Latest update: January 22nd, 2013
There’s no doubt that this is an unusual Israeli election. There are no real fights going on about how to deal with the Palestinians, nor about social welfare, and no one is even mentioning Iran.
The general consensus in Israel is that the outgoing government had us on the right track and was a good government, and this election is about whether the next government should focus either slightly more on this, or slightly more on that – issues it was already dealing with.
For now, the traditional Left-Right debate is irrelevant, simply because the majority of the nation understands the Left is as wrong about the Palestinians as they are about socialism.
And that’s why instead of the Left-Right debate, we have this massive infighting between political parties who are supposed to be on the same side.
This election is also significantly dirtier than any other I can recall in recent times, because it’s essentially internecine, with the parties not fighting over the undecided Center, but over their own existing shared voter base.
At JewishPress.com we’ve spent countless hours discussing the pros and cons of voting for each particular party, and for the purpose of transparency, we need to disclose that all the members of the staff have a relationship with one party or another, starting from our Likud Central Committee members, down to being friends, acquaintances and neighbors with the candidates and staff of HaBayit HaYehudi and Otmza L’Yisrael.
With Election Day tomorrow, in the office we face another unusual event, with the exception of our Likud Central Committee members, most of us are still undecided as to whom we plan to vote for. And the wavering is interesting, either Likud-Beytenu – HaBayit HaYehudi, HaBayit Hayehudi – Otzma L’Yisrael, and even Likud-Beytenu – Otzma L’Yisrael.
The success of each party carries with it, its own risks and benefits, and I hope to share with you some of the discussions that have made this election decision such a difficult one.
There’s almost no doubt that the Likud will be the largest individual party.
For the most part, it has an excellent list of prospective MKs. It is prepared to deal with the important national issues that this country faces such as Chareidi integration, electoral reform, and Iran.
With the exception (we’ll get to that) of the settlements, Netanyahu has been an excellent Prime Minister, he’s protected Israel’s interests, and there’s no doubt he’s qualified to continue leading the country.
A large Likud would give them the mandate to do what they want, and what needs to be done.
But there’s a definite downside.
First of all the Settlements.
We certainly can’t ignore that Netanyahu heavily invested in settlement infrastructure such as schools and roads, as well as upgrading Ariel University. And no established Jewish towns were evacuated in this last term.
But he’s had the settlements on a starvation diet when it comes to additional housing – something that would have also helped the country’s center too, by releasing a lot of the housing pressure.
Then there was the Settlement Freeze, and letting Ehud Barak have a free and violent hand in Judea and Samaria, and there is the still purposely unadopted Edmond Levy report. Netanyahu had political reasons to use the Jews of Judea and Samaria as pawns in the larger political game, but it’s still unpleasant to be a pawn.
There’s no reason to assume that under a new Netanyahu-led government it won’t be more of the same, especially if things change and the Palestinian issue becomes important again.
The threats and intimidation coming out of the Likud, that there will be negative ramifications if a significant number of Settler don’t vote Likud, aren’t helping them win over friends and voters either.
The second issue comes down to who will also be sitting in the coalition.
There’s little doubt that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid will be in, despite his left-wing, secularist views, or perhaps even because of them. He’s a comfortable partner for Netanyahu.
Kadima is likely to be there if they pass the threshold, and possibly even Tzipi Livni.
Numerically there won’t be a choice, particularly if Netanyahu doesn’t want the Chareidi parties in – which it seems he doesn’t.
On one hand, a large, strong Likud will have excellent Likud MKs in the government, but on the other hand, Netanyahu will be able to ignore and exclude their traditional (and our preferred) partners in favor of Netanyahu’s personal preferences.
So is this enough of a reason to not vote Likud-Beytenu?
I would say it’s a serious consideration, except there is one additional threat to consider.
As we’ve discussed on these pages before, if Labor-Atid-Kadima-Movement as a bloc receives more seats than the Likud, we could very well end up seeing a Labor-Yachimovitch led government. The government would quickly turn strongly left, and that’s not something we can afford to let happen.
There’s no doubt that Bennett is a rising star, and if he proves himself, he could be qualified to be Prime Minister a few elections down the road. His list is also a good list.
Unlike the old Mafdal, HaBayit HaYehudi is a now a young, dynamic and exciting party, one that we found shares the views, ideologies, and pragmatism of much of the staff.
It’s an easy vote, I’d even say a natural vote. If Ben-Ari and Aryeh Eldad had been in there, I’d even say there would no question at all as to who to vote for.
Certainly, knowing that Yair Lapid is going to be sitting in the coalition, it demands that we vote for a counter-balancing party, a pro-Judaism, pro-Land of Israel party that will offset them.
A strong and large Bayit Yehudi will have more influence, and help keep Netanyahu on the right path as Lapid tries to pull him left. The larger and the stronger Bennett is, the more he’ll be able to do that. This is the role that Liberman had in the last government.
But what are the risks and downsides?
The first is that Netanyahu might simply exclude HaBayit HaYehudi from the coalition, in which case, you could have voted for Otzma L’Yisrael, which acknowledges from the start that they won’t be in the government.
The second is the risk that the Leftwing bloc will be larger than the Likud, in which case the Likud and HaBayit HaYehudi could both find themselves outside the government.
But can or should we make voting decisions based on hypothetical coalition configurations with so many unknowns, when we do know that in terms of representing our will inside the government, HaBayit HaYehudi would do that well?
And that leads us to Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari. Otzma L’Yisrael, like HaBayit HaYehudi also stands for the pro-Jewish and pro-Land of Israel views that we like.
They are saying from the outset that they plan to sit outside the government where they won’t need to compromise their values. The problem with that is while you’ll stay clean if you don’t play, but you also aren’t in the game either.
Otzma L’Yisrael sees itself as the conscience of coalition, pointing out the truth when the government will stray off the path. As an added bonus, they’ll also offset Meretz and the Arab parties.
Not sitting in the coalition doesn’t mean being completely without power or influence.
In the last government, Ichud Leumi chaired some important committees, one of which resulted in a first break in the monolithic ideology of the Supreme Court. It was also they who brought the issue of the illegal infiltrators into the public eye.
A vote for Otzma L’Yisrael is a vote you can give with a clear conscience. You know what you’re getting in advance – you don’t need to compromise, and you’ll definitely get a very vocal voice in the Knesset.
But that comes with the price of significantly reduced direct influence.
The other risk is that they might not pass the minimum threshold required to get in. The polls have them on the fence, but because of the way polls are run in Israel, they are probably doing better than is being predicted. But this is still a very real concern.
All three parties, Likud-Beytenu, HaBayit HaYehudi and Otzma L’Yisrael are good. Very good in fact. But a vote for any of them comes with its own price and risk, while not voting is giving your vote to the other side.The only choice I see is to endorse all three parties, and let you, our readers, decide which of the arguments above makes the most sense to you.As for myself, I suspect I’ll only know who I am voting for once I’m in the voting booth.
About the Author: Stephen manages JewishPress.com, The Jewish Press Internet Division.
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