88 Testing Days of Grace and Dread Before the 2015 Israeli Election

If Israeli democrats stick to moonstruck candidates, delusional platforms and the self-indulgence of their own living rooms, Israel is liable to become Sodom and Gomorrah.

Tomer Appelbaum

The coming 88 days are days of grace: Not in every country and not at every time is the democratic elite given the ability to persuade the general public to vote for the values of the Enlightenment. We in Israel still have this ability.

The political process here is still sound, open and impressive. And in the 2015 election, we also have an opportunity. After the summer’s war spurred a sharp turn to the right in Israeli public opinion, the fall’s scenes of zealots running wild brought the center-left back to life.

Over the past few months, the extreme right has done what it most likes to do: go overboard. This unbridled behavior generated revulsion and feelings of mobilization among more than a few Israelis. And that is how an opportunity arose the likes of which we haven’t seen since Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 and Ehud Barak in 1999.

But this third opportunity might not recur. So today, every person matters, and every action matters. Our acts of commission and omission are what will determine whether Israel will be a country of the sons of light or the sons of darkness.

The coming 88 days are also days of dread: During this time, the battle for Israel’s Jewish-democratic identity, and its soul, will reach its peak. At the end, we will know whether a candle of hope has been lit here, or whether the darkness has covered the face of the earth.

The traumatic events of 2014 proved the extent to which we are walking on thin ice – in terms of security, diplomacy, identity and values. They made it clear that both the internal threat and the external threat to Israeli democracy are fundamentally different from the threats faced by any other democracy.

The nationalist bloc is still large, and the danger that a government of the right, the right and the right will be established is still real. But the opposing forces are also serious.

Benjamin Netanyahu, even though his luster has dulled and faded, is still the most presidential of the prime ministerial candidates. Naftali Bennett, despite his extremist views, is the most charismatic of the party leaders. Avigdor Lieberman, even though he is slippery in every sense of the word, is once again managing to fool the Israeli bourgeoisie by appearing harmless.

If they aren’t blocked, Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman are liable to turn Israel into a pariah state. The country we will wake up to on the day after the election is liable to be one whose face has been mutilated. Therefore, the election campaign that is starting now will take place on the edge. On one hand, it will contain a degree of new hope. But on the other, it will contain the dread of the brink of the abyss.

The coming 88 days will be a testing time: Since everything (but everything) is open and everything (but everything) is possible, everything (but everything) depends on us. If Israeli democrats go to the Israeli center with suitable leadership, a suitable platform and suitable mobilization, it will be possible to bring Israel back to itself and restore its image. But if the democrats stick to moonstruck candidates, delusional platforms and the self-indulgence of their own living rooms, Israel is liable to become Sodom and Gomorrah.

This isn’t the time for weeping and wailing. This isn’t the time for cynicism, sarcasm and defeatism. Even refinement must be left behind now. The grace of the democratic process and the dread of the anti-democratic threat create both a historic opportunity and a historic obligation to take action.

Ultimately, there is no other way but the ballot box. Neither American pressure nor European sanctions nor a military putsch can save our rare, precious and threatened democracy.

Israeli democracy can be saved only by Israeli democrats who appeal to their Israeli brothers and sisters in an adult, responsible manner – and convince them to vote for an enlightened Israel.