(September 23, 2019 / JNS) I just got back home following a dizzying week in Israel, where the dust from the country’s second general elections of 2019 is still settling. One thing though is already clear: Avigdor Lieberman and Israel’s Arab parties were the main victors.
The Joint Arab List became the third-largest party in the Knesset on Sept. 17, with 13 seats. And with Israel’s Arabs representing 20% of the population, there’s no reason to believe this trend won’t continue. And if it does, the effect on Israel’s political landscape will be dramatic.
When the Arabs vote in droves—as is their democratic right in Israel—they push the minimum electoral threshold higher, making it harder for the smaller parties to enter the Knesset.
While international media often gives the impression that Israel’s democracy is lacking, the fact is that until recently the country’s Arab citizens simply refused to exercise their democratic rights, cutting off their nose to spite their face. Not anymore. That seismic shift is one of the real take-home messages of this election.
The other clear victor in last week’s election (although not receiving the number of Knesset seats he boasted he would) was Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. As most are probably aware, it was Lieberman that triggered the repeat election by refusing to join Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition following the April 9 elections.
With the Likud and Blue and White in nearly a dead heat, much talk has been heard in Israel of “Lieberman the kingmaker,” but now that Lieberman has made his point it’s time to get on with it.
Pressure has to be applied from all corners to convince him to join Netanyahu’s coalition (his natural alliance) for the sake of the State of Israel. Lieberman can save Israel at this critical juncture if he joins the right-wing coalition. Conversely, if another election has to be held in January the Israeli public will place the blame squarely upon his shoulders.
For the sake of the State of Israel Lieberman must give up his crusade against the ultra-Orthodox sector and do the right thing. Differences should be set aside for the sake of the nation. Enough posturing and wasting Israeli taxpayer’s money.
In the next year, unless something is done, Iran will acquire enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Hamas will again have be dealt a severe blow. This is no time for Israel’s government to be in limbo. Quite the opposite. Israel needs a strong right-wing government to deal with these critical issues and much more. Hopefully, cool heads will prevail.
Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.
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