Inside Out: Political courage and responsibility

The choices facing the voter truly are difficult and require political courage, particularly if one considers the broader implications of the ballot cast.

Moshe Feiglin 311  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Moshe Feiglin 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
On Tuesday, millions of Israelis will head to the polling stations to vote.
For the first time in four years, it will be the voters who will be required to exhibit the two qualities that they usually demand of their own elected representatives in the Knesset – political courage and responsibility in the face of difficult choices.
The choices facing the voter truly are difficult and require political courage, particularly if one considers the broader implications of the ballot cast.
Ostensibly, the easiest choice is to vote for a niche party that advances a specific cause that the voter believes in, such as the Da’am Workers’ Party or the pro-marijuana legalization party, Green Leaf. But to vote for a party that stands no chance of crossing the electoral threshold – and that is the case for more than half of the 34 parties running – is actually an act of political cowardice, no matter how tight the ideological fit.
Voting for a party that is certain to fail to enter the Knesset is merely an empty gesture of protest, equal in weight to not casting a ballot at all or voting for a mock party, such as the Pirates.
After all, to vote for a party that is certain not to cross the electoral threshold is to abdicate one’s democratic duty to contribute to deciding who will serve the public in parliament.
Only elected MKs will be party to the task of passing and/or obstructing legislation; only elected MKs will sit on committees that set priorities and allocate funds; and, in most cases, only elected MKs will serve as cabinet members and make crucial decisions.
Voting for a party that is certain not to enter the Knesset is to shirk one’s civic duty, and to leave that responsibility to others.
Voting for one of the parties that are certain to enter the Knesset requires a different kind of courage and responsibility, precisely because the chosen party’s MKs will be acting in the name of each and every individual voter as they pass and/or obstruct legislation, sit on committees and serve as members of the cabinet. As such, when standing before the ballot box, the voter cannot in good conscience choose to be willfully blind to the composition of their selected party’s list and say, “I’m only voting for the leader.”
That is a fallacy.
AFTER ALL, while a vote for Likud Beytenu is, on the one hand, a vote for Netanyahu as prime minister, on the other it is also a vote for Moshe Feiglin, a man who has openly called on IDF troops to disobey orders and whose political worldview includes the aspiration to achieve the “voluntary transfer” of Palestinians beyond Israel’s borders. Feiglin is also a man who aspires to restore animal sacrifices in a third temple that he hopes will be built on the ruins of al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Everyone casting a Likud Beytenu ballot is duty-bound to recognize that they will be complicit in putting that man into the next Knesset, where he will be serving as their representative. Every vote Feiglin casts, every act of legislation he either advances or hinders, will be the responsibility of every individual Likud Beytenu voter who put him there as their proxy. Feiglin’s views and beliefs are no secret. The voters who put him in power as their representative will bear full responsibility for his actions as an MK and the repercussions of those actions.
By the same token, a vote for Bayit Yehudi is, on the one hand, a vote for the successful, amicable and dedicated Naftali Bennett, whom many would like to see as the leader of a significant force in the next Knesset.
On the other hand, however, anyone casting a Bayit Yehudi ballot is also casting a ballot for unabashed political extremists and religious zealots, such as Orit Struck.
In 2006 Struck advocated “levying a heavy price tag from the first of the commanders down to the last policeman,” targeting the men and women in uniform who are given the task of evicting people from illegal settlement outposts.
A recent Likud Beytenu ad designed to dissuade potential Bayit Yehudi voters asked them to question which was the real face of Bayit Yehudi – was it Bennett, or was it Struck and other religious zealots, such as Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Zalman Melamed, the latter of whom has openly urged soldiers to disobey orders that they disagree with on ideological grounds. The painful truth is that the answer isn’t either/or. Both Bennett and Struck are the real face of Bayit Yehudi.
A vote for the one is a vote for the other. Just like a vote for Netanyahu is a vote for Feiglin.
Naturally, the same logic applies to all the other parties as well. A vote for the Labor Party is a vote not only for Shelly Yacimovich, but also for Stav Shaffir. A vote for Yesh Atid is not only a vote for Yair Lapid but also a vote for Ofer Shelah. A vote for Hatnua is not only a vote for Tzipi Livni but also a vote for Elazar Stern.
That said, most Israelis would probably agree that the prospect of Shafir, Shelah and Stern in the Knesset is not quite as frightening and downright dangerous as the prospect of Feiglin and Struck at the helm.
Responsibility for putting Feiglin and Struck in the Knesset will lie with the people who vote for Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi.
May their hands tremble before they cast that ballot.
The writer is a veteran Israeli writer and translator.