Next Thursday, the world will be moon watching as Israel lands its historic scheduled lunar spacecraft.
Two days prior, however, Israel will be brought down to earth with an election that arguably has never meant more to this democracy, just 71 years young.
The Prime Minister has faced off in a brutal, sometimes nasty, re-election where he and his Likud Party are scheduled for a ballot box confrontation with retired Three Star General Benny Gantz and his more centrist Kahol Lavan or Blue and White Party.
There are so many side issues at play in this election. That Netanyahu could not keep a strong coalition together resulting in these new elections leaves many Israeli voters questioning whether he can do so in a next term. Indeed, his coalition connection to the controversial Otzma Yehudit Party has raised the concerns of some factions of his traditional supporters.
This election puts at risk the very peace process that the world awaits from President Donald Trump, whose administration has been nothing but supportive of the Netanyahu government in so many ways, from its movement of the US embassy to Jerusalem to its recent validation of Israel’s Golan Heights annexation, to its Iran nuke deal withdrawal.
Still, there are challenges coming from the outside. These issues are familiar to American voters. Accusations of social media manipulation and even international hacking have surfaced. The issue of whether or not the ultra-Orthodox should face mandatory draft into military or national service is still in play and could hurt Netanyahu. Questions of terrorism and the IDF’s military strength also have taken center stage with Gantz touting his military record and criticizing the PM’s cease-fire posture with Hamas. Blue and White has called for a “change in priorities” while Likud has labeled Gantz “weak” and a “leftist.” There’s Iran, there’s BDS, settlements and, of course, national unity. Both leading parties have also pointed fingers at President Reuven Rivlin, accusing him of wanting the other side to win.
The polls are tight, and the stakes are extremely high.
The results of this election will be judged by how the next government takes hold of the best interests of the nation state and moves it forward in an urgent, unified way.
The government will have a tough job to do.
Some things never change.