For the third time in the last 11 months, Israel held an election to decide the next prime minister. And for the third time in the last 11 months, neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his opponent Benny Gantz received a mandate from the electorate to form a new government.
It takes at least 61 members out of the 120-seat Knesset to put together a governing coalition, and neither Netanyahu or Gantz currently have that majority.
Election fatigue was evident of the streets of Israel’s major cities this winter. There were few banners; Israelis seemed resigned that the stalemate would continue, and these days, most Israelis believe a fourth election will produce similar results.
Israel can no longer continue without a functioning government. There are too many issues to deal with in the country that require cooperation among elected officials. While the country has stepped up its efforts to battle the coronavirus, the impact of the virus has hit the country’s tourism, aviation, entertainment and restaurant industries hard, and those industries may need economic relief. Relations with the Palestinian Authority need to be maintained, and security cooperation is required to keep the West Bank border’s quiet. And further south and north, more attention may be needed along the Gaza and Syrian borders, which have not been quiet in recent months. Also, Iran has shown no signs of reducing its rhetoric and goal to destroy Israel.
Israel has had successful national unity governments in the past, including a rotational premiership that included former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres in the mid-1980s. At a time of growing polarization in the country, Israeli lawmakers need to embrace a unity government and move forward in dealing with the country’s major issues. It cannot afford to amble along, postponing key economic, and possibly, military decisions.
It must act now, for the sake of the people of Israel.