It is a week now since the parties all got their final lists in to the election commission, and we now know who the choices will be for the January 22 election.
Many of us on the center-left were holding out hope for a last minute agreement to run two or more of the multiple center-left parties on a joint list, but alas it seems that egos won the day, and the center-left will be split among numerous parties. With so many to choose from, I worry that some voters will stay home, and give an easy victory to the right, which has become even more radical with the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu merger and the results of the Likud primary.
With 4 or 5 (depending on how you count) parties vying for the center-left vote, there will be much campaign time spent fighting each other, rather than trying to replace the Netanyahu government. A fight that was already uphill has now become almost impossible.
As I have written before, I am a big fan of Tzipi Livni. She is firmly grounded in Zionist values while understanding the realities of the world we live in. She successfully managed the country’s foreign affairs through two conflicts, and brought electoral success to Kadima, when she had been all but counted out. She failed to form a coalition, though, and Israel’s system does not make it easy for an opposition leader to shine. Her decision to start a new party, rather than joining Labour or Yesh Atid (which itself should never have been created) was a mistake. She should have joined Labour, even if it meant playing second fiddle to Shelly Yachimovitch.
Labour is still in the lead, but while I have a lot of respect for Yachimovitch as a legislator, she has taken a very populist and anti-business tone for her campaign. I am a believer in left-wing economics, i.e. a neo-Keynesian approach to business cycles, and a strong welfare state, but Yachimovitch seems to have decided that is not enough – she is focusing her campaign on tarring big business. Israel needs some creative solutions to facing economic problems like the high costs of residences, lack of competition in many markets and growing inequality. None of them will be helped by taking aim at Intel and Pelephone.
She has also chosen to stay almost silent on the Palestinian issue. I understand this is a tactical move because she believes the Israeli population does not want to hear about it, but in the end it makes her a less credible candidate.
It should be noted at this point, however, that Yachimovitch’s former mentor, Amir Peretz, has jumped ship to HaTnua with Tzipi Livni. Although his stated reasons for doing so are on the foreign policy side, I am concerned that in the number three spot he will have too much influence on the economic side. I understand why Livni could not resist the political “coup” in stealing him from Labour, but I suspect she may regret it in the long run.
Yesh Atid, under Yair Lapid, had assembled a very impressive list of candidates for Knesset. I would have liked to see almost all of them vying for a spot on the Labour list. I have a problem, though, with Yair Lapid thinking his celebrity should guarantee him a top-spot in a major party rather than doing the hard work of getting himself elected on a party slate. Also, after listening carefully to him speak many times, I have no idea what he stands for, other than drafting the Haredim into the army.
I have a few friends thinking about voting for Rabbi Haim Amsalem’s Am Shalem party. I have a lot of respect for what Rav Amsalem has done in challenging the Haredi orthodoxy and establishment. I was happy to see he put women on his list, which I was not sure would happen. However, the big challenge for him will be to convince segments of Haredi society to follow his lead, and I don’t know how or why it helps for the rest of us to buy in. If he is not convincing Haredim to follow him, nothing about his message is special – he is saying things those of us in the national religious camp have been saying for three generations.
I have nothing much to say about Kadima. After the complete disintegration of the party in the last few months, they seem unlikely to pass the threshold to get into the Knesset. It’s a sad end, but at this point they are a waste of a vote.
In the end, I’ll need to make a decision. In the meantime, I will be using this blog space to try and convince people to vote for any one of them. The key goal of the center-left camp in this election has to be to replace Netanyahu, even if our leaders have made it harder to do it.