Israel Elections: Vote outcome won't be the end of the world - comment

Israel can survive a year or two with Minister Ben-Gvir, or with Odeh holding the fate of the government in the palm of his hand.

Israel Elections: A polling station in Jerusalem, as Israelis vote in their general elections, on March 23, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israel Elections: A polling station in Jerusalem, as Israelis vote in their general elections, on March 23, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath.

How do we know that time has come?

We know because Yesh Atid’s Ram Ben Barak, when speaking of the upcoming election, noted that the Nazis came to power through democratic means, and the first thing they did – a historical inaccuracy, by the way – was to abolish the German Supreme Court.

We know because Labor leader Merav Michaeli said that Yitzhak Rabin “was murdered in a political assassination with the cooperation of Benjamin Netanyahu.”

We know because Netanyahu said that if his bloc is not elected, the “world of Torah is in danger.”

MK David Amsalem (Likud) at the Knesset Plenum, January 3, 2022. (credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - NOAM MOSKOWITZ)MK David Amsalem (Likud) at the Knesset Plenum, January 3, 2022. (credit: KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN - NOAM MOSKOWITZ)

We know because Likud MK David Amsalem said that if Yair Lapid forms the coalition, there will be a move to ban circumcision.

And we know because Ben Barak – yes, that Ben Barak – said if Bezalel Smotrich becomes a minister in the next government, women anchors on television will be forced to cover their hair.

Not everything you don't like is Naziism

People, get real. Not everything you don’t like, even if you don’t like it passionately, is Nazism, Iranian-style theocracy, godlessness or emptying Israel of all Jewish substance.

Israel has long been grappling with its identity. What is it, a Jewish-democratic state or a democratic-Jewish state? Is it Jewish first or democratic first?

Yet when you listen to the overheated, hyperbolic, exaggerated rhetoric of this campaign, you walk away with the impression that if the “other side” wins, the country will either cease to be democratic or cease to be Jewish.

But it just is not so.

Doomsday scenarios about what happens if the “other side” wins dismiss the notion that there are any good men in Sodom. There may not, in fact, have been any good men in Sodom, but Israel – neither Netanyahu’s Israel nor Lapid’s – is not Sodom.

Those who fear that a Netanyahu government that includes Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir as senior ministers would upend all the democratic traditions that were established here with blood, sweat and tears over the last 75 years are denying the possibility that in a 61-seat Likud-led coalition there may be one or two voices that would object.

Would there not be even one or two voices of conscience among the MKs who would bring down the government if it tried to move too far? Not one? Are there are no decent MKs in any of the parties that make up the pro-Netanyahu bloc – Likud, Religious Zionist, Shas or United Torah Judaism – who would protest and stand in the way of a trampling of all the country’s democratic principles and mores.

Not Yuli Edelstein, not Avi Dichter, not Yoav Gallant, not Danny Danon, not Nir Barkat, not Yoav Kisch, not Amichai Chikli? No one? Would none of these people stand up to prevent Israel from turning into the fascist caricature that opponents of Netanyahu are creating?

Would the nation not protest en masse, the media not howl night and day, and the judiciary not stand in the way if, for example, there was a real move to deport Arabs, or completely eviscerate the courts?

No, this country’s checks and balances have not just up and evaporated. Anyone who knows Israel knows the country – meaning the people in the country – would not stand idly by and allow it to fall off a fascist cliff.

And the same is true of the other side. Let’s say Lapid forms a government, even one with the support of the anti-Zionist Hadash-Ta’al Party. Does that really mean the country will be denuded of all its Jewish character and rush to “setting up a terrorist state in the Jewish heartland?”

Will no one protest the type of move that Amsalem ridiculously forecasted: an end to circumcisions in the Jewish state? C’mon!

Is there no one in Yesh Atid, the National Unity Party, Labor or Meretz for whom the Jewish nature of the state is important, who would stand up and bring down a narrow government that would pursue a radical agenda trying to erase the Jewish nature of the state? Are they all haters of Torah?

Netanyahu has over the years sown division among the country’s tribes and delegitimized with words the rival political camp, but he neither invented this practice nor has a monopoly on it. After Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995, there was an effort to besmirch the entire religious-Zionist and settlement camp, or anyone who vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords, as somehow having been responsible for the assassination.

Lapid has added his voice to this cacophony as well, calling his political rivals “forces of darkness.” How wise is it – if you are interested in the well-being of the country – to call the half of the country that doesn’t support you “forces of darkness?”

Is this election important? Certainly, just as the last 24 have been important. Is it fateful? They all seem fateful at the time. Does the very heart and soul and future of the Jewish state ride on it? No.

Whatever happens, whether Netanyahu returns and brings with him Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, or whether Lapid cobbles together a coalition relying on Ayman Odeh and Aida “Lions’ Den terrorists are martyrs” Touma-Sliman, the country will survive.

The country will survive, though a narrow coalition of 61 or 62 seats most likely won’t. Just look at what happened to the previous narrow “government of change.”

A 61-seat government here is unsustainable. There will always be one or two MKs, either bitter or unhappy or unwilling to go against their conscience, who will bring it down.

To survive, any narrow government that emerges from Tuesday’s balloting will need – in order to last more than a year – to widen itself, bring in other parties or renegade MKs from other parties, who would then have a balancing influence on the more extreme voices. And there are extreme voices on both the Right and the Left – no one is denying that.

But a narrow 61-seat government reliant solely on those voices would not last nearly long enough to begin to carry out any of the steps that those preaching doom are predicting.

Israel can survive a year or two with a Minister Ben-Gvir, or with Odeh holding the fate of the government in the palm of his hand.

Granted, it wouldn’t be the greatest year.

Odeh holding the balance of power would – for the Zionist majority in this country who have paid such a steep price in blood and treasure for it to come into existence, thrive and prosper – be the equivalent of nails scratching on a blackboard.

And if Ben-Gvir becomes a minister, it will create countless problems with Israel’s friends abroad and give loads of ammunition to its enemies, to say nothing of the noxious nature of some of the policies he promotes.

No, this would by no means be the best of all worlds. But it would also not be the end of the world. It is not Hitler coming to power, and it is not placing an idol in the Temple. And it would pass. At the current rate of our elections, it would likely pass pretty quickly as well.

It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath.