Who Should I Vote For?

Another election day is here!

Unlike in America, where your vote is a sacredly guarded secret, in Israel, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask everyone — from close friends to strangers you sit next to on a bus — who they’re voting for. So in keeping with that spirit of full disclosure, here are my thoughts as I head to the polls:

Likud: I believe that Bibi Netanyahu is eroding trust in Israel’s democratic system of government, by painting basic institutions of healthy democratic society: the Supreme Court, the free press — even the police security forces — as entangled in a conspiracy against him. Additionally, Bibi seems to equate his interests with the interests of the state, which is a characteristic of a monarchy. Plus, he’s put Likud on a campaign to pre-emptively question the election results, with the failed “cameras in polling booths” law, and with claims that Arabs will “steal” the elections. I find it unacceptable to erode people’s trust in the most basic facet of democracy -elections -in order to score political points. Additionally, Bibi’s promise to apply Israeli law to all settlements (but not to Palestinians in the West Bank) and annex the Jordan Valley without giving Palestinians there Israeli citizenship, is essentially a promise to turn Israel into an apartheid state: a state with two official sets of laws, for two sets of peoples, based on an ethnic/national/religious distinction between them.* 

Blue and White: Blue and White poses the most credible threat to Bibi’s rule. Headed by a military leader with security credibility, it’s anti-corruptioon, and economically centrist. But it doesn’t seem to have a clear platform on the Israeli-Palestinain conflict. Well, it sort of does: It’s clear that a vote for Blue and White IS NOT a vote for talks with Mahmoud Abbas or renewing the peace process. Some Blue and White politicians support a two-state solution in theory, one day, if Israel sees a credible partner for peace on the other side. They are quite clear that they do not see a credible peace partner in Mahmoud Abbas. Other Blue and White politicians do not believe that a Palestinian state should ever be established.*

The Democratic Camp: This is the party I will most likely be voting for. They favor trying to re-start the peace negotiations process and support a two-state solution. They are left-wing economically, and in favor of separation of synagogue and state. To me, they represent the ideals of left-wing Zionism, as has been expressed  far better than I could. 

The Labor Movement: I most likely won’t be voting for them, but I want to share Rabbi Michael Melchior’s endorsement. They’re a bit more right-wing than me on Israel-Palestinian issues, where it seems they are of the “two-state solution in theory, but we have no credible partner at the moment, so there’s nobody to negotiate with” camp.**** But their presence in the Knesset is crucial to ensuring the Benny Gantz/Blue and White gets asked to form a government, so I might vote for them if they continue to look like they’re at risk of not passing the threshold. 

The Joint List: Many people have asked me why I’m not voting for the Joint List. The answer is simple: The party includes ultra-Palestinian nationalists, as well as extremist Muslim politicians. As a left-wing person, I don’t want to vote for nationalist extremism or religious extremism. I wouldn’t vote for Jewish extremist nationalism  (as in Otzma Yehudit), or for Jewish religious extremism (as in the ultra-Orthodox parties). So too, I won’t vote for Palestinian or Islamic nationalist or religious extremism.

Yamina: My critique of them is similar of my critique of Bibi: Ayelet Shaked’s big issue is delegitimizing the Supreme Court — a pillar of democracy. Bennett’s big issue is annexation of the West Bank, with limited autonomy for Palestinians, but without giving them full rights — i.e., apartheid.

Yisrael Beytenu: If you’re right-wing economically and on Israeli-Palestinian issues, but want someone who takes a more libertarian approach to social issues and issues of religion and state, Liberman is a good option. I don’t fall into that political camp, so I won’t be voting for him.

Reminder: At the end of the day, President Rivlin will ask the different political parties who they recommend gets picked to try to form a government. So a vote for a party that will recommend Gantz is effectively a vote for Gantz as PM, on the condition that once chosen, Gantz then succeeds at actually forming a government. Similarly, a vote for a party that will recommend Bibi is effectively a vote for Bibi as PM, on the condition that once chosen, Bibi then succeeds at actually forming a government. 

Brilliant political analysis on the different vote permutations  and their outcomes can be found here.

Good luck to us all!  May we choose wisely.

**At the moment, Israel officially has one set of laws for everyone in Israel proper, and Israeli military rule laws in the West Bank for everyone, both Jews, and Arabs. The laws in the West Bank are in effect applied very differently to Jews than they are to Arabs. But if unofficially applying laws differently to different people based on race/religion/nationality made a country apartheid, then the USA, as well as many countries in Europe, would fit the definition. At that point, it would be meaningless by virtue of its ubiquity — like calling someone a Nazi on the internet.

** which is why I don’t understand the claim that Blue and White is a left-wing party. It’s not economically left wing and it’s party platform doesn’t support the creation of a Palestinian state. The most left-wing elements of the party are those who’ve adopted what used to be Bibi’s position in the Bar Ilan speech: A two-state solution in theory if there’s a credible Palestinian partner, but right now, there is no credible Palestinian partner to negotiate with, so we will not engage in “peace” talks.

*****Remember when “No partner” was Bibi’s line?!

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.
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