – a farce the public was dragged into against its will – clarified once more that Israeli democracy is a mere hologram.
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Behind the polling station screens were slips bearing meaningless letters and combinations thereof, each one representing some ideological movement or stream, as if this election was really about a host of values and beliefs. With a last-minute hesitation and sometimes with great anxiety, the holy slip was chosen, the one holding hope for a better society, for a more worthy reality. It was cast into the wishing box, but it was “like buying a lottery ticket,” said one voter waiting his turn. “You know you won’t win, but it’s worth it for a few hours of hope.” Mark Twain’s quip “if voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it” could have adorned the polling stations here as well.
The horror is only beginning and will roil around procedural and legal questions. Can the president call on a person facing three indictments to form a government? Will the High Court of Justice deign to rule on the question that will decide the identity of the next prime minister, or will it punt any petition to the president’s doorstep? How many recommendations to form a government will Netanyahu garner from lawmakers and what will be their political and economic price? The main question is whether there will be a government or if we are facing a fourth election.
The high voter turnout, perhaps the highest in decades, shattered the notion that the public is fed up with elections, that it has become indifferent and uninvolved, or that it would at least punish the ringleader. On the contrary. The bluff of “a fateful election,” “the last opportunity,” “the only possible decision” did its job. But how can one resolve the contradiction between deep faith in the democratic process and the power held by the public to change the horrific reality in which it is trapped, and the willingness to let the most dangerous assailant on democracy continue to manage the state? This dissonance has no simple answer. It’s clear, however, that someone who arranged three elections for himself recognizes his power to manipulate the public, and that he could use his sleight of hand a fourth time as well.
We must already be wary of the next fool's trap, which is already flashing its dazzling lights – a unity government. This collection of lies is another delusion that will promise Israelis the world but eliminate the only chance of establishing a regime that’s devoid of filth: An opposition. This election was held in the absence of a true opposition. Many people who cast their vote for Kahol Lavan did so while muttering explanations and apologies and holding their noses. A unity government will rob these voters of even the smallest amount of optimism that a future election could bring about change.