Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Inside the mind of an Israeli voter...

I had an interesting experience the other day.

I attended (for work) a demo educational program geared to educate overseas students who are currently studying in Israel about issues relating to the upcoming Israeli elections, and I was pleasantly surprised to find sitting to the right of me, my good friend Haim, who in all other aspects is far to the left of me.

Early on in the demo, the educator running the program asked the (rather diverse) group (of Israelis - representing various educational organizations / institutions) the following question:
How many of you already know whom you are going to be voting for in the upcoming elections?

Of the 15 of us sitting in the room only 2 (or perhaps 3) of us raised our hands.

Guess who?

That's right...

I was one of them, and Haim was the other.

This didn't surprise me all that much, as polls have been showing that anywhere between 25%-35% of Israeli voters are still uncertain as to whom they will be voting for in the upcoming elections.

Haim and I, however, have no such dilemmas. I will be voting for the ideologically right-leaning National Union party, and Haim for the ideologically left-leaning Meretz party.

What Haim and I tried to discern was why it is that we are blessed with such clarity when it comes to deciding whom to vote for, in contrast to the prevailing uncertainty plaguing so many of our fellow Israelis.

I believe, to offer a very simplified answer, that when it comes to deciding whom to vote for, we both place ideology over politics and "pragmatism".

The idea behind voting based on one's ideology was explained rather eloquently in an article in the Jerusalem Post by Avraham Feder of the Masorati (Conservative Judaism) Movement - (I strongly recommend reading the entire article, as it sheds light into the thought process of the Israeli voter):

The First Word: Cherishing my ideological vote
Where does this leave me as far as our coming election is concerned? I am arguing, on the one hand, for the validity - nay necessity - of a voter's ideological commitment to some vision of Jewish and Zionist fulfillment. On the other hand, I am accepting the reality of politics and the limitations that politicians face, even if they have the best of intentions.

Therefore, my conclusion is that (1) I will vote ideologically; and (2) I will leave the running of the country - do I have a choice? - to the government that is formed, however it is formed.

If I am to vote ideologically, it is clear that I cannot bring myself to vote for any of the three major parties leading the polls. Labor and Likud, despite their rhetoric, appear to host a hodge-podge of views, with their chief "conviction" being their readiness - under the right conditions, of course - to join in a coalition with Kadima....

My search for an ideological vote, then, continues to the parties outside the mainstream. But to vote with the extreme Left would be to vote for a non-Jewish non-Zionist never-never land. That leaves the extreme Right...

Of course, the National Union won't be in the government. The government will be the amorphous, disputatious Center - may it serve the ship-of-state well. But on this coming Election Day, I cherish the right to vote not for the government but for my dream - a Jewish-Zionist dream.

I believe, at the end of the day, that both Haim and I are dreamers - idealists, if you will. We don't live - or vote - for the moment, but for the future. We are willing to take the long road towards helping to fulfill (what we believe to be) the collective destiny of the Jewish People in the Land (State) of Israel - the only place where the Jewish People can actualize their potential.

We may not represent the mainstream or consensus opinions of the State of Israel (or the Jewish People), but I do believe that we each represent (in spite of our political beliefs falling on opposite sides of the spectrum) the ideological backbone of the State of Israel - the rudder, perhaps - without which the country would be lost.

Governments, like peace plans, come and go, and before long, are forgotten. Sadly, it seems, the majority of the country has gotten into the habit of living (and voting) for today; forgetting where we have come from and where we are going - seeking easy answers to difficult challenges where there are none to be found.

Speaking for myself, I recognize that voting for the National Union party will not win me any popularity contests - certainly not in Israel. I also recognize that voting for the National Union party will not (in the short term) solve all of the challenges that the State of Israel is currently facing. However, I also recognize that my vote is going to a party that takes into account the history of the Jewish People and State - where we have come from, along with aspirations for the glorious Jewish destiny that awaits us - where we are going. My vote is going to a party that concerns itself with the Jewish past, present and future - and I don't believe that I, as an Israeli voter, can ask for anything more.


I understand your concern about NU being concerned about the future of the country - but do you really see their plans (i.e. giving away Arab populated areas and holding on to Jewish areas both within and outside the "Green Line") as the best current solution? Even though Chayil will not get into Knesset, it's still worth voting for - as a vote of conscience.

By Blogger GregoryT, at Tue Jan 10, 10:26:00 PM GMT+2  

I wouldn't assume that only fringe-party voters are voting on an ideological basis. In my own case - as an almost certain Kadima voter - I plan to vote based upon my own very strong opinions about where Israel should be going and how we can realistically get there. It's true, perhaps, that there is a large element of pragmatism in my thinking; but then for me, pragmatism itself is part of an ideological world-view. To me, defining clear, attainable goals and formulating realistic plans for achieving them is an ideological requirement; to me, ideology without realism is dangerous and - to the extent that it endangers that which I consider sacred - immoral.

By Blogger Don Radlauer, at Wed Jan 11, 12:48:00 AM GMT+2  

Honestly, it's really tough to know who to support. I'd back a Feiglin led Likud, but with Bibi firmly at the helms it's a losing cause.

By Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report, at Wed Jan 11, 05:20:00 AM GMT+2  

hey i realized the other day after reading haveil havalim that you didn't get nominated for best israel advocacy blog! that's a crock! the only reason why i have even started blogging is because i started reading yours and jameel's blog...

how can the inspiration for my blog not get nominated?

your blog is by far the most well written zionist blog on the net... darn, i think i am going to have to write a post about this injustice tomorrow.

By Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report, at Wed Jan 11, 05:26:00 AM GMT+2  

Greg - just a point of clarification. National Union is not in favor of the territorial exchanges that you mention - that party advocating that policy is Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party - who was formerly affiliated with the National Union, but no longer.

Don, it's not to say that those who vote for mainstream parties are not ideologically motivated - but, generally speaking, those who vote for the non-mainstream parties are not goign to be swayed by today's headlines or political promises.

Does anyone really know what Labor, Likud and Kadima represent today? How can one vote for these parties for ideological reasons when today they are ideologically bankrupt?

The Likud long ago stopped being the Likud, Amir Peretz is trying to return Labor to its Mapai roots of 50 years ago, and Kadima is a conglomoration of ego-maniacs who have only one thing in common - a desire for power... None of these parties has a coherent vision - just vague innuendos as to thngs that might or might not be done...

Zion: Agreed. Feiglin leading the Likud would be a very interesting choice, but that's not the case, and Bibi blows in the wind with the best of them.

Who does that really leave if you are ideololgically to the right?

As for your other comments, they are much appreciated.

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Wed Jan 11, 10:09:00 AM GMT+2  

Ze'ev, I feel so stupid for not knowing that they split. Now I'm with you - National Union does seem to be the mainstream right-wing Zionist party with ideology.

By Blogger GregoryT, at Wed Jan 11, 04:22:00 PM GMT+2  

yea, how come you're not on JIB, ze'ev?

By Anonymous Strong Bad, at Wed Jan 11, 05:55:00 PM GMT+2  

Strong Bad, why don't you ask IsReally****!!!

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Wed Jan 11, 07:32:00 PM GMT+2  

Hey Ze'ev, not nice. It's not like Dave is making any money off of the JIBs.

By Blogger Ezzie, at Thu Jan 12, 01:26:00 AM GMT+2  

What did I say that wasn't nice?

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Thu Jan 12, 07:26:00 AM GMT+2  

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