Today is Election Day, Israel’s 4th election in two years. The population is seriously divided, tired of all the politicking and unsure whether the outcome will be decisive enough to allow the winner to form a government, or whether this election is simply a forerunner of election number 5.
For many months, the situation on the street looked like it was the United States, with posters and loud-speakers and demonstrations calling for removal of the Prime Minister. The major different between the two countries is that the demonstrations in the U.S. were primarily by “right-wingers”, whereas the demonstrations here are, in the main, by “left-wingers”. The “never Trumpers” have their counterparts on this side of the Big Muddy by the crowd chanting “anyone except Bibi” (i.e., Benjamin Netanyahu).
For a long time, it seemed as though the Prime Minister and his Likud Party were losing ground against three main challengers, Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid Party – center left), who ranks second in the polls, Naftali Bennett (Yamina Party – right) and Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope Party – right), who were, at one point, tied for third place. Last-minute polls, however, question whether Sa’ar will get enough votes to make it past the election threshold. If he does, it would be reasonable to presume that he would garner only a minimum number of Knesset seats, but nowhere near what he would need to be a serious contender for the Office of Prime Minister. Other main parties do not have a realistic expectation of success for leadership of the government, but their votes will be essential in determining whether Netanyahu will be able to cross the finish line ahead of his challengers. Latest election polls showed that Netanyahu and his right-wing allies, primarily religious parties, are close to achieving a minimum majority that could allow Netanyahu – who is already Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister – to form a new government and remain in power. Interestingly enough, the push over the threshold could come from a small Arab party that broke away from the Joint List, which does not warm the cockles of the hearts of the hard right.
Netanyahu is a skilled leader, who has acquired considerable political savvy after losing an election to Prime Minister to Ehud Barak some two decades ago. Demonstrators against Netanyahu refer to him as “Crime Minister” because of the criminal indictments that he is facing on charges of corruption and bribery. Throughout the entire legal process, which is far from being over, he constantly maintained that nothing will come of the charges, because they are based on nothing, other than politics.
While many consider that the vote today is a pro-Bibi or anti-Bibi referendum, in reality, it is a vote regarding whether we will have a strong government with a division of powers – executive, legislative and judicial – or whether we will allow the legal/judicial establishment to continue to infringe upon the other branches of the government, as it has done during the last few years. For an excellent analysis of this subject, see Caroline Glick’s “Bennett, Sa’ar and Israel’s Legal Tyranny“.
Polling places will close here in less than two hours and it is difficult to predict the outcome. There are a multitude of small parties, only about half of which are expected to get the minimum number votes needed to get a seat in the Knesset. Even though some of those parties had a degree of positive support, the likelihood is that most will fail and that the votes cast in their favor would be a loss, most likely for the rightist bloc.
So, what can reasonably be expected at this time? A number of scenarios are possible.
First, Netanyahu can put together a coalition, supported primarily by religious parties an ultra-rightist parties. Even Naftali Bennett could end up supporting Netanyahu, although the two of them have been like fire and water over the past several years.
Second, if Netanyahu fails to accumulate at least 61 seats, from all of the parties that would join him, he could still technically win the election, but have to do a lot of politicking to gain the backing that he needs to form a coalition government.
Third, if Netanyahu doesn’t walk away with a clear-cut victory, anti-Netanyahu parties could try to try to put together a coalition, but they would be hard-pressed to do so. There are enough center-left and far-left parties that could band together, but at this point, there is no central authority or leadership that could unify them.
Fourth, realistically, there is no fourth possibility, at least for the purposes of putting together a coalition government. It would require that pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu political leaders put aside their personal, political and ideological differences and work together for the benefit of the nation. To think of this as a real alternative outcome would require a great sense of humor.
So, if Bibi doesn’t further extend his record as Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, we can anticipate that we will be in for a fifth round of elections in the next few months. Well, we’ll get a better perspective on things tomorrow morning.
And the LORD said to [the prophet] Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them.” (1 Samuel 8:22)
A time is coming, and it does not appear to be too far off, when partisan politics will no longer control the affairs of life in this nation. The leadership that the nation has rejected will one day rule over this land. There will be no more voting, but only giving thanks, praise and worship. Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a society that is God ruled and God blessed? May He grant us a sanctified imagination to look forward to and yearn for that day.
Until that time, we have the politics of this world to deal with. Oy, what a contrast!
Whatever the outcome of today’s elections, we don’t have to go with the flow of this world. We can bless, be blessed and be a blessing. May it be so.