With over 90 percent of the votes in Israel’s national election counted, Likud and the opposition “Blue and White” party are neck-and-neck in terms of seats in the upcoming Knesset. The same is true of what the media is calling the Left and Right political blocs, both sitting at around 55 seats each.
In other words, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed in his effort to secure at least 61 seats for Likud and its more natural right-wing allies. That means he’s going to have some hard choices to make, such as whether to again team up with the ultra-Orthodox parties, or cast them aside in favor of a unity government with Blue and White.
Whatever the next government ends up looking like, it is clear that there are once again no winners. While for many this is a disappointing outcome that reflects the painfully-deep divide in Israeli society, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Forcing bitter political rivals to join forces for the good of Israel may go a long way toward mending the Jewish state’s national divide, which is a major detriment to the country’s future.
Even Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party has won 9 seats, thus making him a “king-maker,” has called on the two largest parties to put aside their difference in favor of unity, even if that means he loses his own leverage.
However, there are some problems with how the media is labeling parties in terms of the Left and Right blocs. According to the media, the Left bloc includes the anti-Zionist Joint Arab List. This means that if Blue and White is given the opportunity to form the next government and invites the Joint List into the coalition, as many on the Left are demanding, it would be the first government that has as part of its agenda transforming Israel from a Jewish democratic state to just a democratic state.
While the chances of Benny Gantz becoming our next prime minister remain slim at this time, if his Blue and White party does emerge as the largest Knesset faction and is deemed most capable of forming the next government by President Reuven Rivlin, Join List leader Ayman Odeh could very well become a cabinet minister. And that would mark a tectonic shift for Israel that could ultimately lead to the abandonment of Zionism, and with it the very justification for a Jewish state.
Even if such a scenario doesn’t materialize this time around, one’s impression is that more and more Israelis, particularly on the Left, are getting used to the idea that vitriolic anti-Zionist Arab parties are a legitimate part of the political landscape. Even just a year ago, the very notion would have been unthinkable to most Israeli Jews.
One day, Netanyahu will no longer be prime minister, and Likud will lose an election. It’s only a matter of time before anti-Zionist Arab parties are taking part in governing this nation, unless something unforeseeable brings the Left back to its Jewish senses.
In the final analysis, therefore, a tie can bring healing to Israeli society, but if the two big parties continue to harbor animosity that prevents them from working together, this tie may herald a paradigm shift that could prove detrimental to the Jewish character of the Jewish state.