We are still weeks away from the formation of a Netanyahu-led coalition. Even though there is little doubt that Yair Lapid’s stunning win will make him a senior partner, we don't know if at the end of intense negotiations the coalition will be based on right-wing and center parties or on Bibi's natural allies of the right and Ultra-Orthodox. But however that turns out, there is no denying the delicious breeze of sanity that blew over the country on Election Day. For progressives, there was moderate good news with both Labor and Meretz increasing their seats. This was also true for the peace camp, which was buoyed by the six seats of Tzipi Livni's Movement Party. Less so for the most radical right-wing hopefuls who were dashed in their quest, leaving them outside of the 19th Knesset.
Israel, it seems after all, is a country of balance with Left meeting Right, right down the Center. The surge of Lapid's Yesh Atid (There is a Future) says it all: Israelis tired of extremism, demanding equal sharing of the military and social burden, in favor of a diplomatic process and seeking clean, fresh personalities to lead the country. Not too shabby for this beleaguered nation that over the past four years suffered from the threats of anti-democratic legislation and McCarthy-like pursuit of leftwing organizations, stalking of professors, teachers, peace activists and journalists.
There are nearly 50 new members in this Knesset, more women than ever before – 28 – and a diverse mix of religious and secular, new immigrants and veterans. If this brings new energy and courage from individuals less beholden to tired political machines, and more willing to promote what is for the good of the country over what is for the good of the party, we may see Israel slowly returning to the values of Zionism and democracy that most Israelis, and Diaspora Jews, have long identified with. This is no small feat – and none too soon, as we consider the recent deterioration of Israel's standing in the world, the threat of European boycotts, weakened support at the UN and ongoing tensions with the US President.
For many of us, this election did not bring about the dream team we yearned for. But it is a fateful pullback from a perilous abyss. Israel was reeling headlong into the Dark Ages of fundamentalism, xenophobia and racism; reflecting more the worst impulses of the region rather than a light unto the nations. Of course, there are no expectations for quick and dramatic change; the complex nature ofIsraeland its multiple challenges aren't going away. But for those of us who felt disenfranchised in the rapidly growing culture of the extreme that seemed to penetrate all parts of society like an octopus gone wild, this election feels like somebody - - namely, the Israeli people - - put on the brakes in the nick of time. Yair Lapid won big, and so did the rest of us. While it is not exactly the Israeli Spring, it does feel like, once again, "there is a future" for Israel.
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