An Israeli Ballot With No Good Options

Bibi Hasn't Earned Reelection and Opponents Yet To Win Trust

ari bronstein

By Hillel Halkin

Published January 10, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
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Israel doesn’t need to hold elections. It only needs to ask for whom I’d vote, because I’ve never voted for anyone but winners. I was for Golda in 1974, for Begin in 1977, for Rabin in 1992, for Netanyahu in ’96, for Barak in ’98, for the Sharon of the Likud in 2000 and the Sharon of Kadima in 2005, for Ehud Olmert in 2006, for Netanyahu again in 2009. You can’t be more infallible than that.

Who’ll be the winner January 22? Nobody, it would seem, because for the first time in 43 years of living in Israel, I don’t intend to vote.

Certainly not for Netanyahu. How often can you reward the same man for disappointing you?

Not that he deserves all the abuse that’s been heaped on him. He’s performed well on Iran, his silly appearance at the United Nations last autumn notwithstanding. He deserves credit for standing firm on the West Bank and Jerusalem. True, he hasn’t wanted to negotiate with the Palestinians, but neither have they wanted to negotiate with him. Both have good reasons, because negotiations right now can lead nowhere.

He’s been right to go on building in the settlements. There’s no greater cliché than the one that keeps insisting that the settlements are a major obstacle to peace. They may have been that once, when they were few and sparsely populated enough to be removed. Now that they’ve long passed that point, any peace agreement will have to make room for their existence. A hundred thousand Jews, more or less, in them will make no difference.

But Netanyahu has lacked the courage of his convictions on too many other things. He’s missed golden opportunities to carry out the economic reforms he knows are needed, to make Israel a more affordable place for its young people, and to spur the integration of its Haredi community into its army and society, all because he’s been hesitant to challenge vested interests.

His fear of being outflanked on the right has caused him to open the Likud wide to extremists and merge it with a party headed by a political ruffian like Avigdor Lieberman. He hasn’t shown an iota of leadership. A country can put up with a lot if it agrees with where it’s going; Netanyahu hasn’t given Israelis a clue where that might be.


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