The media say that Israeli voters are apathetic. They aren’t – they are furious.
About a third of them aren’t expected to vote at all in the March 2 election, an unprecedented third in 11 months. And polls show that those who will vote will divide up between the two major blocs in almost precisely the same way as they did in the previous two elections, which did not produce a government. This time too, neither bloc appears to have the 61 seats in the Knesset needed. One wants to say that a fourth election is unthinkable, but we said that about the third one.
Recently there have been revelations about possible illegalities involving a bankrupt company called “Fifth Dimension” connected to Benny Gantz, the opposition Blue and White party’s standard-bearer against PM Netanyahu. We’ve also heard about tapes of possibly improper conversations between Gabi Ashkenazi, one of Blue and White’s four leaders, and Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney general who indicted Netanyahu (conversations related to an entirely different ugly scandal around Ashenazi). None of this has even slightly moved the needle of the polls.
The right wing is certain that only a right-wing government will not do something stupid, like agreeing to a sovereign Palestinian state in the territories. It knows that only a right-wing government can be trusted to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley or Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It is more or less correct in this, although even a Netanyahu government is likely to bend to the winds blowing from Washington, in whichever direction they blow.
The left wing is certain that Netanyahu is destroying democracy in the country, but more importantly they are disgusted by everything about him, especially his greedy wife Sara and loose-cannon son Yair. They think he is a horribly corrupt criminal, an anti-Arab racist, and an embarrassment to the kind of state they would like Israel to be. They are hoping that his trial, which will begin the week after the election, will result in his conviction and a prison sentence.
And here are some facts that almost every Israeli knows:
- With only a few exceptions, the top leadership of both blocs is both corrupt and untrustworthy.
- Benny Gantz is a bumbler who is not competent to be Prime Minister, and he and his three partners agree about nothing except that they want Netanyahu out. It’s hard to imagine them governing if they were to attain power.
- Netanyahu is brilliant and competent (although many hate him). A recent poll showed 45% of those polled saying that he was most suited to be PM, compared to 35% who chose Gantz. Netanyahu is not as bad as the indictments say he is, but he’s not averse to accepting “gifts” from “friends” who are rich people expecting something from the government.
- All of them prioritize their own wants ahead of the needs of the country.
Polls say that Netanyahu’s Likud will get slightly fewer votes than Gantz’s Blue and White party, but will be unlikely to put together a coalition of 61, just like in the two previous elections. Gantz’s party may get two or three more seats than the Likud, but it will be even farther from the needed 61. The only ways for Gantz to form a government will either be for him to make a coalition with the Arab Joint List – which he will not do, because almost all Arab MKs are outspokenly anti-Zionist – or to create a minority coalition which will stay in power as long as the Arabs agree not to vote against it in a vote of confidence. This would give the Arab bloc a veto over any government actions.
Netanyahu campaigns by talking about his accomplishments, especially those that have come about from his relationship with US President Trump. He continues to remind voters that a Gantz government would need Arab support. Lately he has been talking about Fifth Dimension. Nobody cares.
Gantz campaigns by talking about Netanyahu’s indictments. A recent radio interview with a spokesperson for Gantz went like this:
Interviewer: Isn’t it true that you have no way to get 61 Knesset seats and that the only way you can form a government is with support from the Arab Joint List?
Gantz spokesperson: Maybe, but Netanyahu has three indictments and is going on trial soon.
Nobody cares about this either.
I haven’t mentioned Avigdor Lieberman yet. He could have put Netanyahu (but not Gantz) over the top, but he chose not to. His party leans rightward, and has been part of previous right-wing coalitions. But he found an issue that resonates with his constituents – Haredi draft-dodging – and his stubbornness on this has both helped him get votes and served as an excuse to avoid helping Netanyahu, with whom he is feuding.
The villains are multiple. There is Lieberman, of course. There are the Arab MKs, who do not represent moderate Arab citizens, but insist on espousing Palestinian nationalism, which is perhaps why only about half of Arab Israelis bother to vote. There is Netanyahu, who resisted any attempts to get him to step down in favor of other members of his party, and who has consistently crushed any possible challengers to his domination of the Likud. There are the people who suffer from Bibi Derangement Syndrome, who would rather see a nonfunctional government than one under Netanyahu. There are the right-wing voters who insist on voting for several small parties which are not expected to pass the 3.25% threshold, and therefore whose votes will not be counted at all.
Personally, I believe that a right-wing government under Netanyahu is the best outcome, although I would have preferred that he pass the baton to a successor. Nevertheless, it’s clear that he is extremely competent and able to carry out his duties to a reasonable degree despite the interference of his legal problems. Gantz and the zoo that he leads would be worse. Everything now depends on how effective the parties are in stimulating their voters to turn out, whether the small right-wing parties drop out, and so on.
We are sick of politicians. We are sick of the way their selfishness has prevented us from getting a government that could deal with the many issues facing the nation today, including the most important strategic ones. We are sick of having money removed from programs that actually help people, in order to fund the extremely expensive elections. If there were a button to push that would remove all of our politicians, we would push it.
Israelis aren’t “apathetic,” as the media – which loves the craziness of elections – says. We are furious. We just haven’t found that button.