The Struggle to Preserve Israel's Democracy Is Just Beginning

Despite the hardline right's clear victory, the democratic part of the public must not plunge into gloom and depression. This is an emergency.

Haaretz Editorial
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Children play by the beach on election day. Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015.
Children play by the beach on election day. Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Haaretz Editorial

The final tally of the elections has made it clear that the right has won a clear victory. Benjamin Netanyahu can assemble his next government with parties of the hardline right wing, the ultra-Orthodox and former Likud member Moshe Kahlon. He needs no partners from the center-left.

The new coalition will lean on Netanyahu’s undertaking that no Palestinian state will be established and that Israel will not withdraw from the territories. Netanyahu’s racist warning on Election Day that “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls” bodes that his next government will take its predecessor’s anti-democratic line to even greater extremes. It will strive to complete the “nationality law” legislation, which was blocked in the outgoing Knesset, and act to restrict the freedom of expression and activity of human rights groups, which Netanyahu portrayed as saboteurs and collaborators.

We may also expect oppressive steps and “purging of leftists” in academia and cultural institutions that depend on state funds, as Netanyahu’s interference with the Israel Prize judging panels has demonstrated. The African asylum-seekers will be persecuted and harassed even more.

Despite these circumstances, the democratic part of the public must not plunge into gloom and depression following the scalding election defeat. This is an emergency. Anyone anxious to save the chance of peace with the Palestinians and concerned with preserving minority rights, the freedom of expression and the justice system’s independence, must step forward and raise the flag against Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Yariv Levin and Miri Regev.

Now that the possibility of a unity government is off the agenda, Isaac Herzog as opposition head must lead the parliamentary and public campaign against the radical rightist government to be headed by Netanyahu. Herzog will be required to unite the democratic factions and present an alternative agenda to the Likud and its political partners’ nationalism, racism and persecution of minorities.

The politeness and restraint Herzog displayed in the election campaign are inappropriate to this time of emergency. He will have to cooperate with Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, who made an impressive achievement in the elections, and promises to fight for the Arab minority’s equal rights.

The president, Reuven Rivlin, also bears a heavy responsibility. His loud, clear voice for democracy and equality for the Arab citizens is more crucial than ever, as a counter balance to his former rightist colleagues’ victorious intoxication.

The president’s residence in Rivlin’s term is emerging as a beacon of hope and enlightenment in the darknss of the nationalist settlers’ coalition. It’s important not to dim that light.

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