Why I Am Voting for the Likud, and Not For the Religious Parties

Politics in Israel is very complicated. Choosing a political party to vote for in the elections involves both intellectual and emotional aspects, and sometimes people don’t even realize what is pushing them in one direction or another. I have thought about this a lot, and I will try to explain why I am endorsing the Likud, and I am vehemently against the religious parties, from both the intellectual and emotional points of view. The intellectual aspect is the easiest, so I will start there.

The first place to start is of course the issues. This year there is an Israeli Electoral Compass to help you identify where you are on the issues, and which party reflects your positions. (I came out 78% Ichud Leumi, and 77% Likud).

Unfortunately, in Israel, there is an additional factor that you must keep in mind. You have to ask yourself, “who will have the power to implement policies that reflect these issues?”

Here the situation gets complicated. The Israeli electoral system is not based on proportional representation but on party lists. Which means that when a Member of Knesset votes on an issue, he is, in theory at least, supposed to be loyal to the party platform – but he is not concerned with a specific group of constituents. This means that as long as he is popular with the powerbrokers in his own party, he will be ok, no matter how he votes. He is not afraid of the voters’ reaction to him. Therefore the individual voter in Israel has to try to factor in the character of the Knesset Members in each party, and how this will affect how he votes.

As far as the issues themselves, I feel comfortable voting for either the Likud, or the two small Dati Leumi religious parties. As far as implementation of these issues, I think there is no question that the Likud is the better bet, for the following reasons:

1. Do the math. The party with the largest number of Knesset seats has first shot at creating the government. This means that they have to bargain with the other parties (and I use the term literally) in order for them to form a coalition. A small party, no matter how close it may be ideologically to the large party trying to form the government, will be less attractive than one with a large number of Knesset seats. Which means that the small religious parties cannot assume that they will be included in the government, and more importantly cannot dictate terms to the larger party for its inclusion. According to every poll, the Likud at this point leads, and will probably form a government. The small Dati Leumi parties have at most 4 or 5 seats, and one or both of them may not even reach the minimum number of votes and may not go in to the Knesset at all. Why should I vote for a party that may have no power at all? The Likud is the better bet.

2. Look at the party lists, and how they were chosen.  Here is the Likud party list, “first edition” with an excellent explanation by Jameel of why each member is significant. The “updated edition”, with some changes, is here. 

Here is the Bayit Yehudi list (sorry folks, only in Hebrew). Here is the Icud HaLeumi list. (also only in Hebrew).

All three have proven Knesset Members with “right wing” credentials and some new unknowns. Granted, the Likud has a few left leaning members that I am not happy with, and the unknowns in the religious parties will probably vote right wing in any case.

Up to now this has been my intellectual take. Now for the emotional one, which can be simplified into two words: inclusion, and the pride that it makes me feel, and exclusion, and the anger it makes me feel.

I feel a tremendous amount of pride in the Likud list, for a number of reasons. One, it was voted on democratically, by members of the Likud party. For technical reasons my membership ran out, but I know that if I join again I can vote the next time.

Two, those past Likud Knesset Members who voted against the disengagment were given high votes, and most of them are in realistic places on the list. It saddens me that Ayoub Kara and Miki Ratzon were not higher on the list, and maybe my vote will get them into the Knesset.

Three, there is not only one but two Orthodox women in realistic positions on the list, which gives me pride as a woman.

I only feel anger against the religious parties, because they shut me out. One, as a member of Klal Yisrael, I wanted very much for the religious parties to stop arguing over petty differences and unite to form one party. They didn’t listen. (If a group of people who are very similar can’t even get it together to unite, how do you expect them to unite the people of Israel? And if they can’t do that, then why do they deserve my vote?)

Two, as someone who is interested in politics and has been in Israel for almost 20 years, I may have joined the party and voted in primaries, if they had them. Instead, the parties rejected the idea of primaries. They more or less said, “don’t worry mameleh, we know better how to choose the Knesset list than you do” and had their elitist group come up with a list. Not only did it contain complete unknowns, but they put the unkowns ahead of trusted and efficient past Knesset members! (Nissan Smoliansky was on numerous finance committees and worked very hard for those kicked out of Gush Katif. Why is he lower on the list than Daniel Herskovitz, a complete unknown, and Uri Orbach, who is known for his comedy routines but has no political experience?)

Three, the Ichud HaLeumi list has factions that don’t think it is appropriate for women to run for Knesset, and as such there are no women at all on the list. I am a very traditional woman who was a stay-at-home mother for 18 years, and I am completely comfortable with the fact that women cannot be Rabbis. But it infuriates me that you don’t have women on your list, and I would never vote for you.

One week to go – we’ll see how many others agree with me.


17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rafi G
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 12:07:47

    I agree. very well written.

  2. JlemJo
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 14:13:42

    You can chalk me up as agreeing with you except that there are some left-leaning people in the Likud list which makes it very difficult for me to vote for them – someone like Dan Meridor has absolutely no place in the Likud, for instance.

    I also think that those who voted for disengagement should resign in shame and admit that they are completely unfit to make political decisions. They can spend the rest of their lives as personal servants to people who were injured by their decision – by now they can choose from a couple of million people…

    So, I think I may vote for Lieberman’s party and I wondered why you did not mention the possibility.

    Although I am secular I would vote for a religious party but I am extremely disappointed in their attitudes towards democracy, Klal Israel and women. What century are they living in?

  3. Jameel @ The Muqata
    Feb 03, 2009 @ 15:12:00

    Excellent Analysis and Post!

    I’ll link to it later, as I have to write up my won post on why I’m also voting Likud.

  4. Mike W
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 13:35:20

    Your “intellectual” arguments are faulty at best. This notion of not voting for small parties because they won’t yield much influence is complete nonsense. The Likud is only THEORETICALLY going to win. And I bet if people didn’t buy into your kind of nonsense, at least 10 of Likud’s seats would transfer over to NU. But that’s the thing- we Israelis know absolutely nothing about democracy and our right to have representation. You are basically justifying a voted-in dictatorship. It’s absolutely ridiculous!

    In a good democracy that has a proper system of representation, I wouldn’t have to make this ridiculous choice between voting for who I actually like ( which should be easy to do in a proper democratic system), and those who have been “set to win” by polls and the news. I bet if it were illegal to publish any polls during election season here, NU and the other small parties would do a lot better. And if that happened, you’d be making the same argument to NOT vote Likud. Therefore- your “political opinion” is really worth nothing to a realistic voter. Why would I vote for Likud just because they will have more influence?? They will use that influence to do thing I don’t want them to do!! So I’m voting NU because:

    1) They actually do have woman on the list- and I think it’s rather sexist to accuse them of deliberately leaving woman out,

    2) They DID hold primaries- do your homework!! Hatikva held primaries, and in order to show unity, Aryeh Eldad STEPPED DOWN FROM THE FIRST SPOT (something Bibi or other Likud thugs would never have the humility to do) in order to minimize bickering and have like-minded parties join together as one.

    3) Aryeh Eldad is one of the only MK’s with a shred of ethics. This is the only party that we can trust to not flip flop after being elected. Enjoy voting for the Likud- the party that oversaw Sinai and Gaza withdrawls. Yea, I’m sure they’ll be different this time.

  5. Lion of Zion
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 15:46:01

    “it infuriates me that you don’t have women on your list, and I would never vote for you.”

    interesting. has mafdal ever had women on its lists?

    “I wanted very much for the religious parties to stop arguing over petty differences and unite to form one party.”

    which parties are you referring to? some of the differences are a lot more than trivial.

    “If a group of people who are very similar can’t even get it together to unite, how do you expect them to unite the people of Israel . . .”

    very is a interesting point. but fighting during election doesn’t (or shouldn’t) preclude working together for the common good after the elections. consider hillary and obama.

  6. westbankmama
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 16:32:39

    Rafi and Jameel – thanks for the compliment.

    Jerusalem Joe – Lieberman talks a good talk, but then you remember that he was in the Kadima government until very recently. I do admit that he has some good people on his list, though.

    Mike – Where do I start? One, if the Likud loses 10 of its seats to NU, then Kadima will win. Two, you should really try to be a bit realistic. I know that the polls in Israel are skewed, but NOBODY thinks that the religious parties will get enough votes to be a real player. Three, the National Union does NOT have a woman on its list, go to the website and scroll down. Perhaps you are confusing them with the Bayit Yehudi which does? And isn’t this one of my points, that they are so similar in many ways, but they couldn’t get it together to unite. Four, maybe Hatikva had primaries, but who is Hatikva? They are only one small subgroup of a small party. Five, guess why there is a Kadima party at all? Because the the people in the Likud who were loyal to the party platform forced Arik Sharon out – and guess who makes up the majority of the party list? These same people. They showed extreme force of character and they deserve our votes.

    Lion of Zion – The Mafdal has had women Knesset members – Gila Finkelstein comes to mind. They have a woman on their current list. The National Union does not.

  7. Comrade Tovya
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 02:43:12

    I don’t know really.. Bibi fell off my happy-boat 13 years ago. He ran the same “hard line against terror” campaign back in, was it 1996?

    Anyway, he just disappointed me so much back then, that I’ve just looked at him the same.

    Sometimes it more like voting for which party will do the LEAST harm, and not necessarily the one who will do the most good for Am Yisrael.

  8. Avi Green
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 09:33:34

    You have some very good points, West Bank Mama. I’ll be voting for the Likud too.

  9. Lena
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 20:02:15

    I’ve heard a lot of people talking abotu voting Likud, and even my father – who lives in the States, doesn’t understand as much as he thinks he does, and cannot vote – has been urging me to vote Likud.

    Disclaimer: I’m not knocking your decision to vote Likud: you should vote for whatever you feel is right.

    My concern with Likud, however, is that I can imagine the makeup of the governing coalition under Netanyahu: Likud, Lieberman & his people, and numerous religious parties. Lieberman worries me just because it seems that often, when he opens his mouth, he has to stick his foot in it. And my problem with many of the religious parties is that, due to my mother’s Conservative conversion, I cannot get married (among other things) here in Israel, and I can’t imagine that anyone would manage to amend those kinds of laws in a coalition that included parties such as Shas. Livni has, however, mentioned the need for civil marriage which earns her a few more points in my book.

    And that’s my piece. And now I’m done.

  10. ilanadavita
    Feb 08, 2009 @ 15:12:27

    Interesting ost for someone like me who knows very little about the religious parties. I wouldn’t vote for a party which excludes women either.

  11. RivkA (Coffee and Chemo)
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 04:23:49

    You lump the Ichud Leumi and the Bayit HaYehudi together, as if both parties are religious and right wing.

    The Ichud Leumi is not a religious party — There are many non-religious people on the list, most notably Aryeh Eldad!

    The Bayit HaYehudi is not a right wing party — There are not any serious right wing people on their list. (when they made their list, they did not allocate any realistic spots to right wing representatives, and everyone on the right left to recreate the Ichud HaLeumi)

  12. westbankmama
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 05:30:28

    Tovya – I learned before the disengagement that the head of the party is just one person, the rest of the list is very important. Bibi has his faults, but the Likud list is probably the best party list I have seen in years.

    Avi – thank you.

    Lena – Tzipi Livni is weak and a turncoat. Did you know that she was a Likudnik until Arik Sharon tempted her to agree to the disengagement? She changed her mind in a second in order to further her career. Better for you to vote for Labor.

    Ilana- I am glad you learned something.

    Rivka – Just because there is a small faction of chilonim in the Ichud HaLeumi does not negate its religious nature. The reason why there are no women on its Knesset list is because of the Rabbis who nixed it for “religious” reasons (no basis in real Halacha of course, but…) Calling Bayit Yehudi not “right wing” is also a joke! What do you think they are, left?

    Those of us in the Dati Leumi camp sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees, and we are stuck looking at the people in our neighborhoods – and everything is judged based on that. The elections are for the whole country, and we need to vote based on what is both good for us and good for everyone else. Judging a party based on who is “more orange than the other” ignores the total picture, and is really not worthy of us.

  13. RivkA (Coffee and Chemo)
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 10:51:12

    Orit Struk was number 3 on Tekuma’s last list, and they promised to put a woman in a realistic spot in the next election – both of which prove that their Rabbanim do not have a problem with this.

    In Moledet and HaTikva’s internal elections, women were in the number 4 spots.

    When the parties merged, everyone got bumped, including the women. There is no ban on women in the parties.

    Bayit Yehudi will sit in a government that implements further expulsions of Jews from their homes. If they are willing to stay in a government that perpetrates those policies, then they are certainly not “right-wing” in my book, even if they state that they are opposed to expelling Jews from their homes.

    I understand your reason for supporting the Likud, but you should not be slamming the Ichud HaLeumi for politicies which they do not have. Those are falsehoods spread by people looking to deligitimize the Ichud HaLeumi. They don’t have anything substantial, so they make things up. Next time check it out before posting.

  14. westbankmama
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 14:06:21

    Rivka – I based my information on reports in the Makor Rishon newspaper for the past few weeks. Noone from the Ichud HaLeumi has denied these reports publicly. In addition, there was an article by Yhoar Gal, who is on the Ichud HaLeumi’s own list, calling for people NOT to vote for Ichud HaLeumi and to vote for Bayit Yehudi because of what he perceives as their fanaticism, and he specifically mentioned the lack of women on the list as proof of this.

    This is not a “made up” criticism.

  15. Trackback: Israel Election Coverage 2009 | Comrade Tovya’s Zion Report
  16. RivkA (Coffee and Chemo)
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 17:03:34

    About Yhoar Gal, I don’t really get him at all. His comments are very strange.

    The people in the top slots are not what I would define as “fanatics.” Yes, there were some people on the list who I would not really want to elect, but they were not in realistic slots and at least the votes by their supporters will not go to waste.

    I don’t know about the reports from Makor Rishon, but the reports don’t change the fact that all three parties comprising the Ichud HaLeumi had women reps within their top four slots.

    btw, I want to clarify that I was not implying that you made up the critique. I have seen it in several places, and have my suspicions about the sources for those claims. I always ask the question: who has the most to gain from that type of information/misinformation?

  17. Trackback: The Closest Thing to Direct Representation « West Bank Mama

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