The September 2019 parliamentary elections in Israel raise concern about the future of democracy in the country. The Blue and White party, created just this year, ran neck and neck with the previously dominating party run by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud. Following soon after the April election, the September re-election has brought the state of Israel to a standstill. Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, along with many other parties and leaders determined to get Netanyahu out of office, have formed an alliance preventing Netanyahu from successfully forming a coalition.
This is the first time in Israel’s history that two elections are happening in the same year. The Knesset has 120 seats and Netanyahu needs to gain majority support before he can keep his place in office. Netanyahu has recently lost the support of Lieberman, the secular nationalist party, costing Netanyahu the support of a crucial ally.
If Netanyahu leaves office, he might be in legal jepordy. He is currently trying to pass a bill that would allow the Knesset to overrule the High Court, protecting him from indictments.
Netanyahu is being indicted for a series of media corruption scandals. Allegedly, Netanyahu has made deals with big companies to control their regulations, in exchange for coverage promoting and favoring the Prime Minister. With the current halt in the parliament, Netanyahu is taking this time to complete the passing of a bill, immunizing himself from facing any charges due to his position of power. The Knesset overturning the High Court would also take away any current protections for the Palestinian people, which is what the-right wing parties have been already fighting for over a long period of time.
In How Democracies Die (2018), Steven Levitsky and Daniel Siblatt list indicators they consider clear signs of a rising authoritarian leader. Netanyahu is showing many of these signs. He is seeking to gain increased levels of power, removing Israel’s current system of checks and balances that makes a democracy a democracy. Netanyahu has also made a series of public speeches illegitimating all of the parties that have turned against the Likud party, stating they are basically dragging Israel into the ground. Doing so has created a message that Netanyahu is the one and only fair leader of Israel, with anything or anyone else being fake and not democratic. Netanyahu has been recently trying to keep his power in order to remove the civil liberties still given to Muslims and other minorities living in Israel. The freedom for all people living in the state is much of the reason it has so much support from other countries. Annexing the West Bank, taking away all remaining Palestinian territory and removing already legalized minorities living in Israel is an authoritarian way to rule and would lead Israel to lose crucial support from the UN. Israel’s survival relies on its allies and Netanyahu could potentially destroy everything.
If Netanyahu stays in office, democracy is at stake in Israel. A major goal of the Likud party is annexing the West Bank and virtually removing all still existing territories for Palestinian people. Netanyahu has recently passed a law stating, “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. This is very undemocratic and clearly excludes the common rights of anyone who is not Jewish in Israel. If the West Bank is annexed, the Palestinians would fully become a displaced people and the safety of Israeli citizens as well as the Palestinians would be in jeopardy. There would be a rise in violence between the two and other countries would surely shortly be involved, once again risking the safety of Israel.
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Levitsky, S., & Ziblatt, D. (2018). How Democracies Die. New York.
Schulman, M. (2019). The Netanyahu-Gantz stalemate is testing Israeli democracy to the limit | Opinion. Retrieved 12 October 2019, from https://www.newsweek.com/israel-gantz-netanyahu-stalemate-democracy-challenge-1463242
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