Robbie Gringras
British-born Israeli writer, performer, and educator

Free votes for all!

Warning: This piece is aimed at Jews outside Israel who care about the outcome of the Israeli elections – no matter their political persuasion.

A short video appeared on youtube recently, encouraging Diaspora Jews who “can’t bear Bibi” to connect with their left-leaning  Israeli friends and to urge them to vote. If their Israeli friends don’t intend to vote, suggests the video, they should ask the Israeli to cast an “anti-Bibi vote” on their behalf.

“It’s that simple,” the video tells us.

So that’s the point. It is that simple.

And it isn’t.

As a solution to the frustrations of Diaspora Jews who would like more influence on Israel’s politics –  whichever party they support – I think it is a great idea. As we know, there are about five and a half million eligible voters in Israel. But only three and a half million actually cast their vote. And that’s on a good day.

That leaves a good two million votes going spare.

If every Israeli who didn’t intend to vote were to “donate” his or her vote to a Diasporan counterpart, I’m sure we could find at least two million Jews outside of Israel with some use for it.

This wouldn’t involve a bribe or illegal contribution (although the people behind the video do generously suggest paying for the voter’s taxi fare), and it would engender far closer relations between Israel and Diaspora without making huge constitutional changes in Israel or expecting Jews to make Aliya (G-d forbid!)

In that sense, the video makers are right – it is that simple. I can even imagine an app being developed, along the lines of AirB&B, whereby someone with a floating vote to cast might connect it to a non-Israeli with convictions…

But of course it is not that simple.

For those who wish to “get rid of Bibi” or “dump Buji” – for which party should they have their vote cast? These are no binary Presidential elections. There is no ticket at the voting booths marked “Please not Bibi”, just as there is no slip marked “Anyone but Livni”.

Tough and unclear decisions need to be taken by the Israeli voter – and it would be wonderful if concerned Jews around the world – of all political persuasions – were to join us in our dilemmas.

If I want to avoid Bibi, or alternatively avoid his nemesis Tzipi – should I vote for one of the two large parties – Likud, or Zionist Union? Or should I strengthen a party to their left or right, to ensure that neither Bibi nor Tzipi choose to form a Unity government with each other?

If I believe in a hard-line approach to Palestinians in a turbulent region, but also feel that free-market capitalism is destroying Israel’s soul – who should I vote for? Likud and Jewish Home would satisfy me on the Palestinian front, but not economically. The old Labour Party is full of social democrats who fight for social justice, but Tzipi Livni is a peacenik, isn’t she?

What if I think that Avigdor Lieberman’s harsh but revolutionary approach to creating a Palestinian State is the only answer, but now his whole party seems to be engulfed in a corruption scandal. Do I ignore the corruption and vote for him anyway?

I care about the Jewish nature of the country. I believe that Shabbat should be upheld everywhere. But I also wish for the Palestinians to have their own state. Should I vote Meretz? Could I?

So I agree with the main point of the video.

Call all your Israeli friends. Urge them to vote.

And if they’re not planning to – ask them to vote for you.

Then make your choice. Join us in the agony of our freedom!

About the Author
Robbie Gringras is a British-born Israeli writer, performer, and educator. He lives on the top of a hill in the Galilee. He is co-director with Abi Dauber Sterne of For the Sake of Argument.
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