On April 9 the citizens of the state of Israel will vote for a new Knesset. Why should we in Atlanta care about these elections?
First and foremost, we need to ask ourselves, “Why should we care about Israel? Does the U.S. see itself as a defender of democracy? Does the U.S. still represent core fundamental values such as free speech, equality, transparency in governance and such?” I believe the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
When Woodrow Wilson spoke in front of Congress in 1917, he said, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” I believe American citizens care about the importance of being a superpower that defends the basic values of democracy. This is why the relationship between the U.S. and Israel has become a cornerstone of keeping democracy alive in the Middle East.
Looking more closely at the situation today, Israel has reached a junction. The upcoming election symbolizes that in many ways. Is Benjamin Netanyahu going to get reelected? If so, how will his government look? If Benny Gantz is elected, can he form a coalition? And if so, will it be sustainable? Israelis need to decide which path to take and when they do, the critical issues will be defined, including the status of the U.S. relationship.
It is no secret that Israeli democracy is facing challenges. The Knesset has struggled to pass major reforms and, instead, legislative measures that challenge both democracy and stability have been passed, such as the “Nationality Law” and the “Supermarket Law.” This new narrative will certainly be confronted in this election.
Another major challenge is Israel’s multiple party system. Israel has a parliamentary election system that allows different parties to represent different sectors of society. In the last two elections Israel saw a massive increase in the number of parties vying for positions in Knesset. This created a very challenging situation for the Likud party as Benjamin Netanyahu had to appease government parties to remain in power. There are 47 parties trying to get elected in this election. They even had to manufacture a new ballot box because the old one did not have enough space to fit all the notes for the different parties!
How does it affect us Jews living in Atlanta? We need to be caring, educated observers. No matter if we differ on our opinions about government policies and actions, we must be united in our care and concern for the state of Israel. We must embrace our love for Israel and strive to remain informed about the upcoming elections as we watch Israel’s democracy in action.
Shaked Angel is the Greater Atlanta regional director for the Israeli-American Council.