When we go to the polls for the fourth time in two years on Tuesday, we will attempt to defy Albert Einstein’s theory of insanity and do the same thing over and over – and over and over again – and expect different results.
It may be crazy, but don’t hold it against us, because our power is limited.
Once the votes are cast and counted, the role of the public is done, and control over our fate shifts back to the politicians we empowered on Election Day.
This is truer than ever in an election with so many variables that could impact the results.
Taking this into account, President Reuven Rivlin decided to announce in advance that unlike with past elections, when he expedited the process of forming a government, this time he will wait until April 7, the final date permitted by law, to grant his mandate to build a coalition.
With all due respect to the campaigns of the past three months, an entirely new game will begin once the results are in. The race to receive Rivlin’s mandate will not be played on the campaign trail, on TV news shows or even on Zoom.
The very public election will be replaced by a new race played entirely behind the scenes. Everyone will meet with everyone, all the options will be considered and – like most things in Israel – the decision will likely not be made until the last minute.
The moment the polls close, the politicians can already throw away all their campaign promises, which no one expected them to keep anyway. It will be forgotten which parties they said they would not sit with, just like children forgot where they sat in their classrooms before they were exiled to learning online.
Lying in politics is obviously a negative, but knowing that lying is the key to ending a political stalemate that cost taxpayers billions of shekels makes it easier to get over it.
Unless Tuesday’s vote is a landslide for one camp or the other, whoever receives the mandate from the president may be doomed to fail. Receiving the mandate second could be a blessing in disguise, because it is easier for politicians to compromise when they are desperate.
The little-known law enabling a third candidate to receive a three-week mandate from the Knesset to form a government – after the president’s first two mandates expire – enabled the outgoing coalition to be built. It could be employed again, because the pressure of preventing a fifth election could be too much for even the most cynical politicians to bear.
Those three weeks culminate on the very same day that Rivlin is set to leave office. His successor will be chosen in the Knesset before that, and the identity of Israel’s new president may very well be known before it is clear who the prime minister will be.
The new president will preside over the next election, whether it will be held this coming October or only after four years of political stability.
If Israelis do go to the polls for a fifth time since the first race was initiated in December 2018, they will do the same thing over yet again. But who knows? Perhaps next time we can expect different results.