By DAVID HOFFMANN
By the look of things, the next elections will arrive just in time for me to participate, for the first time, in the holy grail of democracy - the right to vote.
I, for one, believe in the importance of participating in the democratic process. There are some of my peers who could not care less about who is leading their country, and have a fatalistic outlook. They believe that no matter what, nothing they do or say will influence anything. I do not see it that way.
I am deeply interested in local politics and believe that my vote can make a difference.
But, I have a different concern. I am well aware that, due to the low election threshold in Israel, there is a multitude of parties and factions not seen in other Western democracies. Nonetheless, I cannot find a fitting party to cast my vote for.
My personal deliberations have run as follows:
Labor - It has long been my feeling that the dinosaur of Israeli politics has ceased to offer any meaningful alternative to the party in power. Since the Likud, headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, swung left, the Labor Party was caught with its political pants down. It offers no real alternative to the ruling party, other than "we're only supporting them because the disengagement is on par with our own political agenda."
Additionally, the recently elected chairman, Amir Peretz, is a man new to the upper echelons of power, and whose social and political agenda is pulling Labor much farther left than it has been in the past few years. He is suggesting a party which people from "every walk of society, religious, secular, Arab or Jew could vote for." I see such statements as attempts to pander to as wide an audience as possible. The problem is that in Israeli society it is impossible to create common ground for such a diverse group while relaying a real message. So, to create the unity he calls for, he will have to make Labor a gray party - they will have no real stance on any issue, for fear of provoking any one of their potential voter pools.
Now, the Likud - One of the most corrupt and mafia-like parties in the Knesset. I could not stand the idea that I would be voting for the likes of Yehiel Hazan, who is currently under investigation. The way the Likud Central Committee is run reminds me of a local marketplace on a bad day. I just hate to think that these are the people who run our country.
As a secular Jew, I have never found any common ground with the Orthodox parties, and the same goes for the Arab parties.
I also find that the National Union and Meretz are too extreme Right and Left, respectively.
This leaves me with very few options. There are of course, the fringe parties, such as the marijuana party and the male rights party which, if they weren't actually running for government, could be seen as parodies of the system.
Another option is Shinui. Shinui, which had looked, up until recently, as a very possible candidate for my vote, looks to be crushed by Sharon's new party. They are looking to lose two-thirds of their seats, and much of their power. I believe that this is because Shinui, which accomplished little during the 16th Knesset, while being part of the government for a long period, did not fulfill two of its main pre-election targets: changing the Tal law (for drafting yeshiva students), and instituting civil marriage.
Due to this fact, coupled with the new Kadima Party eating away at most of Shinui's potential voter base, I cannot see a situation where they would receive anything like the number of seats that they have in the current Knesset.
WITH THAT option basically nonexistent, I am seriously considering Kadima. Sharon's new party, which is looking to attract the center of the population (if such a "center" does in fact exist) seems a viable option to those like me weighing our political options.
I had contemplated voting for Sharon (unfortunately also not the cleanest politician around, but I do like his politics), before he broke away from the Likud and formed his own faction. What was working against him at the time, from my point of view, was that he was head of the Likud, a party I could never see myself voting for. But now, he has formed a new party which has gathered political figures from across the spectrum such as Haim Ramon and Avi Dichter. His party will break free of long-held political ideals, which have obstructed them from keeping in touch with the current generation.
I am basically referring to both Labor and the Likud which have distinct platforms, but which aren't necessarily right for this day and age (i.e. the Likud being opposed to giving up land, and Labor which is dedicated to negotiations, and believes there is a Palestinian partner).
I think Sharon's party will be free of such constraints, and will be able to function with flexibility, and will be able to benefit all of Israeli society.
The writer is a 12th-grade student at The Hebrew University Secondary School, Jerusalem.