There’s probably not much I can add to all that has been, and will be, written about Israel’s 2013 parliamentary elections. However, I can give you a little insight into my thought process in deciding which party to vote for. (Here’s a great overview of the results by the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz.)
I’ve generally considered myself a Likud voter. I like big centrist parties. For much of the campaign season, even though I was intrigued by the newly formed Yesh Atid party, I planned to vote for Likud. Another reason I thought it important to vote for Likud was so that Benjamin Netanyahu would remain prime minister and have a sizable number of mandates. Netanyahu, to my mind, is far and away the person most qualified to lead this country. He’s one of the few people in the world who truly understands the threat of the global plague of Islamic fundamentalism. He is also a masterful orator. Who can better present our case before the UN and Congress? Not to mention that, despite media nonsense to the contrary, he’s a centrist on so many fronts.
However, as the campaign season progressed, things began to change. Netanyahu joined forces with Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu party. I’m sure he had good strategic reasons, but it changed the “face” of the party. Then the Likud primaries lurched the party further to the right. At the same time, one of my very close friends, Dov Lipman, was selected to join Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. On paper, the party represented many ideals I agree with such as: pragmatism regarding the Palestinians, reining in the Rabbinical authorities (who had become more and more fanatic in recent years), universal service, fair housing, etc. Just as importantly, Lapid created a very impressive and diverse list of candidates. Most of the people on the list were not career politicians, but accomplished people with strong backgrounds in many areas. The list was comprised of women, Ethiopians, Russians, orthodox and secular.
Lapid also had the task of proving that he was not his father. “Tommy” Lapid started a briefly popular party that was perceived as being anti-religious. (Of course if one looked closely they’d have realized that he was more anti-religious coercion than anti-religious. He just wasn’t very “PC” about it.) Besides Dov, Lapid selected a Yeshiva head for his number two slot and an accomplished female author/professor, who is also orthodox. Many people, shallowly, still could not see past Yair’s last name. It wasn’t a problem for me. I went to hear Lapid speak a few times and watched several of his videos. One of the most compelling of which was this one where he spoke to a group of ultra-orthodox college students. So, without the issue of wanting Netanyahu to be a strong prime minister, there was no question that Yesh Atid would have been the party that most aligned with my ideology.
It really wasn’t until a few days before the election that I finally decided to vote for Yesh Atid. My rationale was basically that Netanyahu was going to be prime minister regardless and I felt it was a good idea to give him a strong left of center party to work with in order to counter the rightward shift of his own party. I also thought it might help him build a better coalition, less beholden to some of the more fanatic religious parties.
Dov was number 17 on the list and since they were consistently polling around 12, I had no illusion that my vote would help him get elected. Boy was I wrong! With 19 mandates he will soon be an official member of Knesset. The coalition negotiations should be quite interesting. Contrary to media reports, this election has shown that Israelis, by and large, are moderate religiously, economically and with regard to the Palestinians. I’m thrilled Yesh Atid won such a strong position. While I certainly realize that it may be one of those parties that burns brightly for a political moment, I’m hoping that it’s something more, as I believe this party represents the very heterogeneous nature of our small, diverse country and in thriving it will show that we can have a bright future together.