The 4HQ Encounters Fellowship with Moishe House is moving into its second year! If you’d like to join this incredible program run by Makom in partnership with Moishe House, click here and find out more!
With 47 parties seeking the support of 6.3 million potential Israeli voters on April 9, the race for the next Knesset has never been so fierce. For those connected to the Jewish State who live outside her borders, understanding the complex coalition system can often be quite daunting.
The election campaign focuses on four main issues that reflect larger competing worldviews:
- Should the economy be managed in a social-democratic or free market manner?
- Should the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate control the legal frameworks for religious expression and life-cycle events?
- Should a Prime Minister facing multiple corruption and bribery charges should continue to lead the country?
- Should Israel pursue a two-state solution with the Palestinian people?
Here at Makom, we see Israel as the greatest Jewish achievement of our generation with democratic elections being the greatest moment of Jewish self-determination, giving citizens the right to choose the future direction of the Zionist project. Unlike Italy which allows members of her diaspora to vote in elections, Israel only allows citizens living in the country on election day to vote (except for diplomats).
However, because the contest of ideas that has always been so much at the heart of the Zionist movement comes to the fore during campaigns, we strongly believe that it’s important for all who have an interest in the future of the world’s only Jewish state to have their say.
Through voting in the Makom Parallel Election, you will be participating in a global poll determining opinion from diverse communities about the direction of the greatest Jewish enterprise of our lifetime. After April 9, we will publish the results of the Makom Parallel Election, side by side with the actual results. This will hopefully create a valuable conversation starter for Israel educators around the world who are looking at what we have in common, and the issues that divide us most.
Policies before politics
In putting together this initiative, we felt it important that unlike much of the media hype around this campaign focused on tweets, polls, personalities and hypothetical questions, we would create a policy table outlining where all the parties with realistic chances of being in the Knesset stand on issues that matter.
Putting this table together was very challenging, as many Israeli parties don’t list specific policies on most issues, or change their views once elected due to coalition discipline which often forces them to vote for policies with which they oppose in order to have part of their agenda passed by other parties in the coalition.
By reading this table, and posting any questions you have on the Makom facebook page, we hope to be a valuable resource for you in understanding these elections, and being part of the conversation that sees Israel in Real Life.
The die is cast, at last. The parties are finally fixed, so that the voters can now concentrate on their key task: To decide for whom they will vote.
In Israel the meaning of Left, Right, and Center is very different from the rest of the world. A party’s stance on the welfare state, economic policies, religion and LGBTQ – none of these affect whether they are termed Right or Left. In Israel these political directional terms still seem to circle around one issue alone: The Palestinians. Left and Right are only assigned according to the party’s willingness or lack of willingness for there to be a Palestinian State.
If a party is keen for a two-State resolution, and for all settlement over the Green Line to stop, it is deemed Left.
If a party is against granting the Palestinians a State, and keen for settlements to grow, it is deemed Right.
And if a party would like for there to be a two-State resolution when the time and circumstances are right, and in the meantime is ambivalent over settlement growth, it is deemed Center.
Nothing else matters in these definitions.
And it is these definitions that will guide the forming of a coalition government in the late Spring. Will the Right form a majority bloc? Or will the Center form a majority bloc aided by the Left (or the moderate Right)?
Since Right/Left/Center is so critical, it is perplexing that the key issue around which these terms circle – the Palestinians and their demand for independence – seems to be the only issue that most politicians hardly ever discuss. In particular the Right and the Center – according to polling, some 80% of voters – share the belief that there is no Palestinian leadership with whom to negotiate, and so there is nothing to talk about.
There is an unspoken assumption that one’s attitude to a Palestinian State is guided by a single concern: Security. Granting a state to the Palestinians risks Israeli security, while refusing to do so maintains it. This is why the Left – wishing to enable a Palestinian state – can be painted in traitors’ colors, since they are perceived to be happy to endanger us all. Even those in favor of expanding settlements in Judea and Samaria rarely trumpet their rights over the Biblical Land of Israel, and instead focus on Palestinians threats to Israeli security.
Quite apart from the fact that security experts are far from convinced that ongoing civilian presence over the Green Line adds to Israeli security, it would be a mistake to assume that the Palestinian issue is only about security.
The situation does not only ask the “To Be” question. It also asks us about the nature of the Jewish People, and the way in which we relate to another People in this region. It pushes us to define what we mean by Freedom, democracy, and human rights. And of course it asks the question as to where in Our Land should our citizens be allowed to build their houses?
It is according to their answers to these four interlocking questions that the Left, Right, and Center can be gauged.
The video doing the social media rounds is of the first Knesset speech of the racist Meir Kahane. The entire government, including Likud hardliner Prime Minister Shamir, stand up and walk out. No respect nor honor is to be granted to the hate-filled fascism of Kahane’s Kach party.
That was then and this is now. At Prime Minister Netanyahu’s urging, the Jewish Home Party has merged with the Jewish Power party. This latter is made up of Kahanist supporters, who preach violence against Arabs, their expulsion from Israel, and worse.
If we are to understand Israel as a Jewish and Democratic country, it would seem that these politicians undermine both these concepts. Not only do these men act against Israel’s democratic principles, but many would argue they also act against well-established understandings of what is Jewish behavior and values.
A group of politicians who seem to oppose both the Democratic and Jewish principles of the State of Israel could be termed – among other things – anti-Zionists.
Will the Jewish world behave towards these men in a similar way to which it behaves towards other anti-Zionists such as those in the BDS movement?
Wondering what Israelis are saying about the April 2019 election for Prime Minister? Makom interviewed some folks in and around the Jewish Agency for Israel – and here’s what we learned.
Difficult times lie ahead for North American Jewry, as antisemitism rears its ugly head. As Debora Lipstadt points out, Jews are now under attack from the radical Right, from the radical Left, and from radical Islam.
In past times, the only redeeming feature of antisemitism was the way in which it at least galvanized unity in the Jewish People, against these threats. No longer. Not when Israel is so tortuously involved.
On the Right, anti-Semites argue their kosher credentials because they support Israel. Richard Spencer may be keen that “Jews will not replace us” in the United States, but at the same time is a supporter of Israel and even calls himself a “white Zionist”. Backers of President Trump will likewise point to his support of Israel to rebut condemnation of his friendship with antisemites.
The Right would seem to be saying – I cannot be an evil antisemite, because I support Israel. I may hate Jews at home, but I like them in Israel.
On the Left, Israel is also a painful part of the equation. New congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, argue the evils of Israel together with their support for the Jewish community in the States. Sarsour even led heart-warming fundraising campaign for victims of antisemitism in Colorado and Pittsburgh.
The Left would seem to be saying – I cannot be an evil antisemite, because I fight local antisemitism. I may hate Jews in Israel, but I like them here in the States.
Unfortunately the current Israeli leadership does not make this dilemma any easier for Diaspora Jews. Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to make common cause with those such as conspiracy theorist President Orban in Hungary and the Polish leadership that supports Israel while denying its role in the Holocaust.
It would seem that Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken sides in this “choice” between Diaspora Jew-hatred, and Israel hatred.
How does your soul respond?
The most direct and powerful opportunity for individuals to influence Israeli policy is upon us. On April 9th, every Israeli citizen has the chance to have their say as to how Israel should best answer the Four Hatikvah Questions.
What would be the best way to ensure Israel’s security? How should Judaism, the Jewish People, and Jewish values affect policy in Israel? How can Israel’s current EIU Democracy Index ranking rise higher than 30th in the world? Are we configuring our land and its resources in the most equitable and sustainable way?
In later Headlines for Identity, we’ll look into how the political parties do or don’t address these questions, but for now it might be worth asking a more fundamental question:
Why aren’t you voting?
Why don’t those American Jews who express so much care and concern for Israel and her policies, just come over here and vote? For Jews around the world it’s real easy to get the vote in Israel: You just make Aliyah. Technically speaking you wouldn’t even need to live here. Pop over to become an Israeli citizen, and then fly in to vote. It’s not nothing, but it’s nowhere near impossible.
So what is behind this desire to critique and influence Israel on the one hand, and this unwillingness to put one’s money where one’s mouth is on the other?
Do Diaspora Jews care less than they say they do? Do they view Aliyah in such hallowed terms that they could not bring themselves to “exploit” it in this way?
Or are they simply afraid that if given the right to vote in Israel’s elections they’ll find themselves confounded over whom to vote for, like the rest of us poor saps living here?