Unless you woke up on Wednesday morning after about 70 years being clinically brain dead, it would be hard to totally believe the results of the exit polls. For a long time now, the television exit polls have been closer to abstract art than the exact sciences.
If we judge them by the much too recent history, then the actual results could remain unclear even after the last of the soldiers’ votes are counted. The announcement of the final results will also take even longer than usual this time, because of the stricter supervision and security surrounding the election. There is just one fact that is already clear, irrespective of any sampling error: A third round of elections in Israel would be nothing less than a national disaster.
Senior officials from a number of parties, mostly those with a great deal of experience in election campaigns, have expressed – in recent days and during Election Day itself – sincere fears of such a scenario. There is not yet evidence of any dramatic change in voting patterns since the April election, so there is a reasonable chance that the tale we have been living through for the last few months will repeat itself in nightmarish fashion.
Another round of elections, in addition to its dismal effect on the already deficit-heavy state coffers, would be a fatal blow to the public’s faith in the entire system, too. Even worse, based on the way the present round unfolded, another round of voting would likely mean an escalation in the tricks, lies, incitement and election law violations – mostly on the part of the person who is, more than anyone else, supposed to defend law and order: the prime minister. As the tension rises, the increasingly desperate politicians have been pushing down the level of discourse – and dividing Israel society.
This is why this time we must do everything, but truly everything, not to drag Israel into another similar escapade. If the person who the president entrusts with the task of forming a government does not succeed in recruiting 61 MKs, as happened last time – under no conditions can he be allowed to dissolve the Knesset as easily as Benjamin Netanyahu did.
Netanyahu refused in recent days – throughout the entire blitz of interviews he gave – to explicitly commit himself not to dissolve the Knesset again and call for new elections if he reaches the exact same situation. With all the “gevalt” (save me) warnings he made about the “stealing the election,” this would in fact be the true and only stealing of the election. How convenient it would be if he could continue on in office forever, and even try to postpone his pre-indictment hearings with the attorney general. Even if he does not achieve this, why not give it a try and, in the meantime, appoint as many ministers as he wants to his unelected government – just as he did over the past few months.
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All the parties that stood with him and supported new elections, instead of having the president ask someone else to form the government – including the so-called opposition – were partners to the shame. This time, such support will not be accepted with understanding by the worn-out Israeli public. Whoever cannot form a government coalition of 61 MKs within a reasonable period of time must be required to give the president a chance to call on another contender.