Who deserves our vote - and who doesn't - a comment on Avnery article 07/02/09 / Adam Keller

Who deserves our vote?

In my view, in these elections the parties whose heads initiated and conducted the bloody war in Gaza are completely ineligible for the votes of peace-seekers who had opposed the war. In anti-war demonstrations the suspicion was often voiced that the war was intended, at least in part, to achieve electoral aims. There is no doubt that it did benefit Ehud Barak and his party, saving him from the nightmare of getting a single-digit number of seats. If Barak (or Livni) managed to buy votes with the blood of 1300 Palestinians, let them then content themselves with this "profit" and not seek to add to it the votes of those who opposed the war and the killings.

Even before the polls open, it can be assumed with complete certainty that the next government of Israel will be a bad government, which will implement bad policies and which will not take even a single step towards peace unless faced with a massive international pressure. The only relevant choice for Israeli peace seekers in these elections is limited to the question who would express in the best and most effective way the opposition to the bad government which is going to be formed.

Despite Meretz's notorious tendency to be from time to time carried by nationalist waves and support a war on its first days, I am certainly willing to give some credit to Haim Oron and his fellows: During most of the term of the bad government which is coming, they will act as a vocal and effective opposition, in the Knesset and on the public sphere (except during the first week of the Second Gaza War or the First Iran War). Nevertheless, in my view priority belongs, in all possible ways, to the party which brought Jews and Arabs together on the streets against the war from the first moment and can be relied on to do it also next time – i.e. to Hadash.

Hadash is now at a crossroads in its long history, due to the very successful experience of the "City For All" list in the Tel Aviv municipal elections. There, KM Dov Khenin succeeded in arousing a significant grassroots movement, reach sections of the Jewish public which had never considered voting for his party and become a realistic mayoral candidate. It is clear, however, that not all those who voted for Dov Hanin for mayor – on the basis of a specific program dealing with local and social issues only – would also back him as a Hadash Knesset Member. There is no doubt, for example, that many of those who supported Khenin in the municipal elections did support, just a few weeks later, the same Gaza War which Khenin firmly opposed.

The big riddle in these elections is: Will Khenin succeed in bringing along enough Jewish voters to gain, at least, his own Knesset seat. His success in doing that would transform Hadash's identification as a Jewish-Arab Party from a respectable principled position into a concrete electoral reality, block once and for all the mouths of those who insist on categorizing Hadash as "an Arab party" (implying “irrelevant”) – and also upgrade Dov Khenin's position within Hadash itself. But would Khenin achieve that? The answer depends, first and foremost, on the number of voters who will not look for excuses but will go to the polls and place in the voting paper with the letter "Vav".

What is the lesser evil?

I don’t accept the assertion that if the number of Kadima's Knesset seats will be greater than those of the Likud, it will be Tzipi Livni who is invited to form the next government. As is well-known, the decisive consideration is the overall parliamentary block, the number of Knesset Members of all parties who recommend a certain candidate and are willing to support the government which that candidate would form. According to all opinion polls and all commentaries, there is no chance of 61 KM's being willing to support a government headed by Tzipi Livni. There is only one possible exception: in case that Avigdor Lieberman decides to support Livni and support her in forming a government.

In my view, this is the worst of all scenarios: Tzipi Livni as a Prime Minister who is totally dependent on Lieberman, who could make not a single step without his support, while he could at any moment bring down the government and bring Netanyhau to power instead. For all intents and purposes, it would be a Lieberman Government, even if Livni will have the title.

In comparison , in my view the option of a Netanyahu Government – which, to say the least, I am not enthusiastic about – is definitely the lesser evil. At the least, in a Netanyahu government Lieberman will be one of many components, and Netanyahu will have the best of personal interest to prevent him from gaining too much of a decisive position.

And talking of Tzipi Livni in comparison with Ehud Barak: I find both revolting and disgusting, but I see no special reason to prefer Livni. Indeed, she is from time to time speaking about "The dove of Peace which waits at our window", as Barak does'nt. But peace Livni-style means a total war with Hamas – who are "terrorists" and with whom "we will never speak" –so that after the final breaking of Hamas we could sign with Abu Mazen a "shelf agreement" which would than be put on the shelf, perhaps to be taken down and defrozen once upon a time and perhaps not. Ehud Barak, who came to the conclusion that peace with the Palestinians is impossible and we can only conduct with them a war occasionally interrupted by a ceasefire, is in this context willing to reach an occasional ceasefire also with Hamas (with whom else?). I reject Barak's position as well as Livni's – but I see no special reason to prefer Livni's "dove in the window".

Moreover, the direct voting for PM has been abolished long ago. The voting papers are in practice putting into the Knesset all kinds of back-benchers on the margins of the big slates. Additional votes to Kadima might, for example, be decisive in granting a new Knesset term to Otniel Sneller – a settler and former chair of the settlers' "Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council" (Moetzet Yesha). He is totally devoted to the settlement project, and in his past term as a Kadima KM he acted as an industrious and effective settlement lobbyist. I am far from enthusiastic about what the Labor Party has to offer – as I said, I consider none of its candidates worthy of the votes of peace-seekers. Still, you will find no Snellers in its ranks. Nor any likes of Tzahi Hanegbi, a notorious and predatory hawk in Kadima just as he was during his time in the Likud. No reason to prefer any such characters to the Laborites.