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We are heading to new elections – again! That is not a bad thing, considering the total dysfunctional nature of the current terribly inflated government of ministers with zero responsibility and too many fake ministries. Due to a lacuna in our law, our indicted prime minister – who cannot legally be a minister in his own government – is allowed to be prime minister. A public servant with the same indictment cannot be a teacher in Israel, nor a community rabbi.
Our prime minister should also be indicted and convicted of irresponsibility towards the public for failing to pass a state budget in facing the worst economic crisis with which the country has ever had to deal. The last budget passed in Israel is from 2018. The prime minister should also be indicted for his miserable failure in dealing with the novel coronavirus crisis. Yes, he gets credit for bringing so many doses of the vaccination to Israel so quickly, but he has lost the public trust for the zigzagging of decision making influenced more by politics than by the necessary public health concerns.
Once again, this election will probably be a lot more about “Yes Bibi” or “No Bibi” than anything else. We are very unlikely to hear any real policy debates and undoubtedly, we will be bombarded with negative politicking much more than what candidates and political parties actually plan to do for us – the people.
I don’t know what party I will vote for. I don’t know what political parties will be running and who will be leading them. Voting for Meretz-Labor last time I definitely feel that my vote was stolen from me be the Peretz-Shmuli duo who lied to the public and marched into the pocket of the indicted prime minister who they promised they would never sit with. An even larger scandalous act of betrayal was knife-stabbing embarrassment of Orly Levy-Abecassis (Gesher) who went as far as having a ministry of nothing created for her irrelevance in the new government. I suppose that I am more fortunate than the 1.2 million people who voted for Blue and White only to be betrayed by the very people who promised to replace the indicted prime minister. What a horrible humiliation Gantz and Ashkenazi turned into.
I don’t have a viable candidate in mind to replace Netanyahu. Former Likud Gideon Sa’ar is much more right-wing than Netanyahu and stands against many of the values that I hold dear. Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked with Bezalel Smotrich (National Union) in their camp is even more frightening to me than Sa’ar with their combination of nationalistic-chauvinism and messianic craziness. In all honesty, if it is a choice between Bibi and Tibi (as the slogan goes) I trust Tibi (Joint List) a lot more than Bibi. But that too is not a realistic choice. Since I don’t have a leader in mind nor do I know what will be the choices we will face behind the ballot curtain, I will describe what is important to me in a political leader and political party in these elections.
THE FIRST and foremost issue of importance to me (and I believe for Israel) is a firm commitment to renew the political process with the Palestinians and a determination to end Israel’s control and occupation of the Palestinian people. I am not talking about 1 state, 2 states, 3 states or 10 states – and all issues can be negotiated. I hope that in peace, people will not be forced to leave their homes and that we will build together wide and deep cross-boundary cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians based on parity and mutual respect. Likewise, I want to see a firm commitment and a dedication of resources towards building a shared society between the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. After more than 70 years of statehood, there is no justification for the kinds of political, economic and social gaps that exist in Israel between Jewish and Arab citizens.
I want to support a party which is clean, corruption-free which believes in and strengthens democracy and the rule of law and genuinely works for the people, not for their own narrow self-interests. I would like to support a political party which has equal representation for women and men. I would like to support a political party which also has equal representation for Jewish and Arab candidates in realistic places on the list. Ideally, I would like to see a multi-faceted list with representation of the different identities within our society – from the center of the country and the periphery, Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, mixed identities (like my own children – Ashkenazi-Mizrahi), Ethiopians, Israelis from the former Soviet Union countries, LGBTQ communities, religious and non-religious. To create that kind of mix there must be dedication to seeing Israel as a land of opportunities and equality for all of its citizens.
I want my political party to stand for social equality with sufficient safety nets to provide for the weakened sectors of the society. How blessed we are to have a socialized health care system, with all of its flaws and too many needs for privatized services. We need to significantly strengthen our public health system. The COVID-19 pandemic has also demonstrated how backwards and underfunded our educational system is and this should be an emphasis of any political party that wants my support. We need to return to many of the egalitarian principles which guided us in the past, without giving up on the amazing social and business entrepreneurship which exists in this country. We need a political party which will fight for confronting climate change head-on rather than being in the hands of the fossil fuel companies which will become passé once energy storage become feasible and viable – which is only a matter of a few years from now. Israel should become close to 100% renewable energy based during day-time hours by 2030 and by that year we should ban all fuel-fired vehicles from our roads. I want to support a political party that will push for more investment in public transportation than in building more roads and encouraging the purchasing of more private cars because of the taxes that we pay to fill the government purses.
Elections in Israel are frequent, too frequent, but that is because we, the citizens, demand so little from our elected representatives. We don’t demand from them to present to us what they stand for; articulate what are their values, what they will do for us if elected. I expect more from them and if they want my vote, I demand from them that they convince me that they will work for what I believe in.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine was published by Vanderbilt University Press and is now available in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. It is now out in Arabic.