No third election

They didn’t really want a second round of elections, and many were surprised that the vote to dissolve the Knesset passed.

October 3, 2019 21:37
3 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu (C), Avigdor Liberman (L) and Ze'ev Elkin (R), during a meeting between the Likud

Benjamin Netanyahu (C), Avigdor Liberman (L) and Ze'ev Elkin (R), during a meeting between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu parties. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

After the Knesset dissolved itself at the end of May and heralded in the second round of elections that took place on September 17, MKs from across the political spectrum assured the public that they had learned their lessons.

 They didn’t really want a second round of elections, and many were surprised that the vote to dissolve the Knesset passed, even though they had voted in favor. “But we will not allow an unfathomable third election,” they proclaimed – the people won’t stand for it, it will cause untold damage to the country, we will get enough new mandates/they will lose enough mandates to form a stable Left/Right coalition... yada yada yada.

And we, the people, believed them… setting Abraham Lincoln’s time-worn adage on its head. Israeli politicians have demonstrated that you can fool all of the people all of the time.

Because, as predicted, the results of the second election were no more conclusive than the April 9 round. And now, only a few days into the negotiating period that President Reuven Rivlin granted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition, it’s already clear that unless there’s a major change of heart by one of the primary players on the field, a third election is inevitable.

The Likud refuses to separate itself from its religious-right bloc; Blue and White continues to stand by its pledge not to sit with a prime minister under indictment; and Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman continues to insist that he’ll only agree to a unity government between Likud and Blue and White, even if he’s not part of it.

In keeping to their stringent stances, the major parties are ignoring the will of the public. A recent Israel Hayom/Maagar Mohot Institute poll showed that 54% of Israelis support a unity government with Likud and Blue and White, either with or without smaller parties from the Left and Right. That’s without even factoring in the staggering cost of another election – the previous election cost an approximate NIS 475 million and caused NIS 2 billion damage to the economy.

As The Jerusalem Post’s Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz wrote before the September 17 election, 2019 will be known as the “lost year” for the State of Israel. “It is not the fault of one single individual or one political party but rather, I think, of the entire country. We have come to expect so little from our political leadership.”

The credibility of the country’s governing institutions is in free fall and the public’s willingness to endure another election is being overestimated by party leaders and members. Granted, the turnout for the second round exceeded the April 9 election, but a third round could see voters rebel in anger or apathy and stay away from the polls in droves, setting Netanyahu’s warning about Arab voters on its head.

Against that backdrop, the 22nd Knesset was sworn in on Thursday in Jerusalem. Many are wondering if, like the 21st Knesset, it will also last for less than two months and perhaps become the shortest-lived legislature in Israel’s history.

As the Post’s Lahav Harkov pointed out on Wednesday, there are only eight new members of this Knesset, as well as another nine who are returning from past stints as legislators, which means that 103 members of the 22nd Knesset will be sworn in for the second time this year.

A proud institution, the Knesset is in danger of becoming a laughing stock. But it’s no joke. Israel needs a stable government and a stable Knesset. Every attempt must be made to prevent the newly sworn-in Knesset from becoming the shortest Knesset in Israeli history.

All parties should take the responsibility upon themselves as if they alone are charged with insuring that a third election is not called for. The country has survived some nine months of paralysis, but it’s only a matter of time before the string starts to unravel out of control and the situation begins to do irreparable damage to Israel and its population.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein led the MKs with “I pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and to faithfully fulfill my mission in the Knesset.” And the newly sworn-in lawmakers responded: “I pledge.”

Let’s hope they take that allegiance and mission seriously and prevent a third election.

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