Israel is a democracy. We keep hearing this. It is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” as many of us are fond of saying. Lately, it is beginning to seem as though we would be better off with a little less “democracy.”
One election wasn’t democratic enough, so we had another. Now we are headed for the disaster of a third one. But we are very democratic, so apparently we will keep having elections until the “democrats” (small ‘d’) who want to have a government without Benjamin Netanyahu finally get their way.
I am absolutely certain that if it weren’t for the endless investigations against the PM and the associated leaks to the media, we would have a normal government, with Bibi at its head. A government that would not be perfect, but what coalition is?
But we are democratic. Everyone gets to have their say. The police, who – it has just been disclosed – threatened to ruin the life of one of the key witnesses against Netanyahu if he didn’t agree to turn state’s witness and say what they told him to. The Attorney General, who when asked to investigate the continuous leaks to the media over a period of years concerning the allegations against Netanyahu, as well as the content of confidential police interviews, responded that there was no place (ain makom) to investigate the leakage and punish the leakers. And of course, 90% of the media, which express their opinion that Netanyahu is the illegitimate son of the devil every day – they too, have their democratic rights.
There is plenty to criticize about Netanyahu, especially the fact that he crushes anyone who might be competition for him in his party. His wife is volatile and possibly (although this could just be more slander) has too much influence over his political decisions. His son should keep his mouth shut, both in the presence of disloyal drivers and on Twitter. His security policy, in which Hamas is allowed unlimited liberty to destroy property in the south of the country, has been criticized by many. And Bibi’s been PM long enough.
But what has been done to him by his enemies (mostly his unelected ones) is outrageous. The police and prosecution went on fishing expedition after fishing expedition, and the media gleefully reported every one. “This time he’s going down,” they implied. But he didn’t – and he may not yet, if it turns out that the investigations are poisoned by police and prosecutorial misconduct.
Polls consistently show that more Israelis believe that Bibi should be Prime Minister than his main opponent, Benny Gantz (the most recent one, right before the election, came out 46% vs. 31% for Bibi), and even 25% of Arab citizens prefer him. His right-wing bloc has one more seat in the Knesset than the opposition, and if you don’t count the declaredly anti-Zionist Arab parties, 14 more. But this is a democracy, and most of the TV stations and newspapers don’t like him, nor does the Bar Association (which provides the PM with a list of acceptable candidates for Attorney General, and has a controlling influence on the selection of Supreme Court justices), nor does a majority of academics, artists, and media personalities. They all seem to have votes in addition to the ones they put in the ballot box.
They don’t like him, and this is a democracy, so we need to democratically pick someone else. And we’ll keep democratically trying until they we succeed.