Israel Elections: Vicious campaigning, mudslinging ramp up as vote nears

 
All parties voters can vote for at the ballot in Israel's March 23 election. (photo credit: SHLOMO BEN EZRI/CENTRAL ELECTIONS COMMITTEE)
All parties voters can vote for at the ballot in Israel's March 23 election.
(photo credit: SHLOMO BEN EZRI/CENTRAL ELECTIONS COMMITTEE)

The final stretch of the election campaign is revealing how vacuous our candidates are and how totally devoid of issues, policy and ideas are their platforms.

 A week from today, Israelis will go to the polls for the fourth time in less than two years.
With polls showing no clear-cut front runner emerging with the ability to form a coalition – and with a number of parties teetering on the brink of elimination from the next Knesset – the scent of desperation is in the air. And when people are desperate, they tend to lash out.
As the Post’s Gil Hoffman reported, Likud activists verbally and physically assaulted New Hope supporters at a rally in Moshav Azarya on Saturday night. In addition to surrounding the car of party leader Gideon Sa’ar and attempting to damage it, the ruffians threw eggs and other objects at New Hope activists and disrupted their rally with a loudspeaker, calling the Likud breakaways traitors, among other epithets. Sa’ar later accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of sending the protesters.
In another telling incident, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman unceremoniously told interviewers on Channel 12’s Ofira and Berko Show on Friday that “the haredim [ultra-Orthodox] and Bibi are on a wheelbarrow together to the garbage dump.”
The Post’s Jeremy Sharon reported that United Torah Judaism chairman Moshe Gafni and his colleague, Housing and Construction Minister Ya’acov Litzman, called on the attorney-general to investigate Liberman for incitement.
“His [Liberman’s] despair in his fight against Netanyahu is making him say things like this, but we haredim have for a long time treated him like someone who has lost his mind,” said Gafni.
Liberman responded by accusing the haredi leaders of hypocrisy and shedding “crocodile tears,” citing a recent video issued by UTJ comparing non-Orthodox Jews to dogs.
The final stretch of the election campaign is revealing how vacuous our candidates are and how totally devoid of issues, policy and ideas are their platforms. Even when a substantive issue is raised, it ultimately turns into an empty campaign promise.
In a transparent ploy to win the votes of right wingers who put settlements at the top of their list of priorities, Netanyahu on Sunday pledged to authorize illegal West Bank settler outposts if he will be able to form a coalition.
 “I swear to you: If I create a strong right-wing government without a rotation, I will take care of the settlements and the authorization of the young settlements [outposts],” he said during a visit to the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank’s Binyamin region, according to the Post’s Tovah Lazaroff.
Anyone listening to Netanyahu would be justified for reacting with skepticism. During the four years of former US president Donald Trump’s tenure – arguably the most blindly pro-Israel president in US history – Netanyahu didn’t legalize the outposts, despite similar promises.
The likelihood that he’ll ram through such a plan if reelected, with a more nuanced president in the Oval Office, is highly doubtful. But, in order to scrape away at support for Yamina’s Naftali Bennett and Sa’ar among those who live in settlements, Netanyahu is again making this promise. And maybe he’ll even gain a few votes because of it.
Because, with just one week to go, that’s what it’s all about: determining if either the left- or the right-wing blocs will be able to form a coalition, or whether we’re headed for an unprecedented fifth election.
Perhaps, if instead of promising anything to anyone and engaging in playground name calling, egg throwing and rally disruption, the candidates would actually discuss the vital issues that voters really care about in a calm and reasoned manner, it would be easier to make a choice and prevent another stalemate.
With the corona pandemic that has dominated everyone’s bandwidth for a year hopefully descending into the sunset, we must return to focus on repairing our frayed country. 
In this last week until Election Day, it’s incumbent on all the candidates and parties running to make their case loud and clear about what ideas they have and what they’ll do to contribute to rebuilding the economy, protecting our borders and addressing the day to day issues that affect each and every one of us.