The voice of the Israeli people must be heard after the third election

At this precarious time, national unity is not a luxury but a necessity. United we stand, divided we fall.

Illustration of  voting notes in the Israeli general elections on March 02, 2020. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Illustration of voting notes in the Israeli general elections on March 02, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
During a cold winter day in late December 2008, I bounced up and down in the backseat of the battered old white van as we made our way south from Jerusalem to Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba. Sitting to my left was Benjamin Netanyahu, soon to be, for the second time, prime minister. We were in the midst of national elections but this was not a campaign visit.
Weeks earlier, Israel had launched Operation Cast Lead, and all electioneering was put on hold as our brave soldiers battled in Gaza. Just a few years removed from the Gaza withdrawal, the Palestinians rained rockets and mortars on Israeli towns and cities, and then-prime minister Ehud Olmert finally decided to act.
Our trip to Soroka was to visit soldiers hospitalized from injuries sustained in action. As we made our way through the wards, the strength and determination of these young warriors was on full display. Their belief in Zion and the righteousness of our cause was beyond inspiring.
Upon entering the intensive care unit, the mood changed. Lying side-by-side in three beds were young, muscular boys, all still teenagers. Their limp bodies were connected to machines, their breathing to a respirator. One of them, with a serious head trauma, was the son of the mayor of a small town in the area; a family we knew well. It was a heart-wrenching moment, and one that shook me to my core. Although Netanyahu had visited such scenes many times before, it was clear how moved and upset he was.
We made our way out the hospital doors and back in to the beat-up old car, but the image of those boys did not leave me. The lives that were changed, the lives that were lost. This was not about the political bantering on what to do or how to handle Gaza. This was real life with real consequences. The sons and daughters of Israel were implementing the decisions of our leadership, and the consequences were shared by us all.
It was this story I remembered as I watched the latest post-election chaos play out once again across our TV screens and in our newspapers.
Fierce political opposition and debate are nothing new in Israel. In pre-state Palestine and later, after the establishment of Israel, the venom and illegitimate mudslinging between David Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky and subsequently Menachem Begin, far exceeded today’s battles. What has changed though is its purpose. While our founding fathers had very significant disagreements, their goals and what they represented were crystal-clear. At no point was there a doubt as to their dedication and devotion to the people they represented, the people of Israel. Unfortunately, today that is not true.
We the people, have become an afterthought in a high-stakes political game where for the past year there have been no winners, just losers. The leaders of the large parties have made personal vendettas their compass; not ideology nor the good of the people. While the Likud and Netanyahu have their fair share of responsibility, Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman carry the bulk.
FOR MORE than a year and through the course of three elections, Gantz and Liberman have vetoed Prime Minister Netanyahu; not over ideological differences or policy disagreements, but because they have had enough of him. Gantz’s claim that the PM’s legal situation makes him an illegitimate partner is completely contrary to the basic law which allows the PM to continue to serve, while also denying Netanyahu the very basic right of innocent until proven guilty. One can argue the morality of Netanyahu continuing his tenure, but the law itself is clear. Gantz should let the courts do their job, while bringing unity and resolve to a desperate nation.
Liberman was reported to have an even more personal grudge, claiming that Netanyahu was responsible for anonymous investigations against him and his family. Regardless of the veracity of this claim, should eight million people suffer a lack of governance, budget and progress because Liberman is personally offended?
Dragging the entire country to election after election for the sole purpose of ridding us of one person is not in the national interest, but rather the political interest of a few.
As a result of this veto, the anti-Bibi camp is now deep in discussions with the United Arab List. The personal animosity is so great that three former IDF chiefs of staff and three former defense ministers are ready to put the future of our country in the hands of the Arab list. While the Arab citizens of Israel are completely legitimate, any list that glorifies terrorists and condemns and vilifies IDF soldiers is not. The idea of joining with anti-nationalists just to rid the Knesset of one person seems absurd.
The challenges we face are great, and we the people have, for three straight elections, demanded a different approach. The threats from Gaza, Hezbollah and Iran have not magically disappeared. The healthcare system, even before the coronavirus, was in need of a serious overhaul. Now with the rampant spread of the coronavirus we are facing an epidemic of generational proportion, and national unity in adherence to guidelines is critical. The national to-do list is quite long, and the year-long absence of a functioning government has just made it longer and more pressing.
We the people have said in overwhelming numbers time and again that what we want and what we need is a national unity government. We the people are tired of politics and politicians, and are starved for a unified leadership with a national purpose. Put the egos aside. Put the politics aside. Remember that you are but representatives representing the people.
Likud and Blue and White must put their personal grievances and respective interests aside and do what we the people overwhelmingly demand. At this precarious time, national unity is not a luxury but a necessity. United we stand, divided we fall.
The writer was a former aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.