Israel’s election for the 24th Knesset is over. But as we all heave a collective sigh of relief, this is the time to put the divisive, acrimonious and costly campaign behind us, and move on – together.
No matter who wins or loses, the Israeli people must now put politics aside, stop the blame game and the mutual recriminations, and stand together. We need to make sure that the next government represents all the country’s citizens and focuses on what’s important: guiding Israel out of the pandemic, encouraging the economy to bounce back, and helping the hungry and those in need.
President Reuven Rivlin’s office published a timetable for post-election consultations with all the parties, which will ultimately see him entrust one candidate to attempt to assemble a coalition by April 7.
Rivlin will begin consultations with parties and gather their endorsements for the next prime minister beginning March 31.
Once the president has announced a candidate to form a government, he or she will have 28 days to assemble a coalition, with the option of asking for a 14-day extension.
If the candidate fails to form a government, the mandate returns to the president, who may give someone else 28 days to put together a coalition. If that candidate fails as well, MKs can gather 61 signatures to endorse a third prospective premier. If that doesn’t work, a fifth election will be called.
In an op-ed published in The Jerusalem Post urging Israelis to vote on Election Day, Rivlin noted that the candidate who leads the largest party is not necessarily the one with the best chance of forming a stable government, or the one who will be given the mandate from the president.
“The bitter experience of the last elections has shown us that this is not necessarily the situation,” he wrote. “The person entrusted with forming a government will have to form sensible and responsible connections that will save us from this political roundabout and lead us to political stability so that we can get back to restarting processes in this country that is so dear to us all.”
Menachem Begin, who led Israel from 1977 to 1983, once said: “There will be no fraternal strife while the foe is at the gate.” He, of course, was referring to Israelis uniting during wartime against the country’s enemies.
But now is the time to unite to tackle the challenges at home. Foremost among these is COVID-19, which is still with us despite half the population of nine million being fully vaccinated. We need to tackle the disease as well as its harmful economic and psychological repercussions.
Israel has shown the world what it can do in a variety of fields, from hi-tech and cyber to solar energy and desalination, and most recently for being “the vaccination nation.”
Israel climbed two spots to 12th place in the latest annual World Happiness Report published last week. New possibilities have also opened up with the Arab world after last year’s historic Abraham Accords.
But none of this will matter if the internecine disputes that have led to four elections in two years are not halted.
When discussing the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples, the Talmud differentiates between the causes of the first and those of the second (Yoma 9b):
“Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three things which prevailed there: idolatry, immorality, bloodshed... But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvot and acts of kindness? Because baseless hatred prevailed. This teaches you that baseless hatred is equal to the three sins of idolatry, illicit relations and murder.”
In the pre-election climate, in which every party leader seemed to despise the other, we witnessed some of the most offensive assaults on other communities in Israel’s history.
Now is the time to stop this baseless hatred, find common ground – and even if we can’t love our neighbors, at least let’s respect them.
Just as Jewish families will gather to celebrate Passover at the Seder on Saturday night, so too should we all come together to celebrate what we have achieved as a people. Let’s do all we can to avoid another election.