From surging hope to crushing disappointment. Indeed, quite an emotional roller-coaster, at the end of which we awaken to a morning with the same horizon.
The people have spoken. This is democracy – you don’t have to like the results, but you can’t deny them. Acceptance is one more step towards redemption, right?
Looking back now, I think it was my mistake for letting the polls and the media make me hope that change was indeed possible.
It was my mistake for believing those outside the bubble thought as I did. We leftists, including the media and most of the academia in Israel, like to sip our cappuccinos sitting in Tel-Aviv cafes, but the truth is that outside this specific genre, people think in a totally different way and read reality differently.
The election results reflect a huge political achievement and victory for Netanyahu. No doubt about it.
He won against all odds and despite a huge effort mounted by the media and heavily funded organizations on the left. He won despite all the horror stories told about him by those closest to him and those who worked with him, and despite the fact that he is hated outside Israel and in Israel, including by many within his own party.
He also won because he is an excellent campaigner and a shrewd player at the game of politics.
Sadly, he won because he has learned to expertly wield the magic wand that works every time with the Israeli public – threats and fear. Why, just yesterday morning, when the ballots had just been opened, he urged voters to get up and vote by warning that “right-wing rule is in danger – Arab voters are streaming in huge quantities to the polling stations.” The man who only two nights before promised to be the Prime Minister of everyone, openly incited against 20% of Israel’s citizens whose only sin was to exercise their democratic right of voting.
To achieve victory, Netanyahu shook off the tired and fatigued image he started out with when the campaign just began, and mounted an aggressive effort on all fronts while also throwing all political and diplomatic niceties to the wind. Hamas, ISIS and Iran were all there of course, together with false tape recordings of other contenders, ferocious attacks against the media, and other fabricated facts.
Nine years of doing nothing, international isolation, dissatisfaction with the government’s achievements, and a general feeling of estrangement are all meaningless when put up against that deep embedded fear that is an integral part of our national psyche. Sure, the rising cost of living and the housing crisis are important, but when ISIS is at our fences – we need King Bibi to rescue us.
There is no doubt that Israel suffers from a serious leadership crisis. There is no other alternative on the horizon. Despite the momentous effort put on by Herzog, many Israelis obviously feel that Netanyahu is the better option to lead us in the next four years.
And so I say to Mr. Netanyahu – fine. I accept this. I might not agree with your ideas, but the people have spoken. Now, please go ahead and lead.
First of all, tell us what your vision is for the future of the West Bank and Gaza is, and do everything in your power to achieve it. You want to officially annex them into Israel? Fine. Do it. Do not linger. Make a decision. Do not make speeches about a two-state solution only to throw them down the drain when it suits you politically. After all, this is your fourth term as Prime Minister. If there has ever been a chance for you to leave some kind of lasting legacy, it’s now.
Secondly, recognize the divisiveness in Israeli society exposed by these elections, and act to close the fault lines between the religious and the secular, the left and the right, Jews and Arabs. Fight racism across the board, and do your best to amend the damage done to the relationship between Jews and Arabs by the last war in Gaza and these elections. Lower the flames, reign in inflammatory rhetoric by rightist elements within your coalition.
Thirdly, show us that you’re not blind to the issues that obviously trouble the “other” side of Israeli society. Act to lower the prices of housing, Alleviate the plight of the middle and lower classes. Minimize the growing huge disparity between the rich and the poor.
As for me, I will continue to hope that there is plenty of good left in Israel. I will continue to believe in this great country and its people. I will continue to fight and strive for a just society that knows how to live at peace with the minorities within and the neighbors without.
Desperation is simply not an option, because frankly – the alternative is too depressing.