It is hard to overstate the significance of the just completed Israeli election. We can debate the merit of the political choices made but we must, one and all, express our appreciation to the true heroes and winners of the election: Israel’s citizens.
Against all expectation, the percentage of citizens voting rose to more than 70%, the second highest level since 2015. The number is especially impressive given the fact that this was the fifth election in three years and the potential for cynical avoidance was all too high.
The fear of even lower turnout motivated Im Tirtzu to conduct an unusual and likely unprecedented door-to-door research project this past summer, asking thousands of citizens in peripheral areas with historically low turnout rates whether they had voted, whether they would vote in the upcoming election and if not, why. The responses focused mostly on the sense that my vote does not matter and will not change anything.
The pushback against this torpor, this pessimism, was immense and widespread, and the results speak for them themselves. Israelis were heroic in this election for their civility and, again, for showing up. And they showed up to send a very powerful message to themselves and, I would suggest, to the democratic world. The message was clear and simple: we embrace Zionism; we embrace tradition; we are not afraid to assert our individuality as a nation; and we are not interested in the swan song of Progressivism, post-Zionism or any other ism that would lead us away from a focus of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Another message delivered was that it is time to take care of business here; issues that have been ignored or minimized must be tackled head-on.
Above all, voters reiterated their love of Zion, their attachment to the mission of the Jewish People in their Land, and their great enthusiasm for the ongoing saga of the Israel that lives apart and yet thereby serves as a light unto the nations.
My prediction is that our election will have a subliminal but important impact on those in the United States that will take place exactly a week after ours. The impact will be that there can be a positive response to feelings of displacement and alienation.
Inspiring and impacting a divided and frustrated American electorate in the US midterms
THE AMERICAN electorate is more divided and frustrated than ours. There has been a significant departure from the values of Americanism: tolerance, free expression and a core sense of underlying unity.
Simultaneously, there has been a lingering fear that nothing can be done, that society is going down a self-destructive rabbit hole and that a beneficial change of direction is not in sight.
Here is where the Israeli example can be a helpful, eye-opening tonic. Above all, our election was about self-empowerment, and the decision to assert ourselves as participatory citizens in a sovereign and benign state. Ironically, the message in Israel was captured by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes we can!” Sadly, that is not the mood in much of America but it is the mood that needs to and can prevail.
Israel showed America and all other countries that will choose to study it, that the Tocqueville effect of the citizenry is alive, well and capable of moving civic mountains.
How important and necessary is this message right now, when the global axis of authoritarian regimes is feeling its oats and the West is staring at its navel, worrying about identity politics and how to get as many benefits as possible out of their governments?
At the end of the day, the test presented and passed here was about empowerment. It is the same test that is on the ballot, as it were, in America. The ability of the West to maintain its vitality and project its values must ultimately be a bottom-up, grassroots expression of the will of its citizens.
Israel has just shown the West that its citizens were more than capable of expressing themselves clearly and unambiguously. This is the message that needs to be internalized in America and, by extension, in all nations that see themselves as democratic expressions of the will of their citizenry.
In the meantime, kudos to us. Once again, little Israel is hitting way over its weight.
The author is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu, and a director of B’yadenu and the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected]