I was asked to share my thoughts on today’s Israeli elections. You can see who I voted for by scrolling down to the “Cool Stuff” section in the right-hand column of the blog and clicking the Hebrew-language banner (there’s only one), which takes you to the party’s English-language website.
This Tuesday, we’ll be holding elections here in Israel. If the polls conducted so far are anything to judge by, it seems that Israelis have made a rather pronounced shift towards the right side of the political spectrum, and it’s probably safe to speculate that this is a direct consequence of the conflict.
One of the more troubling aspects of the race is the sharp rise of the far-right wing Yisrael Beitenu, or, “Israel is Our Home”, party, led by Avigdor Lieberman. Yisrael Beitenu is currently predicted to receive the third largest number of seats. Much has been said about the party’s controversial campaign slogan, which roughly translates to, “No loyalty, no citizenship”. Their campaign platform bluntly questions the loyalty of Israeli Arabs, and frankly, there’s a part of me that wonders about the party’s definition of loyalty, and whether I, as one whose opinions don’t really mesh with the party platform, would be considered disloyal as well, according to their definition.
In Israel, there is often the feeling that we are not necessarily voting for the party that we support, but rather the party that we dislike the least. This election is no different, as many of my friends are planning to vote for Kadima in an attempt to keep the Likud from winning. They don’t even necessarily like Kadima, but their distrust of Benyamin Netanyahu and the Likud party is so great that they’re willing to forgo voting for a party with which they might actually identify in order to keep Netanyahu from becoming the next prime minister. There’s even a Facebook group called “Just not Bibi”, which has more than 4,000 members.
And of course, many Israelis are disillusioned, completely frustrated by the politicians in the large parties, and ready to show their disappointment at the polls by voting for smaller parties. It’s been years since I voted for one of the bigger parties, and this year won’t be any different. I can’t bring myself to vote tactically, and tend to go with my gut instincts. I don’t feel that any of the large parties truly represent me, so the best I can do is to vote for a party with which I most identify, and hope that they cross the minimum threshold. Some would say that I’m wasting my vote, but I don’t see it that way. Sure, some of the small parties shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but there are others that promote a platform that desperately requires an increased awareness in our society.
I will finish this by saying that it would never occur to me not to vote, even when I feel the pickings are slim. I think of the societies where people are not given this opportunity, or the countries where people who show support for anyone other than the ruling party are harshly mistreated. At least here, I, along with all Israeli citizens, both Arabs and Jews, am allowed to vote for whoever I wish, a privilege I daresay that many others in this region do not have.