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On Thursday, Israelis got a taste of what they can expect from this new do-over election campaign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Avigdor Liberman a “leftist” and “serial toppler of governments” while Liberman said that it was actually the opposite and that Netanyahu was the true “leftist.”
Basically, if anyone thought the new election campaign would be any different than the last one, you can forget about it. The mudslinging has just begun and based on the last election it will only get dirtier.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. Instead of trashing one another and calling each other names, our political leaders could lay out a vision for how they will deal with the challenges facing Israel – from social inequality to matters of religion and state, as well as the growing national deficit.
They can have their “Yes, we can” moment instead of the typical and expected “No, we can’t”.
Unfortunately, the chance that will happen is slim. Netanyahu is fighting for political and personal survival. While it is unclear how he now evades an indictment – the hearing with the attorney general will take place two weeks after the vote and as a new coalition is being formed – he will still prefer to go into it as a prime minister after the next election. This means that he will do whatever he can to again be tapped by the president to form the next government.
Add to that, the bad blood right now between Netanyahu and Liberman, it is difficult to see how the election campaigning and rhetoric can remain civil.
The same can be expected from the other side and particularly the leaders of Blue and White. As an amalgamation of different parties from across the political spectrum, the party lacks a clear political identity. On the other hand, when it comes to attacking Netanyahu or the Likud, that is something that the entire party can align itself behind and that is exactly what Blue and White focused its campaign on in the last election.
This was evident in more than one instance when Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz was asked to articulate a policy on an issue like Hamas in the Gaza Strip but ended up sounding pretty much like the prime minister.
Israelis deserve better than this. They deserve leaders who will put them first before their own personal political aspirations and ambitions. Sadly, this was not the case when the Knesset voted to dissolve itself on Wednesday night. Instead of dissolving and declaring new elections, the Knesset could have forced Netanyahu to return the mandate he was given to President Reuven Rivlin who could then have explored the option of having someone else try to create a government.
That is what is supposed to happen according to the law, not the immediate dissolution of the Knesset. But when politicians forget that they are here to serve the people and not the opposite, they tend not to care.
We hope that the politicians have learned the lessons from the last campaign and their short terms as MKs. Their job is to work to advance the Israeli people and to give them a vision of the different steps they will take once they are in office. We don’t need to hear what they are against; we need to hear what they are for. We don’t need to know who they hate; we need to know what they like.
We should hear about what they will do in the Health Ministry, what their plan will be to reduce the nationwide traffic jams as well as a coherent vision for how they envision an end to the conflict with the Palestinians.
This is why countries hold elections. They are a time for the public to learn about issues, to become educated and to use that knowledge to help make decisions that will move the country forward. But for that to happen, politicians have to be willing to discuss the issues.
Saying they are for or against Netanyahu is not going to be enough.
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