Paul Gross

Yes, this election really is THAT consequential

David Horovitz ended his recent cri de coeur on this site with the words:

“I’m trying to sound the alarm. I’m urging my fellow Israelis, next Tuesday, November 1, to ask themselves what their vote means for the well-being of this country, its own values and goals, and its place among the nations.”

I identify very much with his sense of urgency. I tried to sound my own alarm in a piece last week, especially for those less interested in politics and perhaps less aware of the example of  countries such as Hungary, which seemed to be a stable liberal democracy until an elected government used its power to undo the stitching that held that liberal democratic system together. Since writing that piece, my speculation was confirmed by Bezalel Smotrich explicitly laying out his plans to block the Supreme Court from its vital role as the only real check-and-balance to majority power in the Israeli system, and to rescue Netanyahu from his court case.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, the legal expert in Smotrich’s party, Simcha Rothman, dismissed concerns about Israel’s democracy with the comment: “The majority will defend human rights much better than the judiciary.” Really? I wonder how many Diaspora Jewish populations would feel secure with that kind of arrangement

Meanwhile I keep seeing Facebook posts and comments by people — people I know to be decent, not extreme, not crazy — saying such things like “Ben Gvir’s really not so bad,” or “This ‘threat to democracy’ talk is wildly exaggerated.”

Honestly, these remind me of nothing so much as conversations I had with British friends who downplayed Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism. At least in that case Corbyn lost the election, but there was the same unwillingness to accept that someone they intuitively supported (because of party loyalty, or certain policy preferences) could possibly be as dangerous or as unprecedented as his critics said. Nightmarish predictions can seem completely unrealistic, until they’re not. Until they’re reality.

So let’s be very very clear. It is not ‘opinion’ or ‘speculation’ that a Bibi/Smotrich coalition aims to legislate to save Netanyahu, and to prevent the Supreme Court from acting to protect minority rights. No authority in the state will be able to prevent 61 members of the Knesset from passing whatever laws they want, even if they affect civil rights.

Neither is there any reason to believe Itamar Ben Gvir’s claims of moderation. He asks us not to judge him on the extremism of 30 years ago, yet he kept a picture of the terrorist Baruch Goldstein hanging on his living-room wall until two years ago! His “moderation” is purely for political purposes, of that I have no doubt.

And so, it’s in our hands. Israelis will decide what kind of country we will be after this election. I’ll be voting for Yesh Atid. If I were more right-wing I would certainly consider the National Unity party of Benny Gantz and Gideon Saar. To my left of course are Labor and Meretz. There is disagreement on many issues between those parties, but what unites all of them is an understanding that this extraordinary, miraculous country is extraordinary and miraculous because it is both the nation-state of the Jewish people, and a liberal democracy with rights and civil protections for all its citizens. On Tuesday, I pray that enough of my fellow citizens vote to keep it that way.

About the Author
Before moving to Israel from the UK, Paul worked at the Embassy of Israel to the UK in the Public Affairs department, and as the Ambassador's speechwriter. He has a Masters degree in Middle East Politics from the University of London. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem - though he writes this blog in a personal capacity. He has lectured to a variety of groups on Israeli history and politics and his articles have been published in a variety of media outlets in Israel, the UK, the US and Canada.
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