For years, Israelis have allowed values of equality, justice, and peace, to go by the wayside. Tuesday’s vote reflects not only the impotence and absence of a left, but just how paralyzed Israeli society is.
In some ways, Tuesday’s election is predictable. Netanyahu and his right-wing camp are expected, according to most polls, to secure the 61-seat majority needed to form a governing coalition. And yet the results remain impossible to predict, especially because the smaller parties hovering around the election threshold could determine the outcome.
While polls may give us a sense of where the wind is blowing, people are still undecided and, they do not provide insight into the nuts and bolts of coalition building once the results are in. Likewise, there is no way to know what either Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud or Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, the two biggest parties polling at around 30 seats each, will do once the victor is tasked with forming a government.
Despite the rivalry between Netanyahu and Gantz, one should not rule out the possibility of the two forming a unity government. The truth is, that may still be better than the current forecast in which Netanyahu forms a government with outwardly racist, anti-democratic, and homophobic parties.
Should some of the smaller right-wing parties — among them Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, or Naftali Bennett’s New Right party — not pass the threshold, Netanyahu may not have enough partners with whom to form a coalition. Blue and White, on the other hand, has already alienated both the ultra-Orthodox parties (Yair Lapid, Gantz’s second in command, is avowedly anti-Orthodox) and the Arab parties. Thus, even if they get the most votes, it is unclear with whom they could form a coalition beyond Labor and Meretz.
Many Israelis who are interested in doing whatever they can to thwart a far-right government find themselves in a dilemma. Some still do not know who to vote for. There is a sense they feel they have no choice but to vote for Blue and White in order to replace Netanyahu; but if no one votes for the smaller centrist or left-wing parties — Labor, Meretz, the two Arab slates, Gesher or Kulanu — Gantz won’t have a coalition to govern with any way. Meanwhile, if Blue and White doesn’t have a clear majority of votes against Likud, it won’t have any chance of forming a coalition in the first place. The bottom line? There is no good tactical vote this time around, which reflects the total lack of long-term strategies for change.
Perhaps that is why there is such a sense of paralysis. Many liberal colleagues, acquaintances, and friends in Israel have expressed that they feel stuck. They are finding it hard to bring themselves to vote for Blue and White, a party led by former IDF generals that doesn’t present a genuine alternative, or because they really don’t know which of the small parties to vote for in order to ensure they remain above the election threshold.
Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, it seems clear that even a resolute vote of no confidence against Netanyahu is not enough in the current Israeli political landscape. In that sense, more than any other election I can recall, Tuesday’s vote reflects not only the impotence and absence of a left, but just how paralyzed Israeli society is. For years, most Israelis have passively or actively allowed values of equality, justice, and yes, peace, to go by the wayside. Now the fight is over protecting whatever democratic spaces are still left.