Editorial

A Moment of Crisis for Democracy

Ten years of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule have made many Israelis set aside their diplomatic, security, economic and social views in order to protect the issues vital to the very existence of a democratic state

A man walks past electoral campaign posters bearing the portraits of Netanyahu and retired Israeli general Benny Gantz in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, on April 3, 2019
AFP

Israel’s election on Tuesday is no ordinary election. Even though at the polling stations, people will cast their ballots for parties representing the right, the left and the center, this election isn’t necessarily between the right and the center-left.

Ten years of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule have made many Israelis set aside their diplomatic, security, economic and social views in order to protect the most fundamental issues, those that are vital to the functioning and even the very existence of a democratic state – the rule of law, the law enforcement system, the gatekeepers, an independent media and social solidarity.

In that sense, this election truly is about the continuation of Netanyahu’s rule – not just Netanyahu as a person, but Netanyahu as a culture of government. This election will make clear whether Israel wants to finally submerge itself in the darkness of nationalism and extremism, to calmly accept government corruption over which the cloud of criminal cases constantly hovers.

It will make clear whether Israel wants to let the right decide that the Jewish majority can make unconstitutional decisions in the Knesset without letting the courts annul them, or whether the time has come to halt the antidemocratic and immoral train that’s carrying an entire country to the abyss and threatening its existence as an open, progressive and enlightened country.

All the parties to Netanyahu’s left represent the democratic values that are in existential danger. The bigger the center-left bloc is, the greater the chances of replacing Netanyahu will be. Therefore, it’s very important that there be a strong Labor Party, that Meretz - the standard bearer for the democratic values to which Israel should aspire - continue existing and even grow stronger, and that there be suitable representation in the Knesset for parties representing the Arab community.

Still, because any real chance of replacing the government runs through Benny Gantz, one must seriously consider voting for his Kahol Lavan ticket even though it fails to satisfy all the desires of left-wing voters. It’s true that Kahol Lavan includes some people who are clearly right-wing, and some of them even oppose the two-state solution. Other members of the ticket have gathered under the vague, convenient banner of that amorphous “center,” and we can never be sure how that center will handle difficult security situations.

Plus, the ticket’s leftist component has been well hidden for fear that it will drive voters away, in line with the destructive analogy Netanyahu has created under which “left” is a synonym for “treason.”

But this is a moment of crisis for democracy, and in moments of crisis, one must follow emergency procedures. This means doing everything possible to get rid of the culture of corruption, incitement, divisiveness, nationalism, messianism and brutality that has spread throughout Israel and threatens to destroy it. Change is a possibility only if one party comes out significantly bigger than Netanyahu’s Likud and the president asks it to form a government.