Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
While on the US presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump memorably said: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can say much the same thing.
Incredibly, despite facing bribery charges, new allegations of profiteering from the sale of German submarines to Egypt, and Hamas rockets landing in the center of the country, Netanyahu can still count on the support of his loyal Likud supporters and the backing of the other right-wing parties come coalition-forming time.
Although opinion polls at the weekend put the Likud slightly behind the Blue and White Party (31 seats to 27), the bloc of right-wing and haredi parties seem on course to win a majority of seats in the Knesset. Unless Blue and White leader Benny Gantz can persuade one or both of the haredi parties to jump Netanyahu’s ship – an unlikely scenario, given the haredi hatred for Gantz’s deputy, Yair Lapid – Netanyahu will probably be tasked with forming Israel’s next government.
SO, WHAT should the center-left voter do next week come polling day?
First and foremost, go out and vote! Aside from the fact that the polls can sometimes be wrong – if they were always right, Shimon Peres would have beaten Netanyahu in 1996, and Hillary Clinton would now be sitting in the Oval Office – having the right to vote in fair and free elections is a privilege that should not be scorned.
Which makes the results of a recent poll of Israel’s Arab citizens’ voting intentions disappointing reading. Following a relatively high turnout of 63.5% in 2015 (compared to the country-wide turnout of 72.36%), this time around the Arab turnout is expected to drop to 51%, close to its traditional average of around 55%.
The reason for this fall centers around the collapse of the Joint List of Arab parties and not a sense of disenfranchisement from Israeli society. Only 10% of those polled, according to the survey conducted by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, said they were boycotting the elections due to ideological reasons.
Nevertheless, this failure of Arab citizens to maximize their political power through exercising their basic right to vote is a stumbling block to ensuring matters of key importance to this sector are taken seriously by lawmakers. Without strong parliamentary representation, issues such as the eradication of violence and crime in Arab society, attempts to regulate illegal structures in Arab localities and the repealing or amendment of the Nation-State Law will struggle to make it onto the national agenda.
On the bright side, of course, a low Arab turnout will prevent a repeat of Netanyahu’s despicable dog-whistle Election Day video of 2015, warning of “droves of Arab voters” being “bused to the polling stations by left-wing NGOs.”
Another reason for voting is that even if Netanyahu does end up forming the next government, it is far from clear that it will come anywhere close to lasting its fixed term. If, following this summer’s upcoming and long-awaited hearing, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit goes ahead and decides to indict Netanyahu on bribery changes, the political landscape will immediately and dramatically change.
With tough opposition in the Knesset, Netanyahu’s position as a prime minister under indictment will become untenable, forcing him into a resignation. Without Netanyahu at its head, cracks in the coalition are bound to appear, increasing the chances of new elections in 2020. A strong showing next week for the Center-Left will provide a strong base in the next, post-Netanyahu elections.
And finally, it’s important that the Jewish center-left voter votes as a matter of protest. These elections have sunk to a new low in Israeli politics, for which Netanyahu is mostly responsible. As head of the Likud election campaign, the prime minister has masterminded a campaign mired in the mud.
This has ranged from outrageous personal attacks regarding the facial appearance of a journalist badly burned while heroically driving his tank in the Yom Kippur War to labeling the man he appointed as the IDF’s 20th chief of staff as mentally unstable, as well as claiming that Gantz is hiding “embarrassing” personal information on his hacked phone which makes him vulnerable to Iranian extortion.
A vote for either Blue and White, Labor or Meretz is a vote that says enough is enough.
Enough of living with a prime minister surrounded by scandal and who stints at nothing to stay in power; enough of a prime minister who, in 10 consecutive years in office, has failed to bring security to Israel’s citizens in the South; and enough of a prime minister who is bringing Israel closer and closer to a binational state and the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.
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