To all 120 members of Knesset:
This is a wake up call. Get your act together and don’t let there be a third election in less than a year.
The people of Israel are not your biggest fans in the best of times. The Israel Democracy Institute’s Democracy Index for 2018 found that just over a quarter (27.5%) of Israelis trust the Knesset and only slightly more than that (30.5%) trust the government. Those numbers are not outliers.
The 2019 poll hasn’t been released yet, but those numbers will surely tank after a year of two elections followed by repeated failures to form a government. If there’s a third election in March, don’t be surprised if the public’s trust hits an all-time low.
The trust indicator isn’t just about whether people like the Knesset or not. The more people roll their eyes at news of politicians, the more their response to any mention of MKs is one of contempt, the weaker our democratic institutions get.
The citizens of any democratic country are what grant its institutions legitimacy. The less trust they have in you, the fewer of them taking part or an interest in the democratic process, the less legitimate our government and Knesset will seem.
Some of you don’t connect to lofty ideals about democracy and being the voice of the people - that much has been made clear in the past year - so here are some practical and concrete reasons not to let a third election happen.
Israel has a massive, yawning budget deficit that needs to be dealt with by passing an actual state government, instead of the piecemeal funding transfers the Knesset Finance Committee has had to deal with every week.
Meanwhile, the expansion of the medicine basket, the selection of medications provided by our socialized medicine system, has been delayed, keeping people from receiving life-saving treatments.
Social services are falling apart, without enough funding to keep battered women’s shelters, homes for teenage runaways and more from staying open and putting our weakest citizens at risk.
Reforms in the education system can’t be renewed, such as the “holiday schools,” in-school programming during Hanukkah, which is a week of vacation from classes but not from work for most parents. Children with severe allergies won’t be able to have a designated aide in preschools to make sure they don’t accidentally come into contact with whatever triggers a life-threatening response.
On top of the domestic issues that political paralysis has exacerbated, we have the security situation.
Iran is growing emboldened, launching attacks at us from over the Syrian border. Hezbollah is as strong as ever. Terrorists in Gaza have rained hundreds of rockets down on us in the past year, along with other flaming projectiles over the border fence.
As last week’s Operation Black Belt showed, Israel can defend itself even without a functioning government, and even take initiative instead of just responding. But the operation came with a bitter taste, with more and more politicians raising questions about the timing and whether it benefits one political side or another.
And only a stable government can take the kinds of decisive action Israel needs to improve the situation for residents of the South.
Now is the time for MKs to do what it takes to turn the situation around. Many parties will have to make compromises for a new government to be formed. We get it, you stood your ground for the past seven months. Keeping promises to voters is commendable, but not at the expense of keeping the whole country in limbo for four more months until another election.
Find the places where you can be flexible. Show that you are negotiating in good faith, and the other side ought to respond in kind.
You have 19 more days to get a 61 of you to sign a piece of paper supporting one candidate and to give that paper to President Reuven Rivlin so we can have some stability and normalcy here in Israel. Your country needs you to do better than you have been doing since April. Form a government and prevent a third election.