For those feeling complacent, here are 10 substantive reasons to vote Blue and White:
As the March 2nd elections approach, many Israelis are showing fatigue, weary of having to decide between the two alternatives that the press tells them are virtually identical in terms of their ideologies and programs. Indeed, recent polls also suggests that many citizens are being sucked into the disinformation and demonization campaign so effectively being run by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his associates, which avoids any substantive debate.
But just like the two previous contests, the coming election is not only about whether one likes Gantz or Netanyahu better. It is about what kind of policies we can expect from the next government.
So here are 10 differences between the Blue and White and Likud parties which matter to me. After you peruse them, perhaps it will be easier to find some enthusiasm to head to the polls on Monday and make the right choice.
- Solar Energy or Natural Gas: The Likud government is energetically promoting a plan to establish 16 new natural gas power plants as the next generation of electricity generation. Blue and White has come out against a future energy strategy that expands dependence on fossil fuels, preferring to move Israel into the renewable era with much more ambitious solar targets. Blue and White argues that Israel’s existing conventional power plants can provide backup for the grid on cloudy days and nights. Solar energy is cheaper, environmentally more responsible, contributes to climate stability and provides more employment.
- Public Transportation on Shabbat: Blue and White supports public transportation on Shabbat in communities where a majority of residents prefer to have mobility on the Sabbath. Religious neighborhoods should enjoy a Shabbat free of public transport. Likud wishes to continue the situation where only people with private cars can travel on Saturdays.
- Unilateral Annexation: The Likud has expressed support for unilateral annexation of large sections of the West Bank without conferring with our Arab neighbors or the Palestinians. The peace agreement with Jordan apparently is not important enough to justify delay the expansion of Israeli sovereignty. Blue and White opposes unilateral steps in the territories. It believes that sustainable peace will require the support of the Arab world and calls for using the Trump Deal of the Century peace plan to be a basis for regional negotiations that will lead to a final peace agreement.
- Mandatory National Service for All: While the Likud party does not have a platform, its position has consistently been to continue the exemptions given to military and national service to Haredi and Arab citizens. Blue and White believes that integrating all 18-year-olds in the country into some form of national service is critical not only for reduction of social gaps and suspicions, but also to address innumerable social challenges, such as the low level of education in minority schools.
- A Required Educational Curriculum for All: Blue and White will provide incentives to public schools to include core curriculum topics such as mathematics, English, and science, requiring that children receiving public funding are taught so that they can compete in (and contribute to) our post-industrial economy. Likud will continue to grant autonomy to ultra-Orthodox schools to exclude secular topics from their schools after seventh grade.
- Improving the Status of Women: Blue and White’s 10 point plan to improve the status of women in Israel includes enforcement of penalties for differential salaries for the same work; opening up maximum number of military opportunities for women, expanding support for shelters for victims of domestic violence, legislation to expand protection of abused spouses, and appointing women to local religious councils. Likud does not have a program for improving the status of women.
- Reducing Air Pollution in Haifa: Notwithstanding the pernicious impact on the health of local residents, the Likud does not support the removal of the most polluting petrochemical industries from the Haifa Bay, Blue and White supports an economic development plan, designed by the McKinsey global consulting group that would gradually remove the most polluting industries from the densely populated Krayot industrial zone.
- Freedom and Pluralism at the Western Wall: The Likud does not support the compromise plan, negotiated by Natan Sharansky and the Jewish Agency for allocation of space at the Western Wall for all streams of Judaism. Blue and White is an avid supporter of the plan.
- An Independent Judiciary: The Likud would essentially eliminate the Supreme Court’s authority to invalidate legislation and government actions that it believes violates human rights. Blue and White would retain the Supreme Court’s powers of judicial review and strengthen the judiciary branch as a critical player in the balance of power.
- Politicization of the Jewish National Fund: If the Likud is the largest party, it will probably seek to take over the chairmanship of the international JNF-KKL, where its representatives will continue their efforts to acquire Palestinians lands in the West Bank to expedite Jewish control. Blue and White would pursue policies that ensure that the organization promotes areas that are part of the consensus of the entire Jewish people working to continue to strengthen the Negev and Galilee. Blue and White leadership would mean that the JNF-KKL would expand its focus on sustainable development, forestry and environmental rehabilitation.
Politics is the art of the possible and there will undoubtedly be political constraints and economic limitations associated with any coalition that the Blue and White party leads. Yet, it is time that people see the significant differences in the visions of Israel’s two leading parties – and not just the different personalities and political styles of the politicians who head them.
A vote for Likud, (or a decision by leftist or moderate voters to skip the elections this time) means more of the same, only given the coalitional balance — we can expect a lot more. A vote for Blue and White is a vote for change and the belief that it is time for Israel to return to the original vision of its founders as a liberal, Jewish and democratic state.