Analysis

There's Only One Man Responsible for Israel's Third, Redundant Election

What has long since crossed the lines of absurdity and logic is the obsequiousness to Netanyahu of his right-wing bloc members

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Makor Rishon Conference, August 12, 2019.
Emil Salman

With silence, indifference and acceptance, the State of Israel finds itself today in its third election campaign in less than a year. The masses haven’t taken to the streets, roads haven’t been blocked, and no trash bin has been set alight. Five more months (at least) of continued paralysis, intensive harm to the economy and to the weaker populations in healthcare and welfare, and it’s as if we’re talking about a decree of fate. That’s just the way it is.

The phrase, “There won’t be a third election” was repeated incessantly by politicians, not just during the past 85 days but even before the second, September election, which was also perceived as insane.

But all the basic assumptions collapsed one after another. The rightwing bloc survived; there was no revolt in Likud; Avigdor Lieberman kept his word and didn’t join either side; Amir Peretz didn’t hasten to save Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Benny Gantz resisted the temptations, and what was supposed to be a political death blow to the prime minister – being charged with bribery – didn’t put off a single coalition member.

This suicidal spiral that has gripped the political system in the past year stems from one person: Netanyahu. This election campaign, like the ones before it in April and September, is the result of his continuing to try to evade a trial that may very well land him in prison. So his motive is clear.

What has long since crossed the lines of absurdity and logic is the obsequiousness of the other 54 members of Likud and its partner parties who continue to huddle around him and say yes to all his caprices.

What hold does he have over them? What magical influence does he wield? In private conversations all of them, without exception, admit that this is already beyond the beginning of the end, deep into the twilight. But with eyes wide shut, as if they were moonstruck, they are following him into this unnecessary, expensive and contemptible adventure.

Like most elections during the past decade, the March 2020 elections will be about “Bibi – Yes or No.” This time, even more than before, it will be even clearer that the game is between the two top guys, the only two candidates for prime minister. That’s why Yair Lapid stepped aside – he understood that he had no place on the field with the big boys, and that his presence would only do damage.

Gantz is entering this campaign in the best position he could hope to be in: Kahol Lavan is beating Likud in the polls and he has drawn even with Netanyahu in polls about suitability to be prime minister, even though he has never spent a single day as any kind of minister. The one who has helped him get this far is his rival, with his inciting, divisive, aggressive behavior toward law enforcement. Gantz needn’t do anything except be himself: statesmanlike, believable, level-headed and even sympathetic.