A disappointingly small minority of Israelis made significant news on Tuesday
when they bothered to cast their ballots in local elections.
repeatedly disheartening that these municipal bouts fail to excite greater
participation – the low turnout is hardly a new phenomenon – especially as the
results may greatly affect our daily lives.
This latest round, moreover,
left us with plenty of food for thought.
Residents of the three big
cities made sound choices when they opted in each case for veteran and
relatively successful mayors. In each of these very different settings –
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa – the electorates returned to power reliable
mainstream incumbents, as distinct from more flamboyant or politically
This might not impart a specific message
regarding the national political configuration – indeed the returning mayors are
hardly made of the same political cloth – but the results do indicate maturity
and levelheadedness on the part of those who took the trouble to vote. They
rejected dubious platforms and/or more mesmerizing candidates. In our age of the
sound bite and flashy headlines, this is nothing to scoff at.
it needs to be noted, did not guarantee success everywhere. In Ra’anana, for
example, two-time incumbent Nahum Hofree was all but booted out by a whopping
majority in favor of his predecessor Ze’ev Bielsky, indicating that where
considerable dissatisfaction exists, it cannot be papered over.
the positive side of the coin.
On the flip side, however, voters handily
returned to office three mayors the Supreme Court had sacked, without barring
them from reelection – the mayors of Bat Yam, Ramat Hasharon and Upper
These communities are fundamentally different from one another
in all socioeconomic markers. Yet in all three, voters dismissed the fact that
the mayors in question each face weighty criminal indictments for
It could be argued that none of the three had been convicted
and each was deservedly given the benefit of the doubt. All three cases involve
popular mayors whom the public considers to have done a good
Conversely, it could be said that the public expressed no-confidence
in our judicial system, along with indifference toward the basic ethical
prerequisites for public servants.
The fact that three dissimilar
populations thumbed their noses at the top judicial authority is sure to result
in legal snarls. As soon as the new city councils take office they will be
tasked with keeping or kicking out the reelected mayors. Mayors who are
confirmed in office will then set off another cycle of legal
There is no doubt that the voters were well aware of these
likely scenarios and hence their choices cannot but be seen as openly defiant.
This is nothing that Israeli society can blithely overlook. Like it or not, the
voters dispatched a loaded message and it must not be written off.
perhaps the weightiest cause for concern is that so many among us failed to
consider our local government important enough to spend a few minutes at the
polling booth. This has nothing to do with the fact that Election Day was a
regular work day.
Much of the apathy arose because “only” mayors and city
councils were elected rather than a premier and parliament, and that the issues
ranged from garbage collection to construction blueprints rather than defense,
foreign relations and the national economy.
Those who will demonstrate
and moan tomorrow neglect the reality that ostensibly lesser issues determine
the quality of our lives with greater immediacy than the central government’s
grander existential decisions. They affect our environment, education and the
value of our real estate even more than the ministries in
Homegrown problems will not be resolved unless the locals
tackle them by becoming involved locally.