The upcoming Israeli election is both boring and terrifying.
Boring, because the campaigns have been lackluster and uninspiring, and many Israelis are by now indifferent to or disgusted with the political system. Terrifying, because another indecisive result and a fourth election would plunge the country into a deep crisis.
Israel is already more polarized and paralyzed by the ongoing election saga. Israelis are living in a never-ending campaign atmosphere that is reminiscent of a shark-infested pool: Politicians are constantly on the attack, seeking to draw blood rather than to find any common ground.
Meanwhile, decisions and budgets are on hold and matters of national importance are neglected. Political leaders avoid tough calls that could hurt them electorally, and the IDF cannot move forward with critical acquisitions.
The polls are predicting a tight race, again. Much could change before election day, but one way or another, the best outcome for Israel would be a national unity government jointly led by Likud and Blue and White. Here is why:
Israel Needs Sanity, Stability
Domestically, Israelis crave some sanity and a calmer national discourse. Endless election battles have poisoned the atmosphere, pitting different camps and groups against each other. Israel needs to step back from this mentality and restore a sense of national partnership and collaboration.
It is said that today 80 percent of Israelis agree on 80 percent of the issues. Like most cliches, this one, too, has some truth in it. A joint Likud-Blue and White government would reflect this reality, while working toward common goals instead of only fighting for more votes.
Moreover, a unity government comprising the two large parties and perhaps a few others would be broader and more stable. Any other arrangement would likely produce a narrow coalition featuring an uneasy alliance between rival factions.
Such coalition would be a source of constant squabbling and bitterness. What’s worse, every coalition partner would be in position to topple it and thus likelier to resort to extortion. Conversely, a unity government would be assured a majority even if smaller parties quit. This would create a healthy balance and curb the exaggerated power and appetite of sectarian groups.
Trouble on All Fronts
Finally, Israel is facing dramatic challenges that would be best tackled through a national consensus: Potential wars in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza; a growing risk of eruption in the West Bank; President Trump’s peace initiative and the prospect of settlement annexation; and under certain circumstances, an Iranian breakout toward a nuclear bomb.
A unity government led by a cabinet comprising several former generals would be best for Israel at this key junction. It could also deter enemies that would otherwise be tempted to capitalize on perceived political instability or an inexperienced leadership cadre.
Alas, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz have so far resisted the calls for unity. They may have good reasons, but with the stakes so high both should find a way to secure an uneasy but necessary compromise. This will likely serve them well politically, while putting Israel back on track.
A unity government will be even more needed, and easier to arrange, if Netanyahu steps down. Given the aftershocks this will likely produce, a broad coalition would help restore some measure of calm and prevent a further escalation of Israel’s political wars.