Monday, January 21, 2013

Some Predictions and Recommendations for the Israeli Elections

[Update: After writing below about my blogger colleague Yossi Gurevitz's explanation why he will vote for Meretz and not  for Hadash, I see that he has basically endorsed voting for any party that is not Netanyahu from Labor to its left.  He does not mention the Arab parties Balad or Ram Tal, which he may think too sectorial, or not sufficiently socialist. Here is his post in Hebrew.]

In less than a day Israeli citizens residing in Israel will get to vote for the Knesset. I am an Israeli citizen who left Israel a few days ago for the US so it's tough luck on me. I remember the days when thousands of dead people in Brooklyn were resurrected by the ultra-orthodox to "vote" for their parties (well, that was the rumor, anyway. It probably happened in a handful of cases.)

If the polls are correct -- and they are notoriously inaccurate in Israel -- there will be three headlines the day after tomorrow.

1. The collapse of the "center-left" in Israel (in Israel the "center-left " is what elsewhere would be the center, the "center" is what elsewhere would be the moderate right; the "moderate right" is what elsewhere would be called the right; and the "right" is what would be far right. As for the Israeli "far right" I would call that the "fascist rightwing" (e.g., "The Jewish Home" of Nafatli Bennett) or the "Judaeo-Nazi"  (of settlers to his right, and, yes, there are those.)

2. The inevitability of the  super-right wing government. If the polls are correct, I can't envision Bibi making a coalition without Naftali Bennett's party, unless Shelly Yachimovich goes back on her promise and joins a government coalition. And Naftali Bennett makes Avigdor Lieberman look like a moderate rightwinger! So we will have the most rightwing government in the history of the State of Israel, following an extremely rightwing government before that. 

3. The rise in strength of the "consistent left". In the current government the genuine Left has 14 seats; the polls show that going up to 18 seats. I fear that the polls are a bit optimistic. Meretz is taking mostly from Labor and somewhat from Hadash. And, of course, the Arab turnout is a big question. Contrary to Jewish misconception, many Israeli Palestinians are not boycotting the elections because they are dissatisfied with their own parties (whom the Jews see as being overly nationalistic - hah!) but because they realize, quite rightly, that Israeli democracy is a sham. And yet, strengthening the "consistent left" (Haim Baram's felicitous phrase) won't hurt, and will at least help preserve the democratic crumbs that the Jews threw at them in 1948 and have been trying  to take away recently. 

So that will be the good news of the election. I don't just mean point 3., I also mean  points 1. and points 2. Don't get me wrong. I genuinely feel for my liberal Zionist friends who see their old "liberal" Israel being snatched away from them by nationalist Russians and converts to religious Zionism. I think they are self-deluded, but that doesn't make their pain, or my sympathy for them, any less.  The death of the two-state solution -- and, pace Assaf Sharon in this week's piece by David Remnick in the New Yorker, the notion that a genuine two-state solution remains possible in the actual world, is to use his term, "bullshit" -- will help hasten the pariah-status of the 1947 regime among moral people, although the regime itself could certainly hold on for at least a few generations. And here's another encouraging statistic: the number of Jews and Palestinians worldwide are roughly equivalent. And which group as a whole is becoming less nationalist, do you think?

Given the rise of the left in Israel -- and the death of the so-called "center-left" -- what party should a supporter of the "consistent left" vote for? My first answer is any of them -- the important thing is to vote for one of them, since they will all be in the opposition. 

My second answer is that I see no convincing reason to change my vote from Hadash to Meretz. I like Meretz, and I like Zahava Gal-on. But I don't see myself as a liberal Zionist, and Meretz is still a Zionistic party that supports a state that deludes itself and the world in thinking that it is both Jewish and democratic. So, yes, for ideological reasons I don't support Meretz, even though on a personal and parliamentary basis, the list is top-rate.

My blogger colleague Yossi Gurevitz has given several reasons why not to support Hadash. They are still a communist party; they voted overwhelmingly against reserving a seat for a woman in the top three; they talk to Jews and Arabs differently; they support. Assad. With all due respect to a blogger with whom I agree 90% of the time, these are not sufficient reasons to abandon a party whose ideology is Arab-Jewish partnership and social justice. The communist business is a "red" herring. They did not as a party support Assad. They rarely talk in two different voices to their constituencies, and most political parties tailor the message to the audience (ask Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about that). I would have liked more affirmative action in that party, but the answer is to join the party and try to influence it from within. (Full disclosure: I am actually a card-carrying member of Meretz. Long story....) 

My main reservation with Hadash is that it is officially -- and fundamentally -- two-statist. Oy! But since there is no possibility of the two-state solution in the actual world, I won't that stand in my way for support of them.

Balad and Ram Tal, are also worthy parties. I have always liked Dr. Ahmed Tibi ,who is infinitely more Israeli than most of my Anglo-American Israeli friends, and I admire Haneen Zoabi, who, while representing an Arab party with relatively few Jewish members, realizes the importance of forging coalitions with the Jewish left. Were I in Israel and were I to have more time to look at the parties platforms, records, and personalities, I could see myself voting for either of these parties.

So that's my recommendation. Vote for any of the consistent left. But go out and vote.

In a better world I would endorse voting for the truly integrated and progressive party, Da'am Workers Party. But at the moment that party doesn't look like it will make it, and that means throwing away your vote. And yes, I vote strategically, ever since I threw away my vote for Lova Eliav back in 1984 (?)

And, finally, I cannot endorse voting for Labour, despite the fact that some of the members of the list are excellent, and I wish them well.  Merav Michaeli and Stav Shaffir will get into the Knesset no matter if none of the "consistent left" votes for them. And I hope that none does -- simply because their votes are needed to make a more powerful statement elsewhere.

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