Latest update: January 22nd, 2013
For starters, I have a confession to make. For me, the decision tomorrow is not between Likud and the Jewish Home, but rather between Likud and Michael Ben-Ari, who is leading the Power for Israel slate. I have nothing but respect for MK Ben-Ari and were I to vote based on my heart – it would be for him. He has spent all his time the past four years fighting for us in the Knesset, on remote hilltops and in south Tel Aviv (against the influx of illegal aliens). He is a genuine lover of Israel and a proud Jew, and again, were I voting based on my heart, I would not care what the polls were showing regarding his chances of getting in – and would proudly vote for him.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), when voting I follow my head as emotions have this nasty habit of getting in the way of good decisions. As such, I will devote the rest of this rant to why, in my humble opinion, the Likud is a better choice than Bayit Yehudi.
I returned to Israel in 1999 after many years in the U.S. and I can still remember how one of the things that bothered me most in the U.S. was the lack of “togetherness.” With all the challenges we face here in Israel, in the U.S. things were worse. Each American Jewish community was an island unto its own and if not for the common interest known as the state of Israel, each community would have very little to do with other communities – similar or not. I was more part of a community than part of a nation and I yearned for more.
Not long after moving to the settlement of Karnei Shomron my convictions were put to the test as I was not overly pleased with the local education system and my first instinct (as an American) was to start a new school. I mean – isn’t the best way to improve something to foster competition? I started discussing with some friends and just as the idea started to gain some momentum, it dawned on me that it was this exact behavior I resented in the U.S. and here I was guilty of doing the same. If in this tiny settlement our kids couldn’t all learn together under one roof, how could we expect to live as one with the rest of our nation 20 kilometers due west? I thought: “Wouldn’t it be better to try and improve the existing system rather than replace it”? So instead, I focused my energies on working within the system and became the head of the Parent Teachers Association for 10 years spending countless hours of my own time on this and thank God with great success.
The same logic holds true for the Likud. When searching for a political home, I was looking for a party that was the closest to my ideology, while at the same time representative to the best extent possible of the various segments of our wonderful nation: Sfardim and Ashkenazim, Tzabbarim and Olim (not just American), Newer-Settlers (e.g., Yesha) and Older-Settlers (e.g., Tel-aviv and Petach Tikva), Men and women, Doctors, Professors and taxi drivers, Jews and non-Jews that are true supporters of Israel – like the Druze (MK Ayoub kara from the Likud is a stronger supporter of the Land of Israel than many of our “own”), and so forth and so forth.
The Likud was the only party that even came close as its charter was actually quite good and its human capital matched the list described above. With that in mind, I joined as a rank and file member (around the year 2000) and have since taken part in many important internal votes including the one against the 2005 Disengagement (the one Sharon chose to ignore, though it was still important that we won), while most of my friends simply watched from the sidelines.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Likud I joined was far from ideal – but here too, my thought was “let’s fix from within and not try and replace with something new and sectorial,” and fix we did. With tremendous efforts from thousands of people just like you and me who are loyal to our land, we made a change. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time – but if the current Likud list is any indication we are succeeding beyond our wildest dream. The only way to explain how the superb list of Likud Knesset candidates we currently have, ranked as high as they did, in many cases ousting Likud “legends” the likes of Meridor and Begin – is to understand that the “Amcha” or everyday Likud members on the other side of the green line became convinced that we (“the settlers”) are interested in a real partnership and decided to give “our guys” a chance. Let’s face it – there are simply not enough Likud members in Judea and Samaria to have achieved these results on our own. To not vote Likud now would not only run counter to my convictions, but would be interpreted by these same very same party members and partners as dubious and dishonest, ruining in the long run all we have managed to achieve.
Aside from philosophical reasons, there are also the Likud’s practical achievements for settlements and the nation as a whole. The facts, which can easily be verified, are that despite the construction freeze two years ago; the current Likud-led government has been one of the best governments for the settlement movement in many years. The Likud has enacted many laws, including the two high-profile ones: “The Embargo law” and “The Referendum law” making it harder to uproot settlements. Ariel University Center, which was technically a college, has been upgraded to a recognized university. Owing to our Likud Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, tens of thousands of school children have visited the Cave of the Patriarchs (outside the Green line) in Hevron, as part of their school trips for the first time.
Investment in settlement infrastructure, roads, culture is at its highest in over a decade – despite intense international pressure – and we are finally seeing new housing projects as well. While in general it is very hard to break down individual voting patterns, in Judea and Samaria, as we are relatively small voting group, it’s an easier task and our voting patterns will be the litmus test by which the Likud will be guided in the next four years. The thirty-thousand or so votes in our area will add maybe one mandate to Bayit Yehudi but they can mean all the difference in the world when it comes to actual support from the upcoming Likud government for roads, schools, etc.
Prime Minister Netanyahu can always count on a “security net” if not actual cabinet support from all left-wing and non-Zionistic parties for any concessions he wishes to make regardless of the size of the Bayit Yehudi. However, while Netanyahu can disregard coalition partners (that’s even assuming Bayit Yehudi becomes such a partner) without worry, what he cannot do is oust his own party members. So it behooves us to have as many loyal supporters in the Knesset who are members of the Likud faction as possible. Specifically, that means people like Ayoub Kara and Keti Shitrit, who are numbers 38 and 39 on the Likud-Beitenu list and according to recent polls will not make in to the Knesset. While technically, Netanyahu can always form a new party with his loyalists from the left, one look at Kadima’s sorry state is enough to convince that future Prime Ministers will think twice before embarking on such a voyage.
A larger Likud enables more high profile positions to remain within the party. As the foreign ministry is going to Lieberman (or his replacement), and I don’t see the interior or finance ministries leaving the Likud. The smaller the Likud, the lower the chances of the defense ministry going to a Likud member, i.e., Moshe Ya’alon, who openly opposes a Palestinian state. A voter must ask himself: Do I prefer Ya’alon as defense minister or Nissan Slominiansky (Jewish Home) as the science minister?
A smaller Likud always incurs the possibility of the President tasking some left-wing amalgamation with the formation of the government. Arab and Non-Zionistic parties have no qualms with such a move and owing to the ideology of our current president – this is unfortunately quite possible.
We all like to complain. It’s what makes us Jewish, but when we evaluate things a little more objectively, Netanyahu is actually not all that bad. In fact, other than his silly insistence on a two-state solution and associated consequences (e.g. the construction freeze), Netanyahu has been a pretty good Prime Minister. In fact, I challenge someone to name one other realistic candidate for Prime Minister today. Netanyahu represented us well in United Nations, has garnered worldwide support for sanctions against Iran, has held our economy steady even as the European Union is imploding, and contrary to what the Left is saying, Netanyahu has taken a bite out of tycoons’ pockets, has lowered our cell phone bills, and has just recently appointed Moshe Kachlon to head the Israel Land Authority – a move that will surely lower housing prices in the near future for our young families. There is still much work to be done as cost of living is still way too high – but overall, no one else today will do a better job.
When you stand tomorrow at the voting booth – think hard before you vote – our future is in your hands.
Behatzlacha to all of us.
About the Author: Dovid Schwartz is an owner of JewishPress.com and chairman of the Karnei Shomron Likud branch.
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