Editorial

Israel's Snap Election Is a Makeup Exam for Democracy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on May 29, 2019.
Emil Salman

Benjamin Netanyahu claims, “The public chose me, but Lieberman deceived the voters.” Avigdor Lieberman claims, “Israel is holding a new election because Likud refused to hold a vote on the conscription bill the way we submitted it.” Netanyahu claims “now Lieberman is part of the left.” Lieberman counters that “the man from [the wealthy town of] Caesarea is accusing a man from [the West Bank settlement] Nokdim of being a leftist.”

Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, reveals that Lieberman had demanded the appointment of Yehuda Weinstein as attorney general: “It was his most important coalition demand in 2009.” Lieberman responded that “only a district psychiatrist can explain that version.”

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This, in a nutshell, is what an absolutely corrupt political system looks like: an exchange of accusations whose veracity the public cannot check; a cauldron of personal interests, at least some of which merit serious legal examination; rampant incitement that uses the “left” as a voodoo doll. Out of this reeking dunghill an entire state is led to a new election less than two months after going to the polls.

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The horror show that has materialized in the past month and that reached a crescendo Wednesday night is the inevitable result of a corrupt, longtime right-wing government that must reach its end. This is a government that treats its citizens as a captive audience, demonstrates no responsibility toward them and places narrow personal interests above the interests of the state.

Lieberman can boast that he’s sticking to his principles, but the Yisrael Beiteinu party chairman had no problem with serving in a cabinet headed by a suspect who faces indictments in three separate cases (pending a hearing) and who, contrary to his declarations, intended to advance tailor-made bills that would help him escape justice — so long as the conscription law is passed in its current form.

But the affront to democracy that Israel has suffered in recent days also contains an opportunity for change. In the face of the corruption and the destruction that expanded under the right-wing government, the center left must unite and offer an alternative that is the polar opposite: responsibility, egalitarianism, striving for the common good, extending a hand to the Arab community and demonstrating personal integrity.

A moment before democracy was burned on the stake, Israel received a second chance. We must take full advantage of it.

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