The Immune System Did Its Job

Kahol Lavan's Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz at a party meeting on December 12, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The fact that Israel has to hold a third election within such a short period of time reflects a grave political crisis. The fact that millions of people will again be exposed to wasteful, inflammatory and uncontrolled advertising campaigns is also far from ideal. And yet, it also carried a reassuring message for everyone who champions healthy democracy.

In fact, Israel must go to the polls again because the system of checks and balances that is the foundation of democracy worked. It prevented, in every manner possible, a situation in which a prime minister who has been charged with criminal offenses, who seeks to escape to the “city of refuge” of parliamentary immunity, continues to serve.

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Since that is exactly what Benjamin Netanyahu attempted and is still attempting to do, it would have been wrong to give in to the natural desire “to get it over with” — that is, to establish any sort of government and return to the appearance of proper governance. The establishment of a government is a means, not an end in itself. It is supposed to reflect the wills and the needs of the voters, and it is not supposed to serve as a refuge for a prime minister who has been charged with criminal offenses.

Therefore, there is also no call for the lamentation and the cries of “shame” surrounding the failure to form a government. On the contrary: it’s a badge of honor for the parliamentary immune system, which disgorged from itself the possibility of collaborating with the forces seeking to sabotage Israel’s democratic infrastructure from within.

Kahol Lavan should be commended for resisting the temptation to join Netanyahu for a promise of half the kingdom, and in so upheld its election-eve promises to its voters. Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman is also deserving of praise, for consistently opposing a narrow immunity government. Amir Peretz of Labor-Gesher should be lauded for keeping his word and for not setting his sights on power for even a moment.

Like a short-circuiting electrical appliance with the potential for disaster, the Knesset dissolved itself after it became clear that its only path forward entailed riding roughshod over fundamental democratic values.

In order to reset the main circuit breaker so as to turn on the light switch once more, all of the political parties that view themselves as guided by the rule of law must join forces and focus on the next election, and tell Netanyahu in the clearest manner possible that his time is up.

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