As Israel prepares to head back to elections, it is worth reflecting on the bullet that we dodged last night. The twenty-first Knesset had the potential to be the most corrupt and extreme Knesset of all time:
A prime minister accused on multiple counts of corruption, vying to pass constitutional reforms that exempt him from judgment;
A religious extremist ex-convict, previously convicted for corruption and currently under investigation for committing additional crimes for corruption;
A religious extremist Health Minister under investigation for using his authority to protect sexual predators from extradition;
A group of fringe fascists who never would have entered the Knesset on their own, and the leader-by-default of a national-religious movement all too willing to follow them.
And, I guess, Kachlon, who earns the solitary distinction of being the only member of the prospective government to not be completely terrible, aside from his ambivalent willingness to abide all of the above.
I don’t think the issues raised above are questions of Right v. Left – and, indeed, I believe it is telling that this government was toppled by a dispute over principles within the nationalist camp. To my Right-wing readers I cannot help but ask: Is this truly the best we could do? Are these the finest the nationalist camp has to offer the citizens of Israel? A grab-bag of convicts, suspects and fringe fanatics? Is this what the camp of Menachem Begin has come to?
On September 17, we will have a chance to start over. Not just on the Left – though we will certainly redouble our efforts – but on the Right as well. This is a chance for introspection, a chance to thoroughly clean our house before the date arrives. Security does not have to mean corruption. Stability need not entail capitulation to religious fanatics. The principles of the Right have become smothered and disfigured by the corrupt and complacent place-holders.
September 17 will be a second chance to send a message to the leaders of the nationalist camp that their constituents expect and deserve better. Lieberman fired the first warning shot last night. But the final volley will fall to the voters. The twenty-second Knesset will feature a new government, Left or Right. But either way, let’s be sure that it is not comprised of criminals.