Will Coronavirus Crisis Resolve Israeli Election Crisis?

(Photo: Pixabay)

Another Israeli election just ended without decisive results, leaving Israelis in a growing state of depression. However, this time around there may be a secret weapon that could help resolve the impasse: The mighty Coronavirus.

Israel currently faces two horror stories: First is the horrifying prospect of a fourth election in less than two years. Then there is the quickly escalating Coronavirus situation. Together, the two crises threaten to paralyze the country (national security is already at risk, see here).

Prime Minister Netanyahu finished the election race in first place, but still short of winning a majority. He will need some creative maneuvering to form a government, as will his chief rival Benny Gantz.  

For now, the country is caught in a nasty mood of political bickering and polarization. Nobody is immune as leftists and rightists, Arabs and Jews are under attack by someone from the opposite camp. Clearly, being trapped in a never-ending election season is a terrible recipe for national bliss.

Meanwhile, the corona storm seems to grow worse every day. The number of infected Israelis is steadily rising, and tens of thousands of people are already under quarantine. As Israel is so crowded and tiny, all of us may soon be stuck at home and communicating through Facebook.

Israeli hospitals are preparing for the worse, while officials order new restrictions every day. Next, they will likely shut down Israel’s entire public transportation system. It may be a good idea to avoid it already, as buses are apparently not properly sanitized (here’s the report from Ynet, in Hebrew but with lots of photos)

Will Coronavirus Bring Unity?

However, there may be a ray of light in all this mess: The sense of impending disaster may push Israel’s leaders to finally move forward with a deal for a national unity government.

I wrote earlier about unity being a good idea, and as it turns out I’m not alone. In recent days, journalists from across the political spectrum have been calling — or is it begging — both Netanyahu and Gantz to just do it. If there is one thing most Israelis agree on right now this is it: Please spare us a fourth election.

A national emergency like the Coronavirus outbreak is the kind of catastrophe that could make the politicians put their differences aside. PM Netanyahu already hinted that the nation should focus its energies on this pressing issue, rather than on the ongoing political impasse.

Ironically, a mass rally in favor of unity could be helpful now, but is not an option because of the Corona restrictions (the Health Ministry banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people).

Netanyahu and Gantz are adamant about avoiding unity, but both will be facing huge pressure to show flexibility. This pressure will keep intensifying as Israel copes with a public health (and economic) crisis. The ultimate irony would be a Coronavirus disaster that saves Israel from an election disaster.