The one prediction I can make about tomorrow’s Knesset election with a high degree of certainty is that it will have little short-term impact on the deluded and incestuous entity that is Israel.
The best that we can hope for is that it will begin to reverse one trend – a chilling one, to be sure – and gradually initiate a slightly less terrifying one. But a sane, enlightened Israel is not in the offing.
There is reason to suspect that the prospect of losing power and standing trial on charges of corruption has unhinged Benjamin Netanyahu. His hysterical and overtly racist conduct during the course of the election campaign has revealed him to be anything but the competent, trustworthy pair of hands he claims to be.
If Netanyahu’s behavior has deterred sufficient numbers of his Likud Party members – and the amount required is relatively small – it may not emerge from the election as the largest bloc. In that case, Blue & White leader Benny Gantz will probably get the opportunity to form a government.
The chances of Israel getting a Gantz government are slim, but they exist. What doesn’t exist is the prospect that the Israel that emerges from the election and the coalition negotiations that will inevitably follow will differ in any substantial way from the one that goes to the polls.
Pundits and party leaders from across the political spectrum will have us believe that it is one of the most fateful elections in the country’s history. That is not true. For many of the politicians it may well be momentous – they stand to lose their jobs, their source of income and their influence – but the essence of the country, the strange alchemy that turns ethnic pride into brute force, will not change. The Israel of today was not baked overnight and one election won’t change it.
For some, getting rid of Benjamin Netanyahu – if it happens – will be enough. It will certainly be a tremendous relief. As Amos Oz wrote in 1999, after Netanyahu lost the election to Ehud Barak, the exit of Babbling Bibi was like having a pneumatic drill outside your bedroom window suddenly turned off after three years of constant racket.
His second coming has now lasted ten years. The relief if he goes will be indescribable.
But it won’t make Israel a better place. Netanyahu didn’t turn Israel into the oblivious bigot and bully that it is today. The raw material, when he received it, was already well-processed. His genius, if you will, was to perceive its potential and give it full rein. In that, he has been Israel’s most successful prime minister, as well as its longest-serving.
Those who would replace him – and they could well include his Likud Party colleagues, if it turns out that his toxic presence is an obstacle to the party being part of the next government – were not made from any better stuff. The Blue & White opposition is made up of ex-generals, ex-Netanyahu advisers, security dogmatists and ethnic zealots. They are Made in Israel, with all the connotations of the brand.
Gantz has taken even a harder line on Gaza than Netanyahu and has already announced that he will not sit in a government with representatives of the country’s Palestinian population. He will not be able to form a coalition without the support of right-wing renegade Avigdor Lieberman and at least part of the Likud. So much for potential change.
The reality needs stating. Governments are made of people and the majority of Jews in Israel today live in a carefully-molded mythical world of biblical glory, ethnic superiority, Jewish suffering and military might. Israelis have been brainwashed – and have duped themselves – into a weltanschauung that is incompatible with Western values and democracy. Nothing that can happen tomorrow and in the subsequent weeks of coalition negotiations will change that basic calculus.
If there was a time when the raw material existed in Israel for the construction of a liberal democracy living peacefully and equitably with its neighbors, that is no longer the case. Personally, I doubt whether there ever was such a time.
The Israel that enters the election is the Israel that will come out of it. There may be a bit of a shuffle at the top; new faces may come in and old faces may leave. Superficially, it may feel as if something has changed. For a while, some of us may even revel in the change. But it will be a fools’ party.
Mahatma Gandhi said that people must “be the change they wish to see in the world.” Israel hasn’t changed.