JERUSALEM, Israel—On the Jewish calendar, the time between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) is normally the least political time of the year. Israeli Jews turn their focus inward, gather with family and friends, and seek to fulfill the Lord’s command to commemorate the Feasts and consecrate themselves on the holiest day, Yom Kippur.
This year, however, the holy days will have a strong political undertow running in the background between the two adversaries most likely to be the next prime minister: the current leader, Yair Lapid, and Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
How did that happen? Because last week just before Rosh Hashanah, Lapid addressed the UN General Assembly. There, he called for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, flipping the script for the fifth Israeli election in three and a half years.
By putting the two-state solution front and center, Lapid changed the theme of the past four elections, which for the opposition had been “Anyone but Bibi (Netanyahu)." Now, voters must reconsider the question that dominated Israeli elections for the quarter century before Netanyahu pushed it lower on the agenda: do we want a coalition government which actively supports a Palestinian state, one that could dislodge many of the 700,000 Israeli Jews living in the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria)?
Opposition to Netanyahu certainly remains the sparkplug that unites his political adversaries. The chair of the left-wing Meretz Party, Zehava Gal-on, came out of retirement to stop him, while Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the nation in a pre-Rosh Hashanah address to “invite me for an end-of-the country interview” if Netanyahu manages to win this year’s elections and form a coalition government.
Election-weary citizens will return to the polling stations on November 1, about two weeks after the holy days end. That will launch the dozens of political parties—Jewish and Arab—into a frenetic scramble for the hearts and minds of voters. For now, the country is enjoying the fragile peace of the holidays, truly celebrating and remembering their long heritage, as only Israelis can.