As a politically minded citizen, it has been my tradition to vote during elections. I have voted in several, stretching back to 2012. Have also voted for several different parties as my own thoughts of where the country is headed needed a different range of political input.
However, these elections I will likely sit out. With polls indicating continued deadlock, the current Israeli political system is showcasing a fault. It is a political system that was always based on compromise and in modern politics we see little to any. There are two camps, both at each other’s throat: The Bibi and right wing camp, vs Gantz and center-left camp. Despite a year of deadlock, the calculus seems to not have changed.
On the one hand, Netanyahu continues to deliver diplomatic triumphs. Sudden warming of ties with Sudan is the latest example. The man is a literal diplomatic genius of the likes, at least in statesmanship of other great leaders of history: perhaps comparable to Charles de Gaulle of France, or Thatcher of Britain. One cannot deny that Bibi is simply a great stateman. His ability to forge diplomatic relationships that actually bring results to Israel is undeniable.
However, outside the international stage, a vote for Netanyahu is a vote for stagnation. Domestically, the problems of this country will continue as if the famous saying “keep calm and carry on” had meaning. The medical system in Israel, which seems to have a shortage of professionals for the size of the population, is one of increasing strain. Millions of Israelis are being educated in a similar state of strain. There is no money for teachers and many schools are years out of date. Israel has one of the most unaffordable housing markets on Earth period. If I am to raise a family here, I need to be a millionaire to secure to own a three room apartment anywhere in the central region. All this takes place, as the demand to have children and strain the system even more continues. There is a major divide between the religious and secular, which, while precipitating these cycle of elections, is now conveniently placed under the rug. How about Israeli – Diaspora relations? Does anyone talk about Reform Judaism anymore? While much talk is placed on extending the national train line to the Kotel, a great development, how about improving the narrow one lane Route 90 among others, that have killed scores of Israelis in horrific accidents?
I forgot to mention that Netanyahu will soon become the first sitting Israeli leader to be on trial while being in office.
The problem with Benny Gantz, the main challenger, is a lack of an alternative vision for Israel. It is simply an Israel without Netanyahu while keeping most of his same policies. The two might as well form the same party, simply divided into two: One for Bibi, the other without.
To vote is to further entrench the deadlock. If a mechanism is not working to continue to support the same mechanism is therefore pointless. The irony is that the system was designed so that people MUST work together. In Israel’s Proportional Representation system there has never been a one-party majority government, similar to what we see in parliamentary systems such as in Canada and in the UK. Where is Israeli Civil Society in all of this? Should we simply continue to be in this cycle forever?
Here is a proposition: A National Union Government. Benny Gantz can be Prime Minister and Benjamin Netanyahu Foreign Minister. Labor- Gesher will receive the economic portfolio to make Israel a more livable country. One of Blue and White’s Generals can be Defense Minister. Naftali Bennett can be Interior or Strategic Affairs Minister, making sure the voice of Judea and Samaria are felt in the government. Shas or UTJ can continue to work on religious issues. The solution is not difficult at all.
However, the deadlock is likely to continue because people cannot work together. I want to see how Israeli society can force different factions to work together for the greater good. For these reasons, I will likely abstain from voting these elections.