Ever since Israel inexplicably determined that the mature thing to do is, in essence, what pre-schoolers do and call for a “do-over” (you know, by calling new elections 1.5 years into the government,) I’ve been asked the following questions:
- I remember all your Facebook posts for Yesh Lapid (sic) – still happy about it?
- Which political parties do you have shared values with in Israel?
To be completely honest, it’s hard to answer these questions efficiently. I cannot say “yes” or “no” to the first question, nor can I name one political party to the second, and be done with it. None of that is because I don’t understand brevity (my wife and parents notwithstanding!); rather, it’s indicative of a convoluted political system in Israel that every election, grows more and more confusing.
In 2013, I looked around at the political map and one thing stood out from all others: for the first time since I could recall, the election wasn’t about positions regarding the Palestinians. A major complaint I’ve always had about Israeli politics is that the terms “right-wing” and “left-wing” mean so little in Israel. They refer to a position on the political spectrum for a narrow issue only. Therefore, you’ll find socialists in the Likud, capitalists in Labor, “centrists” who sit on the extremes of social policy, etc.
For the first time ever, this wouldn’t be the case. There was no Intifadah. No way in Gaza or south Lebanon. For all the rhetoric, we were pretty safe from Iran. Negotiations with the Palestinians weren’t stalled – they were dead, and no one, not the right in power, nor the left in the Opposition, not the Palestinian leaders nor the international community seemed to be pushing the issue.
This opened the door to a new kind of politics in Israel – one which exists in virtually every country in the world: economic and social policy. Sure, there were nuances in Israel that don’t exist abroad (Haredim and the army, workforce, etc.) but so too, there are racial nuances in every country that don’t parallel 100% to other countries. There were disagreements over the tax burden, government expenditure, efficient government, ever-growing bureaucracies, housing, education, etc. This seemed the first time that I wouldn’t be forced to vote for a party based solely on one issue, that no party seems to know how to solve.
And Yesh Atid spoke to me. Was I happy with their position on diplomacy? No. But I didn’t need to be. Save for Tzippi Livni, no one was speaking about it. Bibi, Shelly, Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Zahava Gal-On, etc. – they all spoke the same thing, just different views on it: cheaper housing, Haredim in the army, religion and State. It was as if we had closed the negotiations box and opened the box that contained every other political issue, and they exploded out, all at once.
People, including family and close friends disagreed with me, many vehemently so (with some nasty comments, messages, etc.) but I stuck with my convictions. I listened to Lapid speak, met with him, met with members of his list, and was happy. Here was a person who had put together a group of people who had no experience with the politics of Israel, but had a massive collective experience in all the fields that needed to be touched. Educators and social pioneers, religious and secular, men and women. I saw in Dov Lipman someone who would fight for Anglo olim, someone who understood the mentality of the Haredim, the religious, and would work well with people who had yet to be exposed and understand the religious lifestyle. For all those who claimed that Lipman and Piron were a fig leaf, they had no qualms with every other party having their own fig leaves, nor did they seem to understand Yesh Atid. These Rabbis, along with Aliza Lavie, were not fig leaves. It was really a new politics in Israel, one that did not need to rely on the old system that grouped people together solely because they believed in the same “solution” (One-State, Two-State, Forty-Nine State, etc.) or because their beards and hats matched.
Looking back, there are some things that Yesh Atid did that speak volumes of what they stood for. The party with the highest attendance record in the Knesset during the 19th Knesset: Yesh Atid. The highest voting record: MK Dov Lipman, a Yesh Atid MK. These are important facets of democracy that Israel has lacked since 1949. But Lapid promised a party that would show up, and show up they collectively did. Whether you like them or not, all should respect MKs that made sure to be there, in the plenum, voting, speaking, etc. There’s just no excuse for the absence in the plenum of so many MKs from parties like Likud and Yisrael Beitenu.
So with all that, why am I not voting Yesh Atid?
Because at the end of the day, “new politics” failed almost immediately. We went right back to focusing solely on Israeli/Palestinian negotiations. Compound that with the behavior of Lapid when things didn’t go his way. It’s somewhat refreshing to see people who aren’t politicians lead the country, but there’s a reason experience is so crucial, and moves to undermine your very own government are not acceptable in any government beyond a 5th grade student government.
Even when dealing with domestic issues, Lapid showed an incredible resolve to stick to slogans without fighting to work. There was seemingly no effort on a compromise. As much as compromise sounds like giving in on your principles, I’d much rather get some of my way and not 100% than get 0% because “it’s my way or the highway.” It’s no shocker than that Bibi is expected to take the Haredim in the next government, should he be given the mandate to form a coalition. While 0% VAT sounds nice, as someone with only a B.A. in Economics I can tell you that that will do nothing to make housing more affordable. But instead of trying to work with others, he did the equivalent of shoving his fingers in his ears and let the situation get even worse because the idea of compromise was anathema to him.
This brings me to the second question.
The truth is, there’s good in a lot of the political parties out there. I agree with varying amounts of the slogans that many parties put out. Of course, when you look at parties like Likud and Habayit Hayehudi, with whom I identify closer with, it becomes less of a question of ideology and more of a question of election games.
(For more on the “game,” see Moshe Feiglin’s recent Facebook post:)
Last week, I ended up joining Habayit Hayehudi. Sure there’s value in parties such as Yesh Atid and Kulanu. And with both Moshe Kahlon and Michael Oren, Kulanu can claim both experience and achievements in the economic, political, and diplomatic fields. But I’ve grown tired of the new, “centrist” parties that come and go for each election cycle before eventually disappearing. (See Shinui, Kadima, Hatnuah, etc.)
To me, Habayit Hayehudi represents a party that has tried “new politics” to an extent, but combines that with levels of experience at the political game, a very necessary evil in Israel. They are a party that stands for some of the most important things I believe in, which includes strong security for Israel, but also fighting for a better Israel. A better Israel is NOT an Israel without secular Jewry. It’s also not an Israel without Haredi Jewry. A better Israel has a strong economy and has the majority of its citizens making wages that are high enough to live on, spend, and save, with a tax burden that gives back to the people. Unfortunately, I don’t see this in Yesh Atid. In Yesh Atid, I continue to see a lot of good will. And I really wish Dov Lipman the best and seriously hope he continues the good fight and succeeds at making the 20th Knesset.
But to me, Naftali Bennett represents the future and survival of the Jewish State of Israel. And with the Jewish Home, I’m proud to be home.
After some feedback, I would like to clarify that by no means do I castigate Yesh Atid. However, unfortunately, the issue of negotiations and security has returned to the forefront. In this matter, I cannot in good faith support any party that doesn’t fight for security for Jews. A party that sees stones thrown on Jewish drivers in Gush Etzion and responds by blaming Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount or settlement construction has lost my vote, even if they have nice ideals about affordable housing. Yair Lapid is NOT a hard leftist. Yes, what he says about security is preferable to Livni and certainly to Meretz, members of his party such as Yaakov Peri notwithstanding. And members such as Lipman and Piron do act as moderating forces.
But Lapid shows the same close-mindedness on the issue (close-mindedness of “the settlements are the root cause of entire conflict”) as Herzog, Livni, and Gal-On. And for this, he has lost my vote.
If security becomes less of an issue, and we can go back to being a normal country that cares about domestic issues, and Lapid, with experience can show that he really is fighting to make the entire country a better place, I’d be happy to re-consider.
But until then, I’m happy to be home.