On Tuesday, millions of Israelis will head to the polling stations to
For the first time in four years, it will be the voters who will be
required to exhibit the two qualities that they usually demand of their own
elected representatives in the Knesset – political courage and responsibility in
the face of difficult choices.
The choices facing the voter truly are
difficult and require political courage, particularly if one considers the
broader implications of the ballot cast.
Ostensibly, the easiest choice
is to vote for a niche party that advances a specific cause that the voter
believes in, such as the Da’am Workers’ Party or the pro-marijuana legalization
party, Green Leaf. But to vote for a party that stands no chance of crossing the
electoral threshold – and that is the case for more than half of the 34 parties
running – is actually an act of political cowardice, no matter how tight the
Voting for a party that is certain to fail to enter the
Knesset is merely an empty gesture of protest, equal in weight to not casting a
ballot at all or voting for a mock party, such as the Pirates.
to vote for a party that is certain not to cross the electoral threshold is to
abdicate one’s democratic duty to contribute to deciding who will serve the
public in parliament.
Only elected MKs will be party to the task of
passing and/or obstructing legislation; only elected MKs will sit on committees
that set priorities and allocate funds; and, in most cases, only elected MKs
will serve as cabinet members and make crucial decisions.
Voting for a
party that is certain not to enter the Knesset is to shirk one’s civic duty, and
to leave that responsibility to others.
Voting for one of the parties
that are certain to enter the Knesset requires a different kind of courage and
responsibility, precisely because the chosen party’s MKs will be acting in the
name of each and every individual voter as they pass and/or obstruct
legislation, sit on committees and serve as members of the cabinet. As such,
when standing before the ballot box, the voter cannot in good conscience choose
to be willfully blind to the composition of their selected party’s list and say,
“I’m only voting for the leader.”
That is a fallacy.
while a vote for Likud Beytenu is, on the one hand, a vote for Netanyahu as
prime minister, on the other it is also a vote for Moshe Feiglin, a man who has
openly called on IDF troops to disobey orders and whose political worldview
includes the aspiration to achieve the “voluntary transfer” of Palestinians
beyond Israel’s borders. Feiglin is also a man who aspires to restore animal
sacrifices in a third temple that he hopes will be built on the ruins of al-Aksa
Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Everyone casting a Likud Beytenu ballot
is duty-bound to recognize that they will be complicit in putting that man into
the next Knesset, where he will be serving as their representative. Every vote
Feiglin casts, every act of legislation he either advances or hinders, will be
the responsibility of every individual Likud Beytenu voter who put him there as
their proxy. Feiglin’s views and beliefs are no secret. The voters who put him
in power as their representative will bear full responsibility for his actions
as an MK and the repercussions of those actions.
By the same token, a
vote for Bayit Yehudi is, on the one hand, a vote for the successful, amicable
and dedicated Naftali Bennett, whom many would like to see as the leader of a
significant force in the next Knesset.
On the other hand, however, anyone
casting a Bayit Yehudi ballot is also casting a ballot for unabashed political
extremists and religious zealots, such as Orit Struck.
In 2006 Struck
advocated “levying a heavy price tag from the first of the commanders down to
the last policeman,” targeting the men and women in uniform who are given the
task of evicting people from illegal settlement outposts.
A recent Likud
Beytenu ad designed to dissuade potential Bayit Yehudi voters asked them to
question which was the real face of Bayit Yehudi – was it Bennett, or was it
Struck and other religious zealots, such as Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Zalman
Melamed, the latter of whom has openly urged soldiers to disobey orders that
they disagree with on ideological grounds. The painful truth is that the answer
isn’t either/or. Both Bennett and Struck are the real face of Bayit
A vote for the one is a vote for the other. Just like a vote for
Netanyahu is a vote for Feiglin.
Naturally, the same logic applies to all
the other parties as well. A vote for the Labor Party is a vote not only for
Shelly Yacimovich, but also for Stav Shaffir. A vote for Yesh Atid is not only a
vote for Yair Lapid but also a vote for Ofer Shelah. A vote for Hatnua is not
only a vote for Tzipi Livni but also a vote for Elazar Stern.
most Israelis would probably agree that the prospect of Shafir, Shelah and Stern
in the Knesset is not quite as frightening and downright dangerous as the
prospect of Feiglin and Struck at the helm.
Responsibility for putting
Feiglin and Struck in the Knesset will lie with the people who vote for Likud
Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi.
May their hands tremble before they cast that
The writer is a veteran Israeli writer and translator.