Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israeli Elections: It's Time to End the
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, March 17, 2015
For whom to Vote?
ONCE A Soviet citizen went
to vote. He was given a sealed envelope and told to put it in the ballot
"Could I possibly see for whom I am voting?" he asked
"Of course not!" the official answered indignantly, “in
the Soviet Union, we respect the secrecy of the ballot!”
Israel, elections are also secret. Therefore I shall not tell you for whom
I shall vote. Certainly I shall not be so impertinent as to tell my
readers how to vote. But I shall set out the reasoning that will guide me.
WE ARE voting for a new government, that will lead Israel
for the next four years.
If this were a beauty contest, I would
vote for Yair Lapid. He is so very handsome.
If we had to decide
who is the most likeable candidate, it would probably be Moshe Kahlon. He
seems a very nice guy, the son of a poor, Oriental Jewish family, who as
Minister of Communications has broken the monopoly of the cellphone
tycoons. But sympathy has nothing to do with it.
If we were
seeking a nice, well-mannered guy, Yitzhak Herzog would be the obvious
candidate. He is honest, of good family.
And so on. If I were
looking for a bar bouncer, Avigdor Lieberman would be my man. If I were
looking for a smooth TV performer, both Lapid and Binyamin Netanyahu would
be more than adequate.
But I am looking for a person who will at
least prevent war (and perhaps bring peace closer), bring back some form
of social justice, put an end to the discrimination against Arab and
Jewish Oriental citizens, restore our health, education and other social
services, and more.
LET ME start with the easy part:
for whom I shall not vote under any circumstances.
On the extreme
right there is Eli Yishai's "Beyahad" (Together) party. I never liked
Yishai. Before he split from "Shas", he was Interior Minister and
persecuted refugees from Sudan and Eritrea without even a modicum of
With his new party desperate to overcome the threshold
clause, which is now 3.25%, Yishai made a deal with the disciples of the
late and unlamented Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was branded as a fascist by the
Supreme Court. No. 4 on the list is now Baruch Marzel, who once publicly
called for my murder. Even a bottle of the noblest wine is spoiled by a
few drops of cyanide. No sell.
Next on the list is Avigdor
Lieberman, the center of whose election platform is the proposal to behead
with an axe all Arab citizens who are not loyal to the state. (I am not
making this up.)
Not far from there is Naftali Bennett, the
smooth, baby-faced former high-tech entrepreneur with the smallest kippa
on earth. After conquering the Religious-National Party in a hostile
takeover, he turned it into an efficient outfit.
Religious-National Party was once a very moderate political force, which
put a brake on David Ben-Gurion's adventurism. But its semi-autonomous
education system has turned out generations of extremists. Now they are
the party of the settlers, and Bennett is wooing young Arab-hating,
war-loving secular Jews, who otherwise would vote for Likud.
THUS WE come to Likud, the party of "King Bibi", as Time Magazine
admiringly called him.
Binyamin Netanyahu is fighting for his
political life. A few months ago, when he decided to dismiss the Knesset
and call early elections, he certainly did not dream of such a
It seemed that Israel's march to the right was
inevitable and unstoppable. That Netanyahu's eternal reign was
preordained. That the Left was facing a sordid end. That the Center was
evaporating. It was just a matter of Netanyahu changing his horses (or
asses, some would say).
And here we are, a few days before
election day, with Likud almost desperate.
seems that people are just fed up with Netanyahu. They seem to be saying:
Enough is enough.
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a great leader
in peace and war, was elected for the fourth time, the American people
decided to limit the terms of presidents henceforth to two. Perhaps the
Israeli people have decided the same: three terms of Netanyahu are quite
sufficient, thank you.
On the internet, a very funny clip is now
circulating. Netanyahu is standing on the podium of the Congress, like a
gym teacher (or like the trainer of very tame lions in a circus),
commanding his pupils "Up! Down! Up! Down!" with congressmen and senators
jumping at his command.
The Likud spin doctors had hoped that this
sight would improve his fortunes in the election. And indeed, for a few
days his numbers in the polls rose from a dismal 21 seats (of 120) to 23.
But then they went down again and settled at 21, with Herzog at 24.
Perhaps the senators did not jump high enough.
Where do the Likud
votes go? First of all, to Bennett's party. That would not be an
unmitigated disaster for Netanyahu, since Bennett, with all the hatred
between them, will have to support Netanyahu in the Knesset.
BUT SOME of the votes will go to the two "center" parties of Kahlon and
Lapid, whose eventual allegiance is uncertain.
Kahlon comes from
the Likud. He was a typical party member, son of immigrants from Tripoli
(Libya), the darling of the party's powerful central committee. A Likud
member can vote for him now with a clear conscience, especially if he
wants to change the social situation and ameliorate the lot of the poor.
Lapid is much the same, with one great difference: he has already
been Finance Minister, while Kahlon only aspires to become one. Though
Lapid has an unlimited enthusiasm for explaining his huge success in this
job, the general opinion is that he was just so-so, if not a complete
Nobody – not even they themselves – knows the answer to
the decisive question: will they join a Netanyahu or a Herzog government?
They can do either. No problem. It may be a matter for a public auction:
who will pay more. More ministries, more budgets, more jobs. It will
probably depend on the results of the elections.
The same is true
for the two Orthodox parties – the Oriental Shas and the Ashkenazi "Torah
Jewry". They believe in God and Money, and God may instruct them to join
the coalition which offers the most Money for their institutions.
So there are at least four "center" parties which can decide
whether Netanyahu or Herzog will be our next Prime Minister. Lieberman's
shrinking party may be the fifth.
Of course I would not dream of
voting for any of them.
WHAT IS LEFT? A choice between three:
Labor, now called "the Zionist Camp", Meretz and the Joint (Arab) list.
The Arab list is composed of four vastly different parties:
communist, Islamist and nationalist. It is a shotgun marriage, with
Lieberman holding the gun: it was he who induced the Knesset to raise the
minimum election threshold, in order to evict the small Arab parties from
the Knesset. In response, the four small parties formed the big united
list, which now holds third place in the polls after the two large
The Arabs in Israel are second-class citizens,
discriminated against and sometimes persecuted. What would be more humane
for a progressive Jewish citizen than to vote for such a list?
me that would be natural, since I was instrumental in creating in 1984 the
first completely integrated Arab-Jewish election list ("the Progressive
List for Peace"), which won two terms. (The communist party is almost
completely Arab, with some Jewish members).
But the Joint List is
problematic for me. A few days ago, they upset me with a fateful decision.
It concerns the "leftover" votes. Under our election law, two
lists may make an agreement, under which the "leftover" votes of both will
be pooled and turned over to one of them. ("Leftover" are votes remaining
after the party has been allotted the seats for which it has the full
number of votes.)
The Leftist parties devised a plan under which
the Joint List was to pool its leftovers with those of Meretz. This might
have given to one of them – and thus to the entire leftist bloc – one more
seat, which may turn out to be crucial.
The Joint List refused,
because Meretz is a Zionist party. The decision may have been logical,
since many Arab voters could possibly abstain from voting if they feared
that their vote might go to a Jewish "Zionist" list. But it showed that
faced with any important decision, the Islamists of the Joint List might
bloc a united decision for peace. I have a problem with that.
am left with Meretz and the "Zionist Camp". Meretz is far closer to my
views than the larger list. But only the larger list can unseat Netanyahu.
The problem would not have existed if my proposal for a joint list
including "the Zionist Camp", Meretz, Lapid and more had been set up in
time. All the prospective parts refused.
So now I am faced with a
choice: either vote ideologically for Meretz or vote pragmatically for the
party whose chances of putting an end to Netanyahu's reign will be
enhanced if it emerges as the largest party in the next Knesset. But this
party has many defects, of which I am painfully aware.
Bismarck, one of the greatest statesmen of all times, famously described
politics as "the art of the possible”.
It is now possible to stop
the march of the Right and restore some sanity to our country.
how should I vote?
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