Henry Tobias

Count the Disillusioned

Israel will hold elections on 17th March 2015. Since making aliyah in mid-1979 I have always given much thought in casting my vote. As a citizen I believe it is my duty—as well as my right to vote. Voting should be made compulsory in all democracies.

Compelling free citizens to comply in a process in which they may not have a definite preference, seems to fly in the face of democracy. We are all entitled to do as we wish, as long as we obey the law and do others no harm; but it is this very lethargy that often leads to the election of less than worthy leaders. When forced to decide, I think citizens would take more interest in who is asking them for their vote and the reasons for doing so. Although there is media overload, those of us who care, will take the time to study the situation and ‘do the right thing’.

Too many of the inhabitants of our planet are deprived of a vote completely or partially—by fraud and/or intimidation—that we lucky few are obliged to take the privilege seriously. Those of us who truly have a say in choosing representatives to run our countries, should do the utmost to ensure that the schmaltz (which my bubbie considered healthy) rises to the surface of our pot of soup, and not the scum from the unclean skin of the chicken.

One has freedom in a democracy, but with that freedom, comes the responsibility to take our privileges seriously. There is none more precious than a free and fair ballot. That is not to say that we should not vent our displeasure with those who are in power and once again standing for office. Abstaining from the vote, in a positive way, should be an option and a system of counting abstentions should be instituted. If the politicians know that many of the electorate abstained, and were not merely too lazy, taking advantage of a day off work to go to the polling station, perhaps it would arouse them from their complacency.

I have been in Israel for more than 35 years, long enough to understand the Hebrew media. What I see, read and hear about the politicians is so negative that I feel none are worthy of my vote.

With a former prime minister about to be jailed and a past-president already in jail, the need for caution is more pressing than ever. It has been rumoured that suspicion of both men was rife, but only after years of whisperings did the police investigate any wrongdoings. In fact, Katsav asked the police to become involved, because he felt his position as president and his connections in the political world would give him immunity. Fortunately he was wrong.

Allow me to name a few names and express my thoughts on their suitability to take an active part in making decisions on behalf of the citizens of Israel.

After many years Avigdor Lieberman is no longer facing charges of wrongdoing, but he wasn’t exonerated—the investigation ended due to lack of evidence. There is an adage ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’. Any suspicion of wrongdoing should prevent anyone from holding elected office. Recently it has emerged that a substantial number of his ‘Yisrael Beitenu’ party colleagues and associates have allegedly been stealing our money using various ruses and scams.

Tzipi Livni jumped the Likud ship with Ariel Sharon, and in my opinion would ‘sell her own mother’ to get a cabinet post. As foreign minister, she advised Ehud Olmert, under whom she served, to resign when confronted with criminal indictments, but continued to serve him loyally, when he refused to do so. This shows a total absence of morals. She then refused to accept the leadership change in Kadima, Her ego bruised, she formed her own party. And now, fearful that she will be decimated in March, she has sought a safe haven with Yitzhak Herzog.

Yitzhak Herzog may possibly be one of the more honest and sincere politicians, but his socialist free-spending policies are likely to lead us to European-style financial ruin. I sympathize with the have-nots; my own children cannot afford to buy a home; but reckless spending will not right a wrong. Fundamental economic reform is needed, not just a Band-Aid. I am not an economist, but perhaps too much power and wealth is in the hands of a few tycoons.

Herzog also is kowtowing to foreign leaders, especially President Obama, on issues which affect the existence of Israel—like Iran. If he wants to be a statesman and not just a politician he should join the Prime Minister, by being present in the chamber when he addresses Congress at the beginning of March.

Yair Lapid, was and remains an opportunist taking advantage of his celebrity status. The mainstay of his economic policy—zero Value Added Tax on new apartments—is a policy which the professionals in his own ministry were against—and which was proved to be a disaster—for which he has blamed others, mainly Bibi. He is perhaps the Israeli equivalent of Arnold Schwartzenegger, who when elected to be governor of California, made a total hash of that job. Arnie has gone back to where he belongs—the world of entertainment. Will Yair suffer the same fate?

The new party of Moshe Khahlon, is another offshoot of a main party, the Likud, whose founder seeks to boost his own ego.

The Meretz party on the left would appease and possibly capitulate to the unyielding demands of the Palestinians. This is not something for which I could vote—even though I believe that Mahmoud Abbas, or any other Palestinian leader would never accept compromise, however generous.

I am not religious, but would consider voting for modern religious Zionists. Judaism has much wisdom. But Naftali Bennett has in the past declared that if, while serving in the army, he was given an order to remove Jews from an illegal settlement or an area which our democratically elected leaders authorized, he would refuse. This is unacceptable in a democracy. One cannot disobey an order on ideological grounds. Also his recent remarks which seemed to brand all the Arabs living in the South of Israel, as thieves, were unacceptable.

I could not vote for Shas or another rabbinical party, as I do not believe that rabbis should be directly involved in politics.

Fringe parties with narrow agendas are a waste of a vote.

As a Jew and a Zionist, I could not vote for the joint Arab list, which comprises communists and Islamists. They make it quite clear, that to them, a Jewish Democratic Israel is anathema.

Benjamin Netanyahu has allowed his ego to lead us to another round of unnecessary expensive elections, by insisting on passing a law which we all know is not needed. We know that the Land of Israel is the Jewish Homeland, so do the Arabs and the rest of the world. Passing a law will not make the Arabs and Muslims any more accepting of our presence, but it has made many loyal Arabs and Druse uncomfortable. He has claimed for years to be the architect of Israel’s stable economy—and he has pledged to remove Value Added Tax from some basic food items, an honourable move, if he had not voted against this plan when a few months earlier it was proposed by Amir Peretz. If this is not abusing the economy to garner votes—then I don’t know what is. The recent scandal surrounding the Prime Minister’s home expenses is unsettling. No elected official should be so complacent that he treats public money as his own. Our leaders, all of them, should be above suspicion.

So, I must go and cast my vote. That is my responsibility. But who do I vote for? This election I have made up my mind to vote for no one. I will show my disgust in the politicians and the system by putting a blank ballot paper in the envelope.

No one deserves my vote. However, the disillusioned should have their feelings made known and recorded. Although it may sound incongruous, encouraging those of us who have no confidence in any of our politicians to put a blank slip of paper in the ballot box—which would be tallied and made known—may shake these politicians whose election we do not directly control take notice of the population’s disillusionment. Whether this will lead to a better Israel is debatable—but all other methods of jolting our politicians out of their ego trips have so far failed.*

UPDATE: On Tuesday 10th March, I attended the meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence, which he initiated to convince those of us who find themselves turned off by the politicians and the political system and have decided not to vote. Personally, I left unconvinced.

About the Author
The author is a husband, father and grandfather, writer and editor. He trained as a pharmacist. He has just published his first eclectic anthology of short stories, 'Just for Fun' available on Smashwords, B&N and Amazon and other e-book retailers. Soon in print at CreateSpace. His next book, an historical novel of the Holocaust will be published in 2016. Born in London, raised in South Africa, he has lived in Israel since 1979.
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