(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin invited citizens who have decided not to exercise their democratic right to enter the polling booth to come to an open forum with him at his official residence Tuesday night, in the hope that he would be able to persuade them to cast their ballots.
“I have invited you in order to listen to you, but also to share with you the concern that too many of our citizens are giving way to apathy and despair,” he said.
Rivlin said that from what he had read and heard, he understood that many people lacked faith in the political system and thought that their voices would not be heard.
Some people had written to him that the election was brought forward for irrelevant and selfish reasons, he said, and others had written that they were infuriated by the phenomenon of public corruption.
Rivlin said that he understood the lack of confidence in the political system, even though he did not personally identify with all the problems that had been raised. He did, however, acknowledge that there was some basis for the complaints of the public.
He then asked them if they honestly believed that the situation would improve if they did not vote.
“Would there be more or less corruption? Would there be more extremism or more moderation? Would the political system be more or less stable?” he asked. “By refusing to vote out of personal protest, do you feel you are punishing ‘them,’ or are you in fact punishing yourselves – punishing all of us?” Most of the people whom Rivlin invited introduced themselves only by their first names.
Abdullah, a statistician from a village near Afula, said it was time for Arabs to be on the map and not on the periphery.
“I don’t want to be on the periphery. I want to be built in,” he said. “I want Arabs to be part of the decision-making process.”
Yakir from the Gaza area said that it was just a matter of time before the next military operation.
“I don’t see any change,” he said. “No party is promising anything with which I can identify.”
Einat from Ashdod was convinced that the politicians are not interested in the individual.
“All they talk about is Iran,” she said.
Nimrod from Tel Aviv is 50 years old, and this is the first time that he is not voting.
“There’s no party for which I would cast my vote,” he said. “In another year it will be exactly the same.”
Michael, also from Tel Aviv, declared that “democracy in Israel has failed.”
Rivlin said he had been unaware that dissatisfaction with the system ran so deep.
“Apathy is not the solution,” he said. “If you want change, you have to be more involved. You have to vote.”