On November 1st, Israelis will go to the polls for the fifth time within three years and a half. One week later, it will be the turn of American voters to vote for the midterms, and to elect the 435 members of the House of Representatives and a third of the senators. In one of his most recent Haaretz chronicles, Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat, writes that in these elections the future of liberal democracy in these two countries is at stake.
In the United States, these elections are a real test for Donald Trump in his strategy to seek a second term in the next presidential elections. If the Republicans succeed in regaining the majority in Congress, in both Houses or in one only, it would be a victory for the former president. He would then be comforted in his position as future candidate of the party, especially as many Republican candidates in contention defend his political line and share his theory on the rigging of the 2020 elections.
These elections will be very tight, especiallly in the swing states such as Nevada, Pennsylvania or Arizona where Republican candidates are supported by some of the most extreme members of the party who make often openly antisemitic comments. Trump, aware that most American Jews do not support him and will vote for the democrat candidates, went recently after them, saying that, unlike evangelical Christians, they did not appreciate what he had done for Israel and that «they Have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel. Before it is too late. »
Netanyahu did indeed try to explain that these words “reflect the frustration which happens to many politicians when they feel they don’t get all the credit they deserve for the things they did”, adding « By the way, I have to tell you, I’m not an exception». However, we cannot disconnect these statements by the former president from the climate in which that election campaign is taking place, marked by a wave of anti-Semitism that the United States had not experienced in decades.
Since Trump’s election in 2016, the Republican Party has become much more extreme. If it were to take control of Congress at midterms, it might question a number of acquired rights of American society, such as the right of women to abortion, already suppressed by a few Republican states, or the right of minorities.
In Israel these elections, like the four previous ones, do not deal with any subject relating to the everyday life of Israelis such as the cost of real estate, the high cost of living, let alone the situation in the occupied territories and the occupation. They focus on the question of whether Netanyahu will succeed this time in winning a majority of 61 deputees in order to become Prime Minister once again.
In order to reach that goal, he allied with the extremist list of the Religious Zionism, which, according to the polls, is supposed to get as many as 14 deputees. Itamar Ben Gvir, one of the two leaders of that list, (a fan of rabbi Meir Kahane and of Baruch Goldstein, reponsible for the Hebron killing of 1994) does not miss one single opportunity of challenging people with his racist and homophobic statements. In fact, he proposed to deport Arab deputies abroad, pretending they were “disloyal to the State of Israel“.
As for Bezalel Smotrich, his colleague in side that party, candidate to the Ministry of Defense or Justice in case they win, he annouced his intention or reducing the prerogatives of the Supreme Court to the benefit of those of the political majority in power. In that case, a law voted by the Knesset and rejected by the Supreme Court could be validated in a second vote. He would also consider deleting the article of the Penal Code providing for a sentence of up to three years of imprisonment in the case of a conviction of a political figure for fraud and breach of trust, which would allow Netanyahu to escape a possible conviction for the facts for which he is currently being tried. This latest statement reveals the real stakes of this election, namely whether or not to allow Netanyahu to escape justice.
Unfortunately, in Israel, there is no public debate between the candidates for the office of Prime Minister, like in all big democracies. Yair Lapid could have argued the many achievements of the outgoing government, including the agreement negotiated through the Americans to define the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. This bill, the first to be signed between these two countries — and not repealed, as was the 1983 agreement — will allow them to exploit the two gas deposits discovered in their territorial waters. Heavily attacked by Netanyahu and the opposition, this agreement is supported by the country’s security officials who see it as a way to reduce the risk of conflict on the northern border while preserving Israel’s security interests, The President of the Supreme Court just allowed the government to vote it without needing the support of the Knesset, which should be done in the next few days.
The polls do not allow a majority for one of the two blocks. That of the “pro-Bibi” oscillates between 59 and 60 deputies, and that of the “anti-Bibi” around 56 and 57. In between are the four MPs that would get the rest of the United Arab League – Balad, one of the three parties that constituted it in the previous elections, stands alone and should not cross the electoral threshold. Given that freeze, all analysts agree that the outcome will depend essentially on the mobilization of the Arab electorate, who vote less in general than the Jewish electorate. According to the polls, the percentage of voters among Israeli Arabs will be between 40 % and 45 % (it had reached 44,6 % in the previous vote, ans 64,8 % in March 2020 : the four Arab parties had presented themselves on the same list, which had allowed the election of 15 deputees). It is not the first time that Arab electors will determine the future of the country. Remember that the Oslo Accords were voted in the Knesset thanks to the votes of Arab deputees, the coalition led by Rabin at the time being minority.