Why I’m Voting Likud
In three weeks, on March 17, Israelis will go to the polls to elect the next Knesset. As has been the case since the 1980s, large numbers of people at this stage of the process consider themselves or claim to be “undecided” about which slip of paper they will actually place in the envelope in the voting booth.
If one were to base his assessment of the results of the current campaign on man-in-the-street interviews, water-cooler conversations and cafe banter, he would reach one of two conclusions: either that the Green Leaf party (whose platform is the legalization of marijuana) is on the verge of forming the next government, or that blank ballots will be submitted en masse.
Though it is true that a protest vote among predominantly young, secular residents of Tel Aviv in 2006 led to an astonishing victory for the Pensioners’ Party (it garnered a whopping seven seats, when it initially had no chance of passing the electoral threshold), it is generally understood that such gestures never even help further the narrow interests of the group ostensibly targeted, let alone those of anyone else.
Indeed, one thing that Israelis have learned is that no matter what platform a party puts forth, it ends up coming down on one side or the other of the defense divide (i.e., the “Palestinian” question), in spite of everyone’s assertion that elections are about the economy. The public certainly cares about its ability to make a living, and politicians always vie for votes on that score by promising to allocate greater portions of the budget to education, health and welfare. But because handouts only hinder growth, the plight of the middle and lower classes does not improve.
Ironically, even under the stewardship of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose knowledge of the workings and benefits of the free market is unparalleled, this situation has not changed, other than in minute ways. Indeed, while competition among companies for consumer business is no longer viewed by the public as a dirty concept, salaries are still pitifully low, taxes are exorbitant and the cost of living keeps increasing. It is inexcusable for the “startup nation” to be in such a sorry state. And Netanyahu deserves to be held accountable. But not for the reasons his detractors have been touting.
No, they blame him spending too much money on “settlement” construction and protection. They argue that a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and the establishment of a Palestinian state free of Jews, would solve the problem.
This is delusional, of course. First of all, the Palestinian unity government in Ramallah and Gaza has made it clear that it has no interest in statehood alongside Israel. Secondly, the last item on its agenda is creating a flourishing society for its people.
Even Zionist Union party leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni are aware of this fact. This is why they are purposely refraining from presenting an alternative to Netanyahu’s policy of biding time. As head of negotiations with the PA — a job given to her by Netanyahu — Livni knows she had better keep her mouth shut about any cheery options on the proverbial table; you know, the one at which PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his henchmen refused to take a seat. But then, they were busy carrying out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis, while attending U.N. sessions devoted to providing them with a de facto state, no peace necessary.
This brings us to a key culprit in the inability of the Israeli government to forge clear policies, and in the electorate’s sense that if we all just go and smoke a joint, we won’t care whether or not we have a party to support: the electoral system as a whole.
Let us remember that it is because of this particular parliamentary system that we are headed for elections right now, two years before scheduled. It is precisely due to the plethora of parties and coalition politics that the current Netanyahu government, comprised of ministers with opposing views on almost every issue, fell apart.
For the last few decades, there have been more than two main parties with a significant number of seats. This has caused the marriage of many strange bedfellows and inevitable premature breakups.
The most immediate solution is for us to stop opting for ideologically pure parties and go for either of the two major ones. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in exactly the same predicament as we were a few months ago.
It is actually not difficult to know with which bloc one is affiliated. There is a right wing and a left wing, albeit both of which are disappointing to supporters. The “center” is an illusion, geared toward getting votes for the purpose of courtship by coalition-builders.
It may be admirable to vote for a candidate who comes closest to one’s convictions. But doing so often has the effect of ushering into power those whose positions are abhorrent.
It is thus that I am voting Likud this time, without hesitation.
Ruthie Blum is the editor of Voice of Israel talk radio. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.