A tale of two countries: Election consequences take different tolls in U.S., Israel

JCRC Scene
Matt Goldberg
Elections have consequences. It’s a true statement of which we are reminded after every election.
Some candidates run uncontested. Others face formidable opponents in tight races.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Constitution calls for a census to take place, its findings determining allocation of federal dollars and legislative representation.
The 2020 election was important for many reasons, an overlooked one being that elections for state governments determine who decides what legislative districts look like for the next decade. Here in Kentucky, our current legislature will soon redraw legislative maps. Political gerrymandering has a long history in America. Since the 1780s, it has also been used to marginalize people of color and dilute their vote.
The Jewish community has a long history of opposing this practice, recognizing the inherent inequity in its use. We support impartial and politically neutral drawing of political districts that will not unnecessarily favor either political party. We share the concerns of many about its targeted use against minorities.
As Kentucky prepares for redistricting, we must watch carefully what is being done. Our legislators will need to hear from us about our concerns related to redistricting.
The Jewish Community Relations Council is proud to join the National Council of Jewish Women-Louisville Section and the League of Women Voters of Kentucky in co-hosting a program dedicated to this important issue. At 7 p.m., Thursday, May 13, we will hear from Dee Pregliasco of the League who will explain how redistricting Kentucky’s legislative districts affect metro, state and federal elections, and how we can voice our opinions on this issue.
Meanwhile, in Israel —
Elections have consequences…except maybe in Israel.
Last month, Israel held its fourth election in two years, the previous three failing to produce a stable government. This latest election increasingly looks like a prelude to a fifth vote.
Israel’s parliamentary system, including a multitude of different parties, is splintered so much that getting to 61 seats in the Knesset – the minimum for any governing majority – is difficult to achieve. While this last election was clearly a victory for the right wing, two such parties, New Hope and Yisrael Beitenu, have sworn not to sit in a government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
So, Netanyahu needs both the Religious Zionist Party, an extremist, right- wing Jewish party; and Ra’Am, an Islamist Arab party, to join his coalition. But both have sworn not to if the other one is in it.
If Netanyahu cannot form a government in the next two weeks, and the president does not grant him an extension, Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, will likely be given a chance – a difficult task since he will have to bring together right- and left-wing parties, whose only commonality is opposing Netanyahu. Such a national unity government would be possible, though very precarious.
What does this mean for two of the issues American Jews care about most in Israel, Israel-Palestinian peace and religious pluralism? Because of the right-leaning majority in the Knesset, prospects are bleak for a resumption of meaningful talks with the Palestinians, though a wildcard could be increased pressure from President Biden.
But a Lapid-led government might favor religious pluralism. Such a government would leave the ultra-Orthodox parties in the opposition and would include Yisrael Beitenu, which is hawkish on issues involving the Palestinians but secular and in favor of breaking the monopoly the ultra-Orthodox have on religious institutions.
Let’s hope both democracies in both countries work to represent the true will of the people.

(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)

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