Opinion

A Vote for the Nation’s Soul

Pedestrians walk below an electoral banner for Kahol Lavan in Be’er Sheva on September 15, 2019.
HAZEM BADER / AFP

The focal point of this election is not an economic or diplomatic dispute, as is usual in properly run countries, nor is it about giving immunity to a prime minister who is under a cloud of alleged corruption. This election is a struggle for the essence of the state, for whether it will be a true democracy or whether it will join that club of “democracies” that includes countries like Turkey, Brazil and Hungary. (For the latest election polls – click here)

I’ve never thought that Benjamin Netanyahu was a man who wanted to advance anything of substance. He only sought to survive, to make statements and then backtrack, to gain popularity. He has achieved all of that. None of his adversaries in this race are so close that he can feel their breath on his neck, even though no one knows what he might say tomorrow.

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His quest to destroy the infrastructure of democracy also stems solely from personal motives: to fight the indictments pending against him. To that end, he has persuaded some of the public that Israeli judges are biased; that the attorney general, whom he was once so close to, has become a millstone around the neck of the executive branch; that the state comptroller must praise the subjects of his audits; and that the former police commissioner, who comes from the religious Zionist camp, had sinister motives – first and foremost hatred for Netanyahu and a desire to persecute him.

According to Netanyahu’s campaign, this entire hostile system would never have taken root in anyone’s hearts had it not been for the media conspiring with it, because the media is leftist – just like the gatekeepers, according to his rude and arrogant son.

The picture is complete. All the fundamental democratic systems – the law, the courts, the media and the regulators – have conspired to overthrow the prime minister. This is the insane campaign that Netanyahu is leading, and his party is following him.

And this merchandise, dressed in nationalist garb that conveys that no one is more patriotic and no one despises Arabs more than we do – not even the far-right Otzma Yehudit – has buyers.

This is how Netanyahu is openly and knowingly turning himself into the prime minister of half the nation, and disgusting the other half.

Given this state of affairs, we must look squarely at reality. There’s no real chance of forming a leftist government. The left and the center, each in its own way, is looking to form a government of change and stop the collapse of democracy along with additional partners. Such change demands the full mobilization of everyone who opposes the destruction of democracy.

The left and the center have a tendency to choose larger parties and abandon the smaller ones. That is an incorrect and dangerous notion. Even if Kahol Lavan gets 38 out of 120 Knesset seats, it will not be able to give President Reuven Rivlin an alternative if Labor and the Democratic Union are gone.

It will not be easy to block the formation of a right-wing government. It will demand an extraordinary public response: to go to the polls out of recognition that this election is being conducted for the soul of the State of Israel. The right-wing message is clear. The counter message isn’t highlighted enough, but it is simple and easily understood: Israel must continue to be a Jewish, democratic and liberal state. That is its true DNA.