Bibi Netanyahu is in distress. The great victory of the Likud and the right-wing in the last elections led to the unexpected outcome of second-round elections. The 65 seats that Netanyahu believed to be in his pocket clouded his judgement, rendering him so smug that he went beyond the limits of his power. The result was a total failure to form a coalition, while dragging the people of Israel to an unnecessary round of elections, a move which, by all accounts, endangers the continuation of his rule. The combination of excessive self-confidence and a desperate focus on saving himself from the threat of justice deepened the realization that Netanyahu is unfit to form a coalition and run the government. Moreover, after polls apparently unfavourable to Bibi, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein floated a proposal to annul the Knesset’s decision to dissolve itself and thus prevent new elections. Behind this non-starter was Netanyahu’s hubris. The only people currently taking measures to save him are Trump and Putin, who lavish political gifts.
On the face of it, the way is clear for the opposition to give Bibi an electoral punch and knock him to the ground. Yet oddly enough, there has not yet been a politician able to do this, although Ehud Barak certainly wants the opportunity. Barak left the comfort zone of Twitter and formed a nameless party, without a platform, but with one clear message: “This regime must be overthrown, not saved.” And how does Barak intend to bring down Bibi? By using the same means that Bibi himself uses: to incite, mingle, curse, slander, blame, degrade, point with his finger and wave his hands until the public tells Bibi, “We are sick of you, go home.” In contrast, General Gantz appears too delicate, too statesmanlike, too introverted, and in particular too toothless. Barak has a rich resume in connection to Bibi: He is the only one who defeated him, he commanded him in the military, he was a friend of Bibi and today he is his enemy. Barak is not establishing a party, but a camp whose only goal is to get a bloc of 61 MKs that will prevent Netanyahu from forming a coalition.
Who will be partners in that broad camp? The Blue and White party of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid will bring their 35 mandates, and Barak’s still nameless party will try to increase the number of mandates on the Left together with the Labor Party and Meretz. The Arab parties will lend their hands. Finally, Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing party, which refuses to sit in a coalition that includes the Ultraorthodox, will join in to build a wall against Bibi and his delusional right-wing bloc. Yet it is doubtful whether Barak’s entry into the ring will succeed in bringing the desired result. The ultra-Orthodox, the Orthodox nationalists and the Likudniks will all fight for Netanyahu, since their fates are clearly intertwined. The Right knows that without Netanyahu, it will become like sheep without a shepherd. Twenty years of Bibi in the Likud have filled the political cemetery with the bodies of all leaders who threatened his authority. The only one left standing is Gideon Sa’ar, but he too has learned to bow his head to avoid the crashing wave while endlessly repeating the mantra that he is not challenging the “prime minister.”
The center-left celebration is premature. Even if a coalition against Bibi takes power, it will not rule well. A ship constructed of Lieberman, the Arab parties and Meretz cannot hold water. Real or imagined hatred of Bibi cannot be the basis for cooperation between parties whose ideological and political distance is greater than that between carnivores and vegans. If Bibi succeeds in winning his 61 seats, he will undoubtedly be immortalized as the ultimate magician, but if not, the alternative will be a unity government between a Bibi-less Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White. The latter repeatedly announces that it prefers a government with a Bibi-less Likud. That is why it voted against the Knesset’s dissolution, demanding that Bibi return the mandate of forming a government to the president, who would then have given the task to Gantz.
One can only guess what a Blue-and-White–Likud government would look like without Bibi. For example, Gantz is prime minister, Gideon Sa’ar is foreign minister, Moshe Ya’alon is defense minister, Yair Lapid is finance minister, and the list goes on. It is true that it will be possible to get rid of the Jewish-law state supported by Bezalel Smotrich, and we’ll also be rid of Miri Regev, Micky Zohar and David Amsalem, but in the end it will be Bibi’s government without Bibi. Israel’s friendship with Trump will continue, even if not at the same fervour, Putin the autocrat will continue to be a strategic ally, and Iran will continue to be the criminal enemy. The Deal of the Century, which allows Israel to annex vast areas while preventing any real element of Palestinian independence, will remain the basis for relations with the Palestinian Authority, and Qatari money will continue to buy comparative quiet in Gaza while greasing the Hamas regime. Dictators of the Gulf region will continue to be coveted allies of both the Left and Right. Bibi, along with the stories of his son Yair and wife Sara, may become history, but the apartheid for which Bibi has worked during his years of rule will remain unchanged, and with it the bloody conflict. In such a unity government, there will be no place for Meretz and the Joint Arab List, although this will not prevent them from remaining irrelevant and adhering to the obsolete two-state agenda.
On the social and economic levels, such a government will not bring anything new. Gantz, Lapid, Sa’ar and Kahlon want continuity, and apart from a budget cut due to the huge deficit created in 2019, they have nothing to offer. While Western cities declare a climate emergency, Israeli cities continue to emit CO2 non-stop. There will be nothing new in energy efficiency, no significant transition to solar energy; nothing new in changing the educational system and adapting it to the twenty-first century; the health budget will be cut, instead of adding the billions necessary for staff and beds in the collapsing hospitals. This will also be the case with road infrastructure, public transport, and private vehicles. Every day we hear about 10 electric taxis in Tel Aviv and 25 electric buses in the big cities, but these are mere public relations gestures, offering no real solution to air pollution and the failed public transportation system.
Israel requires an urgent change in its priorities. The continuation of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territory distorts what remains of Israeli democracy; it will result in an outbreak of popular Palestinian revolt bringing unnecessary bloodshed. The fate of five million Palestinians cannot be detached from the quality of life of Israeli citizens, just as the concern for the air that people breathe, and the question of climate change, cannot be detached from global warming. Most of Israel’s political parties deny the occupation and the anomaly of controlling five million Palestinians, just like those Trump-led right-wing populists who deny climate change. The result is disastrous not only for the future of the planet, but for the future of civil society on it, which is facing a racist and fascist wave.
In the last elections, the Da’am party (the Organization for Democratic Action) presented its platform to the voters, and there was little response. The Jewish and Arab public chose to support the familiar, even if the effectiveness of the familiar has been refuted. Da’am sees the reality of apartheid as the source of the diseases of Israeli society, and we see climate change as a danger to the very existence of a habitable earth. Therefore, we will go back to ringing the warning bell, out of a deep commitment to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis without distinction. Da’am believes that the only way out of the political and climate entanglement is to establish a single democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians, while adopting a new economic system built on the values of sustainability and clean energies. Along with the rising voices of the young people in the Arab world who are leading the Arab Spring, we reject the neoliberal system that has caused a looming ecological disaster. This system has also created intolerable social gaps that threaten democracy and the continued existence of civilization. We will not stop knocking on every door until Israeli society awakens.
The second round of elections is not good news, but it is testimony to a system and a society that have reached a dead end. Israeli society’s false sense of security, as well as its arrogance, will be shattered just as Netanyahu’s was, despite his great but phony victory in the last elections.