Decision 2013: I decided (kind of), Now It’s Your Turn….

A week ago I wrote a long article explaining why I have no ideal candidate for whom to vote in the upcoming Israel election. Now that the election is only a little more than a week away, the time has come for me to decide. I have missed too many opportunities to vote in the last decade living overseas to pass up the privilege and responsibility to vote in this round. So, I am left with the nagging question– For which party should I ultimately cast my ballot? I know many fellow citizens still having the same quandary. Though I still have not made a final decision, now that I have managed to narrow my choices down to two and a half parties, I thought I would share how I got there.

For anyone read my column last week it should be clear that I have found it difficult to identify fully with any one of the current menu of political parties. One of my daughters, who is currently serving in the IDF, stated she might not vote this time, since she was unconvinced she could sort out who she supported. In an attempt to assist her, I navigated through a short series of questions with her to figure out the party platform with which she most closely identified. (I have since gone through this same exercise with several of her friends). Still undecided, I thought that the same drill might help me as well. My questions and my answers follow below:

Question #1: Do I think that all of the Charedim should be forced to either serve in the army or do community service? Once I answered, “yes”, to that question, all of the Charedi parties, as well as Shas were no longer options for me.

Question #2: Do I believe in holding on to the territories forever– since we have a “God-given right” to them? When I answered, “no” that dropped Habayit Hayehudi from possible contenders for my vote. At this point, all of the parties from Likud moving leftward remain.

Question #3: Do I think that ultimately the issues of security/Arab-Israeli conflict are most important or are economic issues more important? Ultimately, I chose the security/Arab Israeli conflict as most important. As a result, Yesh Atid (The party of Yair Lapid, who has hardly spoken at all on the topic), and Labor (the party of Shelly Yachimovich, who has an opinion on the issue of security, but has made it clear that it’s not at the top of her agenda in her platform.) This leave me with three parties: Likud (Netanyahu), Hatnuah (Tzipi Livni), and Meretz (Zahava Galon).

The Likud had lost a few points on the very first question, (about Haredim serving) since the Likud –– and specifically Netanyahu –– had derailed the Plessner Commission last summer. In addition, they seem rather uninterested in provoking any sort of showdown with the Charedim.

Question #4: Do I believe that the “Two-State Solution” is the ultimate solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict? This is a difficult question – since Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken out in favor of a two-state solution, while the Likud platform opposes it – as do many of the leading Likud Knesset members (especially the newer additions to the Likud list).

Question #5: Do I believe that our diplomatic standing in the world is important? If the answer is, “yes”, then Likud has to fall out as well. The Likud has done a terrible job in this area. Any party that would appoint Avigdor Lieberman to be Foreign Minister should not be in charge of our relations with the world.

Based on my current assessment, I am left with two parties: Livni’s Hat’nua Party and Zahava Galon’s Meretz Party. At this point I am stuck.

Last week I attended a Chug Bayit with Tzipi Livni. I was certainly impressed, both with her personally, as well as with her ideas. Livni seems to have strongly defined the meaning of a “centrist ideology”, something that I can agree with 100% (having always considered myself a pragmatic centrist.) I agreed with 95% of what she said. One major concern with supporting Livni’s election bid is that she has been in power before and managed to lose control of her own party. Another issue, and probably most problematic to me, is if that I knew I was voting for a potential Prime Minister, there is no question that I would vote for Livni. However, that is not the case. Livni will not likely be the next Prime Minister. In all likelihood, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be re-elected. Given that scenario, I question what Livni would do in the opposition to promote her ideas.

One conclusion I have come to is that the problem with the “Center-Left” in this country is that they have no long-term strategy. Most of the parties that make up the center-left appear to only exist through election cycles. They seem to do very long-term education. Clearly Livni is guilty of that deficiency. She certainly did not invest in educating the greater voting public while she headed Kadima. However, the same thing cannot be said of Meretz.

Am I ready to vote for Meretz? I am not sure. I do not agree with many of their positions. I am much more cynical than they seem to be regarding the long-term motivations of our neighbors. I also do not believe Meretz has a viable economic program.

Here I remain stuck. Do I vote for someone with whom I agree almost 100%, but whom I fear will be ineffectual in the opposition? Or do I vote for a party that knows how to be an effective opposition party, but with whose views I do not totally agree? I may not decide until the final day. However, my current internal debates will absolutely not stop me from voting. Voting, like politics, is usually a series of compromises. You cannot always find the perfect party to vote for. You have to find the party that most closely represents your positions.

Two final notes: Obviously, if you answer some of the questions differently than I did, you can come to different conclusions. The two key questions are whether you are willing to divide the land, and whether you think the issues of war and the conflict are more important than economic issues. To me, as important as economic issues are, in a country that was involved in a mini war this year, and is at least talking about attacking Iran, it is hard to say that economic issues take precedence. In addition, it would be nearly impossible to solve our economic issues without changing the defense environment. As to dividing the land, I am very doubtful that the current generation of Palestinians are willing to reach a permanent agreement with us. On the other hand we must always work towards achieving this.

Finally, I initially wrote that there were two and a half parties which I am trying to choose between to cast my vote for Knesset. I say, two and a half, because one of my parties of interest is not likely to pass the achuz ha’chasima (minimum votes needed to enter into the Knesset.) Choosing that party would be a protest vote – which in my opinion is still better than not voting at all. It  is important if someone should decide to vote for one of those parties, to make sure to know with whom they have signed a “Heskem Odafim” (agreement to pass on extra votes) – since, if they do not pass the minimum required votes, their votes would go to that party, whichever it is.

The most important point to make of all, what needs to be understood, loud and is clear is that if you are a citizen and you are home now, you need to vote. If you are totally happy with the way the nation is being governed, then, if you like, by all means stay home. By not voting, your vote is effectively going to be divided up among the existing parties, 8% to the Arab parties, 25% to Likud, 8% to the Charedi parties etc. If you feel you want something to change in this country, even a little bit, then find that one party that is either closest to your views or furthest away from the views you oppose. Remember – Perfection is the enemy of the good. Do not let your vote go to waste. Find a party, however, imperfect, and vote for it!

About the Author
Marc Schulman is the editor of -- the largest history web site. He is the author a series of Multimedia History Apps as well as a recent biography of JFK. He holds a BA and MA from Columbia University, and currently lives in Tel Aviv. He is also a regular contributor to Newsweek authoring the Tel Aviv Diary. He is the publisher of an economic news App about Israel called DigitOne