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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Who else, then, might a centrist like me, who sometimes veers a little to the left, sometimes a little to the right, and is equally allergic to the platitudes of progressivism, the pieties of religion and the nastiness of hyper-nationalism — vote for?

Kadima? It’s a sinking ship that’s already below the water line. In the first place, it was just a jerry-built tub for Sharon to leave the Likud on, and it was doomed to capsize sooner or later without him.

Tzipi Livni, who jumped overboard after losing the battle for Kadima to Shaul Mofaz? She’s run a single-issue campaign, which is that she alone can negotiate peace with the Palestinians. Considering that she couldn’t accomplish this as foreign minister under Olmert, who made the Palestinians an offer that only they could have refused, how is she going to manage it under Netanyahu, who will be prime minister again even without my vote?

A television personality like Yair Lapid? He’s gone Livni one better by running a no-issue campaign. His platform is that if middle-class Israelis vote for him, he’ll do something good for the middle class. Right now he can’t remember what that is, but he’s sure he will by the time he’s sworn in as a minister in Netanyahu’s Cabinet.

That leaves Labor and Shelly Yachimovich. To tell the truth, I was planning to vote for them. Labor is a real party, with roots. It has some attractively fresh young faces on its Knesset list, and I’ve liked Yachimovich’s attempt to nudge it back toward the political center, where it traditionally stood until it drifted leftward. She stood no chance of winning the election, of course, but I had hoped that if she did well, she would give Netanyahu the option of moving centerward himself and escaping the clutches of the Zealots by taking her into his coalition in their place.

So what does Yachimovich do? Less than three weeks before the election she announces that if she can’t win, she’ll join the opposition rather than consort with Netanyahu. She’ll do Israel as much good in the opposition as Chuck Hagel will do in the Defense Department.

It looks like I’ll be staying home on January 22. And since as I go, so goes the nation, a lot of other Israelis will be, too.

Hillel Halkin is an author and translator who has written widely on Israeli politics and culture and was the Forward’s Israel correspondent from 1993 to 1996.


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