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.
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.