Despite all this, the voters will be choosing a centre party that promises further disengagement from the Palestinians. The settlers, identified with the right wing, have not managed to garner much sympathy from mainstream Israelis. On the one hand, many view them as obstacles to peace and share much of the blame for Palestinian animosity for Israel. On the other hand, had there been no settlers in areas occupied after the Six Day War of June 1967, it is doubtful if it would have made any difference anyway. The Arab States have a problem with Israel’s existence since its establishment in 1948.
However, this does not alter the fact that we have to come to terms with our Palestinian neighbours eventually. There are many converging interests between Israelis and Palestinians. If it is not on the political level, then it is on the social level. An example of this is the avian ‘flu epidemic that has reached our shores. The Palestinians are just as exposed to this danger as the Israelis. Cooperation between the two sides is vital in order to fight the common enemy that is a threat to the health of poultry on both sides. Cooperation between the two sides becomes more complicated because of the animosity and lack of trust and this would be detrimental to combating this epidemic more effectively.
The floating voter has become a more characteristic phenomenon in these elections. This may not influence the outcome that seems to be predictable. It does influence the kind of coalition that would result after the elections. No political party will gain an absolute majority. Kadima will be zigzagging from moderate left to moderate right depending on the reactions of the mainstream electorate, which is not immune from fickleness.
There are disturbing trends. Racism has raised its ugly head in sheep’s clothing. Whenever there is mention of Amir Peretz, many mainstream Laborites lift up their noses in disgust. Some will follow Shimon Peres to support Kadima in order to demonstrate their disgust. They will say that he is not suited to be the future prime minister of Israel, as he has no experience in government. He has never been a cabinet minister. The real reason is that he is a mustached Moroccan from Sderot and this does not fit in with the stereotype of prime minister that Labor technocrats would like – Ashkenazi and conventionally educated - whatever that means! It is a shame that there are still people with these racist ideas.
Kadima is a centre party with a rather nebulous ideology that waxes and wanes with its supporters. It will form a coalition in order to govern. It is important that its future partners in the coalition will give it the direction needed to make bold decisions. A vote for Kadima does not necessarily mean a vote for an end to the occupation. It could be – depending on the coalition partners. If the right wing Likud and extreme right wing National Union – National Religious Party (Ichud Leumi-Mafdal) form a coalition with Kadima then Kadima will be part of a rightwing government. The Shas and UnitedTorah Judaism Parties would be more conducive to tag on to this coalition than to a Kadima-Labor and Meretz coalition. This would be detrimental to any future peace moves in the region. The latter type of coalition would be more conducive to peace with the Palestinians once Hamas becomes more pragmatic in its stance towards Israel. Rather than abstaining from voting, perhaps it would be a good idea to vote for Labor or Meretz in order to steer Kadima towards much needed reforms in this country.
The Israeli citizen would be better off under a Kadima-Labor-Meretz coalition for a number of reasons:
- Peace with the Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside Israel would be closer to fruition.
- Social issues, health, and education would receive more emphasis.
- Equality between Israeli and Arab Israeli citizens would take priority. Affirmative action programmes preventing discrimination of Arabs in the job market could assist this.
- The minimum wage would be raised to $1000 a month net.
- On the religious front, much remains to be done. Recognition of pluralism in Judaism such as the right of non-Orthodox streams to marry couples. There should not be Orthodox establishment monopoly on matters affecting Reform and Conservative Judaism.
A right wing government would place emphasis on the taxpayer’s money for benefits of the settlers beyond the Green line and for continuing the occupation. There would be no withdrawal and the burden on the taxpayer would not be alleviated. An increase in the defense budget in order to protect these settlers and justify them living in occupied areas is a strong possibility.
Those who suffered from Benjamin Netanyahu’s financial programmes when he was Minister of Finance in the Likud Government were the weaker sectors of society. The pensioners, low-income groups and unemployed were victims who paid a heavy price. The Support and Growth Tax that many of us paid into the government coffers apart from our regular tax was unaccounted.
Corruption was rife in the previous Likud Government. So many Knesset members are being subjected to various enquiries into their wheeling and dealing that was criminal. Two Likud Knesset members (Naomi Blumenthal and Omri Sharon) have already been convicted and sentenced to prison terms as well as heavy fines. The citizen in the end pays the final price for corruption in government.
If anything, the Likud and its extreme right wing allies are not deserving of returning to power.