Israel Elections: Whatever the outcome, Israel will manage - comment

Every election in this country, if you listen to the politicians and the pundits, is a “fateful election” that will have far-reaching and dramatic consequences for the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, as it disperses, sending Israel into elections in March, December 22, 2020.  (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON/DANI SHEM TOV)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, as it disperses, sending Israel into elections in March, December 22, 2020.
(photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON/DANI SHEM TOV)
Words overused lose their power. One example: “fateful election.”
Every election in this country, if you listen to the politicians and the pundits, is a “fateful election” that will have far-reaching and dramatic consequences for the country.
This was said before the election in 1977 when Menachem Begin defeated Shimon Peres; in 1992 when Yitzhak Rabin defeated Yitzhak Shamir; and in 2015 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beat Isaac Herzog.
This was also declaimed before the three previous elections in the current four-election cycle dating back to April 2019, and it was repeated in the run-up to Tuesday’s election as well: that this is an election in which the future of the Jewish state hangs in the balance.
Really?

One may argue that every election is important and significant because it defines the path of the country for a certain period. But is every election truly fateful in the sense that the fate of the state depends on its outcome; that if one candidate wins, and the other loses, the country will face the abyss?
Those types of elections are rare, and the one that Israel faces on Tuesday does not fit that bill.
Let’s say Netanyahu not only wins Tuesday’s balloting, as he is sure to do if victory is measured solely by which party gets the most Knesset seats, but that he can cobble together a right-wing coalition with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties, the Religious Zionist Party of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina Party.
Then what is going to happen?

Is the country really going to cease being democratic, as Netanyahu’s fierce detractors warn? Are all the checks and balances in the land going to suddenly dissolve and Netanyahu will ride roughshod over the country’s democratic principles?
Is the prime minister really a closet authoritarian, a Hebrew-speaking Recep Tayyip Erdogan? Will all the MKs in his party and the parties of the coalition just let him do whatever he wants? Are there no democrats there, no patriots, no one for whom the democratic future of the Jewish state is dear who would abandon him if need be and torpedo any project that could threaten Israel’s democracy?
And let’s go even a step further and say that this new coalition passes the controversial “French Law” and that as a result of that law, a prime minister cannot be prosecuted for his crimes while in office. While scandalous if enacted retroactively, would even that truly spell the end of Israeli democracy? Did France cease to be a democracy when it gave the world the “French Law?”
Too many are those in this land who see doom and disaster around every corner.
So, too, regarding Netanyahu. Before every election he has contested dating back to 1996, some warned – much like the caricature of the vagabond perpetually holding up a sign warning “the world will end tomorrow” – that if  Netanyahu were elected, it would spell the end of Israeli democracy.
Yet just as the world hasn’t ended tomorrow, Israeli democracy is still going strong even though Netanyahu has been elected time after time. And that will continue even if he is elected again. There are strong checks and balances here that will ensure – and have ensured – that this remains so.
THAT’S ONE side of the coin.
Now let’s flip the coin over. Let’s say that the anti-Bibi coalition wins, and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid – perhaps in rotation with New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar and/or Bennett – becomes the prime minister. Then what? Should we really start the countdown to Israel’s physical destruction?
Does that mean – as those presenting the Center-Left as a lily-livered bogeyman that will sell the country down the river maintain – that there will be nobody remaining in Jerusalem willing or able to stand up to the Iranians? That such a government would give the Palestinians all that they crave, and to hell with the country’s security? That there will be nobody able to forge further ties with the Arab world or promote Israel’s interests around the globe? Obviously not.
To those who believe that Netanyahu is the worst thing in the world, your criticism is legitimate in a democracy. But let’s be real, he is not the worst thing in the world; he is not the devil his worst critics make him out to be.
And to those who think that Israel will be overrun or physically annihilated if Netanyahu is not there to protect us, that, too, is ludicrous. With the most powerful military in the Middle East, and even beyond the Middle East, Israel is much more powerful than one individual, and if that individual is no longer there, the country will lose neither its strength nor its will or ability to survive.
Israel is going to the polls on Tuesday for the fourth time in two years, a sad fact. But even with that manifestation of political dysfunction, the country has managed to continue on its merry way since that first inconclusive election two years ago, even if hobbled – but by no means incapacitated – by the coronavirus.
Whether Netanyahu wins or losses, Israel will muddle through whatever verdict the electorate hands down. If history is any indication, Israel will not only muddle through and survive, but also thrive, because the nation is strong and much more than just its prime minister or the 120 representatives it will vote into office on Tuesday.