Election season

Now we know who everyone’s teammates are, ranked, and today formally begins 46 concentrated days of election campaigning to find out who becomes a member of the 22nd Knesset.

August 1, 2019 21:20
3 minute read.
Election season

People sort ballot boxes as part of preparations for the upcoming Israeli election, during a briefing for members of the media at the Israel Central Election Committee Logistics Center in Shoham, Israel. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Today is Opening Day.

Not of a sports season but of the political season, after the final lineups of every party were submitted Thursday night to the Knesset. Now we know who everyone’s teammates are, ranked, and today formally begins 46 concentrated days of election campaigning to find out who becomes a member of the 22nd Knesset.

Remember what you candidates are campaigning for: you are asking us to trust you to represent us.

Remember why there’s an election in six and a half weeks: because a majority coalition could not be formed after the election on April 9.

And remember why you’re running: to speak on behalf of nine million citizens living in a country that often seems divided like never before.

But regardless of your team and political philosophy, there is no reason for the residents of Israel to have to tolerate once again a negative campaign, one based on ad hominem attacks against opponents.

There is simply no reason for it, no reason to demonize political opponents, to degrade them.

Only this week, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich called Stav Shaffir “stupid.” Why?

It started when the Democratic Union candidate took to Twitter to blame members of the religious Right for the stabbing of an LGBTQ teen in Tel Aviv.

Smotrich, a political leader of that religious Right, responded with a tweet saying that Shaffir was “stupid” and “a nothing,” with “no achievements in politics” who “does not stop spreading hate.”

Several hours later, Smotrich doubled down on his criticism, saying Shaffir’s tweet was “calculated and full of malice and hate,” and that she was “a woman whose sole role [as a politician] is sowing strife” – though he did take back the word “stupid,” saying he was “upset” when he wrote it and that it was wrong to do so.

Yes, it was. There’s no need for that, even when “upset.” It is not too much to ask those asking for our vote to run on a campaign of fairness and respect. It can be done.

Yes, elections are the time for politicians to really swing away against their opponent, to try to hit a “gotcha” home run. But must it be done ugly, all divisive, all negative?

Go at it, but do it with decorum. Indeed, we’d like to encourage more discussion: why can’t there be a formal public debate on the issues, like the Democratic Party in the United States which has been putting 10 candidates on the same stage two nights in a row? It would only be to the benefit of all voters to hear candidates – and not just party leaders – discussing topics on their merits, explaining who they are and what they believe in.

It’s a great idea worth borrowing for our election, allowing candidates to speak to the issues at hand, to weigh in with answers to difficult questions that need responses. Explain your beliefs to the public, expose yourself, show your arguments and what you believe in. Answer the tough questions. Tell the public how you envision solving the challenges that we face, the critical issues on the table, internal and global:

• What’s the solution to rockets from Gaza? Do we send in ground troops? Do we retake control of the Strip?

• How do we cut the number of traffic deaths in this country?

• What can the government do to help the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population – the fastest-growing population – become an integral part of the labor force, helping them support their families and Israeli society? How much are you willing to compromise on the draft bill?

• What can be done about discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli population?

• Will you join a coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then leave if he is indicted?

Debate all you want and can, ladies and gentlemen, from Left or Right, on every issue. Say what needs to be said to win over voters. But speak appropriately, with respect, with finer language, with a voice of hope and optimism. Stop the knee-jerk impulse to bark on social media, to denigrate an opponent. Stop the ad hominem attacks.

The people of Israel deserve no less. Play fair.

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