Winning Ugly

03/18/2015 01:37 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2015

In a democracy, the most important thing is not winning. The most important thing is winning in a way that respects and affirms the democratic process. From all appearances, Benjamin Netanyahu's party won more seats than any other party in the Israeli Knesset, but how did they achieve it? By waving an anti-democratic flag in front of people frightened of their fellow (Arab-Israeli) citizens. Last minute railing against Arabs "coming in buses" to vote scared enough voters to give Bibi another chance at forming a government. This sets a very dangerous precedent. The message is clear: the road to success in Israeli elections by right-wing parties is paved by demonizing Arab-Israelis.

God forbid the Israeli Arabs should vote! And yet, when it comes time for Israel to ask for more and more money and more and more military hardware from their friends in the United States, Israel trots out their trope of being "the only real democracy in the Middle East." In a democracy, the original definition by the Greeks was "to rule and be ruled in turn." It is not just about the mechanics of one person, one vote; it is about the willingness to be "ruled" by the other side. Democracy requires gracious losers who will consent to majority will; they do so because they have a chance at winning some day, not condemned to be in a permanent minority.

So what happens if someday, perhaps some day soon, the united Arab list of parties gains enough votes that it decides to cooperate with a center-left coalition? This is inevitable if there is not a two-state solution to the Palestinian question, as many have pointed out in the past. Then the nation of Israel will cease to be a "Jewish nation" in its form of government. There might be a national holiday for Eid. There might be less money set aside for schools for the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and maybe even money spent on the upkeep of mosques, for there is certainly no real separation of religion and state in Israel to stop such an outcome. The monopoly on marriage now enjoyed by the rabbinate would have to be shared with imams. Is that really the Israel that the terrified Bibi voters are hoping to see someday?

Ask yourself this question; what would you think of an American politician who won elections by saying "We conservative white people better get out and vote, because African Americans are voting in droves! They are being taken to the polls in buses paid for by liberals!" On second thought, we've already seen this, haven't we? In America we call it racism. What do we call it in Israel?