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.
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.