Israel’s decline as a functioning democracy - analysis

With another election approaching, the government will mostly be unable to enact policies to improve the lives of average Israelis.

 NAFTALI BENNETT and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the Knesset last month, where they announced that they will be switching their positions as prime minister and alternate prime minister as the country goes to a new election.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
NAFTALI BENNETT and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the Knesset last month, where they announced that they will be switching their positions as prime minister and alternate prime minister as the country goes to a new election.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In a never-ending story that is Israel’s election cycle, then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that he was bringing forward a bill in the Knesset to dissolve Israel’s parliament entering the country into its fifth election in three years. Many took to Twitter and Instagram to make light of the situation, saying that Israel “does democracy so good, it’s constantly in an election cycle” or joking that it reminded them of the song “Deja Vu” by Olivia Rodrigo.

While these jokes may appear funny at first, the lack of stability within the Israeli government undermines the effectiveness of democracy in Israel is no laughing matter. A functioning democracy should do exactly what it is set out to do: function. But frequent elections do not allow this to happen.

With another election approaching, the government will mostly be unable to enact policies to improve the lives of average Israelis. Not only is a stable Israeli government needed in order to save its democracy, but the trust of the Israeli people in the government, whatever it looks like, will only deteriorate if this trend continues. Separating facts from political rhetoric will be all the more difficult.

Constant elections usually results in lower voter turnout. It’s not as if Israelis face barriers when voting: unlike the United States, Israel gives all Israelis a day off on election day in order to encourage them to go out and vote.

However, as election days become as frequent as they do in Israel, with the first three elections in the past three years yielding the same results, Israelis have lost hope, resulting in lower voter turnout each time. In the latest round of elections, in March 2021, the central election committee recorded the lowest voter turnout since 2009, as many Israelis cited feelings of apathy in their choice not to vote.

 OUR POLITICS might be chaotic, boisterous, volatile and unpredictable, but Israel remains the Middle East’s only genuine democracy. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) OUR POLITICS might be chaotic, boisterous, volatile and unpredictable, but Israel remains the Middle East’s only genuine democracy. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The functioning of any democracy relies on its citizens to vote – the continuous election in Israel results in the opposite. To top it all off, reports indicated that the past four elections have cost Israel $4.24 billion (NIS 14.8 billion). As Israel continues to recover from the economic damage incurred from the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel’s continuous spending on elections results in a loss of faith of Israelis reeling from the economic hit.

Threats to Israel and fighting back

Just recently, Bennett warned Israel’s enemies that Israel will not tolerate any attacks in the South in response to Israel’s instability. Israel’s never-ending election cycle isn’t a win for democracy, it’s a win for Israel’s enemies. As a tiny country surrounded by terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, a stable government is not only crucial for the continuation of a thriving democracy, but also for Israel’s national security agenda.

As talks about Iran gaining nuclear capabilities continue to look like a reality and as Iran continues to be the largest sponsor of terrorism, a strong and stable Israeli government is required to thwart any potential attack.

Israel’s legitimacy as a reliable and functional democracy is on the line: will Israeli politicians step up and put their egos to the side, or will they continue toying with the lives of millions of Israelis in need of a stable government?

The writer is an Israeli-American, living in New York City and the chief marketing officer of Jewish on Campus.