In Lieberman's settlement, support for the Likud is high

"They don't ask whom you vote for when you move out here," says a Nokdim resident

elections2009_248 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
"They don't ask whom you vote for when you move out here," said Gadi Yotvat on Monday, sitting in a makeshift office on his goat farm next to Nokdim, the small Gush Etzion community that Avigdor Lieberman calls home. "Politics isn't part of our lifestyle," he continued, as a baby goat stumbled across the muddied wooden floor. "But I will tell you that I'm not voting for Lieberman, and most of my neighbors aren't voting for him either. This is Likud territory out here." In the 2006 election, only 30 of Nokdim's 317 voters favored the Likud, while 125 supported Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu and 94 the National Union. But not one Nokdim resident who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Monday said he or she was planning to vote for Israel Beiteinu, even though its leader has been a long-time neighbor, if not a friend. "I go way back with Lieberman," Yotvat said. "He was out here back when all we had was caravans, and I've known him since then." Still, Yotvat refrained from mentioning a 2001 episode in which Lieberman had his parliamentary immunity lifted by the Knesset House Committee to stand trial on charges of attacking three boys in Nokdim. According to the indictment, in December 1999 Lieberman attacked the boys, kicking and punching one and causing him head injuries. He then pulled the boy by the hair, put him in his car and drove to Tekoa to complain to his parents. Under a plea bargain, Lieberman was convicted of threatening and assaulting the boy. He paid a fine of NIS 7,500, plus compensation of NIS 10,000 to the boy's family. No one else mentioned the incident either, instead choosing to focus on the political debate at hand. "All of his slogans, all the noise - they're just gimmicks," Yotvat said. "Those things don't really affect us out here. We just keep on living our own lives." Back outside the wooden building, rows of goats and a few sheep milled around under a sheet-metal roof while a pack of dogs nipped at one another in front of the office door. A donkey and horse stood nearby. Yotvat lit a cigarette, and three young Palestinian men walked in with cups of hot coffee. "These are my workers," Yotvat said. "They're like my sons. I've known them since they were little boys and our families are close. Even their father supports Likud. I mean, he can't vote, but if he could, he'd vote for the right wing. If Hamas ever took control out here, they'd shoot him in the legs for doing business with us." With this, Yotvat said that Israel Beiteinu's "no loyalty, no citizenship" slogan was less clear-cut in a region where Palestinian neighbors were more "loyal" than the Israeli-Arabs and Hamas supporters it was aimed at. "It's all nonsense," Yotvat said with a swat of his hand. "It's all just politics." Yotvat's daughter Nehara said she hadn't yet decided for whom to vote. "I feel like this year, the politicians haven't even had time to give us their pretty lies, because they've been too busy attacking one another," she said. Nonetheless, she said she wasn't voting for Lieberman either. "I'm definitely voting right [wing]," she added. "I just haven't decided who yet." Suddenly, her father stood up. "Come on," Yotvat said. "I'll take you to another one of my neighbors who isn't voting for Lieberman." Moments later, his armored Land Rover was making its way across the rocky countryside, an old pistol holstered to his side. "Guy," Yotvat called out to a man working on an ATV as the truck pulled up beside him. "Who are you going to vote for?" "Likud," Guy answered. "Not Lieberman?" Yotvat asked. "I've always voted Likud," Guy replied. "What's different this time? I don't believe Lieberman. He may be tough on the Arabs, but he also wants to allow the sale of pork in stores. I mean, I'm not so religious, but I care about the Land of Israel." Back in the center of town, other residents responded with a similar tone. "I was going to vote for Lieberman," said Sima Ochana, an employee at Nokdim's pre-school. "And I'm not religious per-say, but after I heard about those things, about the pork in the supermarkets and the civil marriages that [Lieberman] wants to do, I changed my mind. This is a Jewish state. Even the Arabs don't eat pork." "They're all the same," chimed in another woman, Vered Simchon. "All of the politicians are the same thing, so I say Shas. At least they will uphold the Torah." At least one Nokdim household seemed proud to endorse Lieberman, with a home at the entrance to the settlement sporting Israel Beiteinu signs, one in Hebrew and one in Russian. But no one came to the door. "I think these elections don't really matter anyways," said David Ishtern, a recent immigrant from Peru who spoke to the Post. "The US controls everything anyways; they're the hands behind the scenes. That said, I'm voting for Netanyahu because, well, on a personal level, I like him, and he plays the game better than Lieberman does."