Jerusalemites largely divided over security and cost of living concerns

Opinions vary as the ancient city readies itself for upcoming elections.

March 15, 2015 20:33
3 minute read.
Elections in Israel

Elections in Israel. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Jerusalem residents on Sunday largely expressed unilateral positions in terms of who they will vote for in this week’s historic election based on security concerns or economic empowerment.

Indeed, while a few Israelis in the capital’s bustling downtown said they were undecided, or generally disgusted by the political process altogether, those who made up their minds said that they viewed the choice in stark terms.

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“I hope Netanyahu fails because it’s enough,” said Charlie Vaknin, a 47-year-old cashier at a Jaffa Road convenience store. “He hasn’t done anything for the public here – nothing for the poor or middle class. I care about the poor people because I have five kids and rent an apartment for NIS 4,650 a month.”

Although Vaknin said he believes that Isaac Herzog is the most viable candidate to lower the country’s prohibitive cost of living, he said he questioned if even the Labor party could uproot entrenched monopolies.

“I hope that Herzog’s party will lower prices, but until then I don’t think any politician has the courage to change the banks and monopolies because they’re afraid of rich people,” he said.  

Teachers Rachel Yoshia, 23, and Mizhav Yatzkan, 25, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the only choice, if Israel is to remain sovereign.

“I’m voting for Bibi because of security, and all the others are wimps,” said Yoshia. “If the others will be prime ministers there will not be an Israel, there will be a Palestine. They didn’t learn the lessons of Gaza, and now we have rockets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

While Yatzkan conceded that expenses in Israel are too high based on low average per capita income, she concluded that “we should look after security first.”

“Netanyahu is better because the other [candidates] will give up parts of our country and divide Jerusalem and it’s very important that doesn’t happen,” she said.

Echoing both women’s sentiments, Yonotan Miller said he was voting for Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett to avert any future land concessions for peace.

“I will vote for Bennett because I love Israel and I’m Jewish, and Herzog will give land away,” he said.

Or Bar-Yosef said she is voting for Koolanu because “Netanyahu has not changed anything,” while her friend, who requested anonymity, cited Koolanu as the only party that will help her realize her dream of one day owning a home.

“I’m married and want to buy a house with my husband and I can’t right now because we don’t make enough money and housing prices are going up,” she said.”It’s not just my problem, it’s everyone’s problem. Everyone is talking about it.”

As Hanoch Mordechai pushed his infant daughter’s pink stroller down Zion Square, he said that national security trumps personal expenses.

“To be honest with you, I feel that there is no man who can lead this country other than Bibi,” he said. “Even if he doesn’t lower costs, he will give us military trust, and that’s more important to me in this situation.”

Adding that he does not believe the Palestinian leadership truly wants peace, Mordechai said he feels there is no choice but to vote for Netanyahu.

A few meters away, a woman in her 70s, who requested her name not be published, said socioeconomic matters are her central concern.

“In my opinion the most important thing is that the people who work here should earn more money,” she said. “Many people work full-time jobs and still don’t have enough to pay their bills. It’s not right and Netanyahu has done nothing to change it.”

Optometrist David Aboudi said he is backing relative neophyte Bennett to keep Israel a “traditional Jewish state.”

“I think Bennett still needs to prove himself and doesn’t have enough experience in politics, but I identify with his agenda, which is the security of Israel and the way we have to fight our enemies,” he said.

Asked who he thinks will win, Aboudi smiled: “It’s 50/50 between Bibi and Herzog,” he said.

Meanwhile, Amir Pardo, a 38-year-old chef, was more neutral, stating that his dream ticket would include Netanyahu and Koolanu head Moshe Kahlon.

“Bibi and Kahlon together would give safety and lower housing and living expenses,” he said.

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