In Israel's Next Election, It's Either Sanity or Corruption

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a conference in Jerusalem January 8, 2020

The alliance on the left, of the Labor Party, Gesher and Meretz, and on the right, of Hayamin Hehadash, National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, bring into focus the true meaning of the upcoming election. Voters now have only two options. Those who want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corrupt and corrupting government to continue will vote for what in the last election was called the “right-wing bloc” – Likud, Hayamin Hehadash, Shas or United Torah Judaism. Those who want an alternative to this government, led by Benny Gantz, will vote for Kahol Lavan or one of the two electoral alliances to its left, Labor-Gesher-Meretz or the Joint List.

Netanyahu worked hard this week to prevent the loss of votes for his bloc, for the parties that are in danger of falling below the electoral threshold. By some reports, he even threatened Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, or intimated to him, that he would have to leave his position if the right failed to unite. Unification was achieved just minutes before the Wednesday midnight deadline for all slates to submit their candidates’ lists.

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In the opposing camp, after heavy pressure Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz agreed to join forces with Meretz, led by Nitzan Horowitz. As a result, both avoided the attempted political suicide of one or both of the parties at the polls. Despite fears that they will fail to win 11 Knesset seats combined, as in September’s election, the votes are expected to remain within the center-left bloc. Gantz was right to promise to allocate ministerial portfolios, in the event he becomes prime minister, in accordance with the distribution of votes in the previous election, a step that made this tie-up possible.

Next week we will learn whether Likud’s political gymnastics to prevent Netanyahu from prosecution were successful, or whether Kahol Lavan will manage to guarantee that Netanyahu’s criminal immunity is lifted before the election. Whether Netanyahu is formally indicted for bribery and breach of trust before the election, as required, or after, it is clear that right-wing voters are working to weaken democracy and the rule of law.

Kahol Lavan’s courageous decision not to join a coalition led by Netanyahu after the most recent election, blocking the establishment of a government headed by a bribery defendant, shows that the party is indeed a worthy alternative to the current government. Everyone who seeks to protect the justice system, and above all who seeks to return Israel to sanity and to democracy, must go to the polls on March 2 and vote for one of the center-left parties.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.