Editorial: Let's move toward a more civil election campaign for 2019

Is that too much to ask?

 A voting box in the last Israeli election in 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A voting box in the last Israeli election in 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After a great expectation and high anticipation – for those who follow politics – elections for the 21st Knesset have arrived.
Once again, if indeed it ever needed proving, the vibrant democracy of the State of Israel is writ large on the stage of world politics. More importantly, we are about to perform once again an act of history: for the 21st time in the 70-year production of the state, the Jewish people are electing its own parliament. For that we are very proud.
But what we cannot abide, cannot tolerate, is the way in which some of these representatives of the State of Israel conduct themselves, both while campaigning to get elected, and then as representatives of the people once inside those stately chambers – a place of respect that should do honor to the Jewish people.
“I’d like to say to the citizens of Israel: We are leaving a Knesset that was characterized by verbal violence and offensive discourse,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Monday.
“I’m full of hope and prayer that the election campaign in the State of Israel for the 21st Knesset will be characterized by a desire to present to the voters the things that really matter to the people, and won’t be characterized by attempts to attack the opponent.”
Is that too much to ask?
Yes, elections are a traditional time for people to really go at it, to say anything and do anything to win favor with voters, pandering to the lowest common denominator with the misbegotten notion that the ends justify the means. It is foolish and deplorable and an embarrassment. The people of Israel deserve better.
Edelstein also rightly expressed disappointment that the current coalition will not complete its legislative agenda.
“I’m proud of the many laws passed by the outgoing Knesset in the fields of security, economics, society, and especially I’m proud of the Nation-State Law,” he said. “But I regret that at the last minute we missed an historic opportunity to enact the Draft Law and remove the issue from the table once and for all.”
That draft bill – the never-ending political football used as financial capital – is ostensibly one of the reasons for the calling of new elections, because the deadline to enact new IDF legislation against the haredi draft-dodging population was not going to pass after the coalition could not agree on new legislation.
In truth, there was a host of reasons why elections were called now, but most prominent are the looming indictments against Netanyahu – some reported to include a charge of bribery – that are expected in the coming months.
While the 20th parliament will fall seven months short of a full term, it did last four years, longer than the 70-year average of 3.55 years per Knesset, and much longer than the average over the past two decades of once every 2.5 years. Relative to many countries this was a stable government, but we’re not grading on a curve.
We hope this election campaign won’t be bloody, though sadly it’s already not looking good, just from the small sample of what has been said this week. In the coming days, parties will decide how they will attack the sitting head of government, and he will decide about them. Debate all you want and can, ladies and gentlemen, from Left or Right, on every issue. But speak properly. Use better language. Don’t get down in the mud. We do not need a repeat of the 20th Knesset, with its full share of verbal garbage.
In the 1996 movie City Hall, the mayor is teaching his young rookie assistant from Louisiana some Yiddish while explaining politics in New York City, but really, about politics everywhere.
“Menschkeit... It’s about honor, character... The space between a handshake. You know. Stuff that goes with you to your grave.”
Every one running for the 21st Knesset knows that word. Is it too much to ask all candidates to give honor and character to their profession? Does every political point necessitate debating at the highest level of venom and vitriol? Can Israeli politics this time display some decorum, some civility? All we ask for is a little menschkeit.