Maybe it’s just me, but I’m feeling quite indifferent about Israel’s second election of 2019. Recently, 32 parties completed the process of submitting their lists of candidates for the Sept. 17 vote. Aside from the more well-known parties, we can now vote for the Pirate Party, Red White and the Incorruptible, the Biblical Bloc and Demodictatorship, to name but a few.
Despite the decidedly unpredictable polls, come Sept. 18, things are likely to look remarkably similar to how they looked after the last election on April 9: a standoff between right and left with a slight plurality for the right, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will then begin piecing together another threadbare coalition of right-wing, Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox parties.
The other option might be some form of national unity government that includes Netanyahu’s Likud and the Blue and White party, led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. But with Netanyahu still awaiting the attorney general’s decisions about three cases of alleged corruption, Gantz and his partners at Blue and White have vowed not to join Likud in a coalition, so long as Netanyahu continues to lead that party.
In the meantime, the country is still reeling from the Ayia Napa Affair. On July 17, 12 teenaged Israeli men were arrested at a hotel in a resort town in Cyprus, all suspected of having raped a 19-year-old British woman.
In what has become an unruly and ugly rite of passage, many Israeli youngsters on the verge of military service travel to resorts in the Greek Islands, Cyprus, Bulgaria and elsewhere to let loose. Writing in the Jerusalem Post on Aug. 1, Ruthie Blum noted that many believe “that ‘getting drunk, stoned and laid’ with no parental restrictions is the whole purpose of such high-school summer vacations and pre-army trips.”
After being vilified by the press as group rapists for several days, five of the Israelis were released, as there was no evidence against them. Later, on July 31, two weeks after their detention, the remaining seven men were also released, after Cypriot authorities found that the British woman had falsely accused them. She was arrested on charges of creating a public nuisance. Apparently, she had engaged in consensual sex with several of the Israelis, but had not agreed to be filmed doing so. Furious, she sought revenge.
Returning home to what some perceived as a hero’s welcome, the young men and their lawyers promised to sue the British woman for their days in detention. One of the suspects was quoted as saying he didn’t “join in because he’s a believer and she’s a goy,” and that he stood by with others, watching the Brit having sex with two or three fellows, while one of the onlookers filmed the scene.
In the latest twist in this horrific episode, the 19-year-old British teen now claims she was forced to sign a confession after hours of exhausting interrogation and without having access to a lawyer.
We recently observed Tisha b’Av – a day of contemplation and fasting when Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Our sages decreed that the First Temple was destroyed because of three sins: idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed, while the second was razed because of sinat chinam – baseless hatred.
I know there’s no obvious nexus between the upcoming election and the dreadful events in Ayia Napa, and what they tell us about the state of Israel’s social mores, the type of education our kids are getting and more.
But perhaps there is a connection – one that can serve as a directive to our leaders: come Sept. 18, it will be time to rise above the fray and find a middle ground of common beliefs, morals and interests, before we reach the next precipice.