After less than two years in power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s third government has reached the end of its road. Israel is once again heading for an election.
The seeds of the coalition’s destruction were sown in the spring, when negotiations with the Palestinians were halted. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett took over foreign and security policy, pushing Netanyahu into ever more extreme positions.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid had problems justifying their membership in an extreme right-wing coalition, but they stuck to their seats until the ultra-Orthodox politicians, who saw their chance to return to power, maneuvered the prime minister and finance minister into an open rift.
The outgoing government was one of the worst in Israel’s history. It’s hard to list one achievement, while the damage was great. Foreign and security policies were suicidal.
The government halted the peace process and accelerated annexation steps in the West Bank while upsetting the delicate status quo on the Temple Mount. It undercut democracy’s foundations with its repeated efforts to pass bills against illegal entry into Israel, its challenge of High Court rulings and its racist nation-state bills.
It got entangled in a 50-day war with Hamas that ended in a tie despite the great price in casualties, destruction and treasure. It put Washington’s support at risk and brought Europe closer to imposing sanctions on Israel.
The government’s economic policies were no less destructive. Lacking the ability to make decisions, and out of fear of facing off against the economy’s power brokers, Netanyahu and Lapid ran a profligate deficit budget and shunned reforms or structural changes.
The Israeli economy’s basic problems – the high cost of living, the housing shortage, the powerful monopolies and the big unions – only got worse amid the neglect. Plans to fight poverty and fix the health care system were shelved in favor of inflating the defense budget.
Under these circumstances, it’s not enough for this government to end its term. Anyone who fears for Israel’s future as a peace-loving democracy with a stable economy should join forces to keep Netanyahu from winning a fourth term. The prime minister has once again proved to be an extreme nationalist willing to sacrifice the country’s basic values to realize a destructive ideology. If he wins again at the ballot box, Israel’s future is in danger.
The approaching election is not “unnecessary” but rather critical to save the country. Party schisms, ego problems, disagreements in the left and center and the Zionist parties’ balking at cooperation with the Arab parties must not be allowed to perpetuate right-wing rule. People who want to bring Israel back to the path of sanity must vote to replace Netanyahu.