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Israel’s Democracy Fatigue

Hong Kong citizens’ resistance to authoritarian Chinese rule is – or should be – reminding Israelis of their country’s democratic roots. But, given widespread election fatigue and the changing balance of global power, it remains to be seen how long democratic values will continue to hold sway.

JERUSALEM – If any Western country is suffering from democratic dysfunction, it is Israel. With the country’s political leaders having again failed to form a government following the most recent parliamentary election in September, voters will head back to the polls in March 2020 for the third time in less than a year. Yet, given Israel’s inflamed, polarized politics and its highly proportional electoral system, what else can one expect from this next national vote except more deadlock?

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has long seen himself as an Israeli Winston Churchill, the ultimate savior for a people confronted with the supposed threat of a new Holocaust from a nuclearized Iran. Now, however, he would be glad to emulate current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson by securing a clear parliamentary majority through a combination of determined mendacity on his part and weariness on the part of the electorate.

Moreover, Netanyahu still has some cards to play. Many Israeli voters of Russian descent dream of an “Israeli Putin,” or a strong ruler with an authoritarian temperament – and “Bibi” probably is the most qualified. But deep down, a majority of Israelis think that the post-Netanyahu era has already begun, and that the prime minister wants to remain in power as much to avoid possible imprisonment for alleged corruption-related crimes as to save his people.

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