Understanding Lieberman’s Voters

Haim Watzman

Why do I really dislike Avigdor Lieberman? Because he’s forcing me to write about politics. When Gershom and I started this blog, I thought he’d take the political beat and leave me free to write about my country’s diverse and exciting culture and literature. But who can concentrate on books when the wolves are howling at the door?

A couple days before the election I had a long conversation with a young Palestinian-Israeli woman I often see at my favorite South Jerusalem café, The Coffee Mill. Like me, she was in despair over the likely results of the impending election, although unlike me, she wasn’t planning to vote.

I told her something that I’m afraid may shock some of SoJo’s readers, those who seem to measure us by the extent to which we conform to left-wing clichés. I told her that the Israelis who voted for Lieberman and his party aren’t evil people.

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The Election Results–First Thoughts

Haim Watzman

The exit polls show Tzipi Livni and the Kadima party slightly ahead of the Netanyahu and the Likud, but the right-wing nationalist block with a small majority. The Green Movement-Meimad did not achieve the two percent threshold.

So was my vote wasted?

There are two possible answers. Had the Green Movement-Meimad’s votes gone to Livni directly, she’d be in a stronger position, with a clearer lead over the Likud. And had they gone to Labor or Meretz, the left-wing block just might barely have tied the right wing block, meaning that Netanyahu could not form a government of the right alone. (Probably not, but maybe just.) From this point of view, my vote was wasted and in fact gave Bibi a boost into power.

On the other hand, even if such a tie between right and left had been achieved, the only government that Livni could form would be one much like the one she might just be able to form with the current results. That means a government that will be dependent on the support of at least two of the right wing and/or ultra-religious parties. And that means a government that would be unable to pursue the peace process or make significant progress on the other pressing issues facing the country. In that case, the votes cast for the Green Movement-Meimad would not have made much difference anyway.

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