It is said that in the Middle East, it’s even hard to predict the past.
And as for the future, and specifically the results of national elections held in Israel on Tuesday — the second race this year — that’s even harder to say at this point. (We go to press Tuesday evenings.)
While the protracted political jockeying resulting from the close election will begin in earnest in the coming days, with the deadline for forming a coalition some weeks away, it’s worth reviewing the less- than-stirring campaign that resulted from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for a snap election after he fell one vote short of forming a 61-seat government in the 120-seat Knesset in April.
Netanyahu, who faces indictment in early October in three cases of fraud, tried numerous ways to win definitively this week, which does not appear to be the case. He insisted the charges were themselves fraudulent, blaming government officials, the police, his political opponents, and the media for his troubles. He sought and received pledges from party members to pass a bill when the Knesset reconvenes that would negate the indictment and he was prepared to overrule the Supreme Court through the Knesset should the court uphold the indictment. Further, to solidify his right-wing base, Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley, which is seen as a move that would permanently end chances for an eventual two-state solution with the Palestinians.
While Netanyahu was attracting widespread public and media attention, both positive and negative, the Blue and White party, led by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid, seemed satisfied to run a low-key campaign that elicited little enthusiasm.
So where are we now? The good news is that in the midst of a chaotic Middle East, Israel held another free, democratic election — a fact we all take for granted — with 30 parties running for office. The frustrating news is that it will take weeks for a winner to emerge. But be assured that while the drama is delayed, it’s coming — and the fate of Israel’s reputation as a full and vital democracy is at stake.