The Pensioners Party / Compassion Inc.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise. It's enough to recall the stunning success of the pensioners' list in the Tel Aviv municipality elections in November 2003. Mayor Ron Huldai's list was squeezed into third place, with four seats, and the pensioners, who doubled their strength from three to six seats, took first place. The voters were young and old who were disgusted with politics and wanted to punish city hall. Then, too, voter turnout was low, and apathy great. Nobody took an interest in the list's makeup.
But there is a difference: the municipal list, headed by veteran Mapainik Natan Wolloch, grew out of extensive public activity within various municipal frameworks. Its election expressed a longing for a social and civil agenda and sympathy for the diligent elderly, who undertook to nurture the city's community centers. Supporters of "Power to the Pensioners" were well acquainted with Wolloch and his ability.
Most of Rafi Eitan's voters also weren't interested in the nature of his list, its platform and makeup, but they knew nothing of Eitan's personal background either (his career in intelligence agencies, the Pollard fiasco, business dealings in Cuba), nor his political leanings (the Shlomzion Party adventure with Ariel Sharon, his staunch support for settlement blocs and deepening control of the Jordan Valley). They certainly know nothing about the other candidates - all retirees from well-remunerating institutional systems.
And that's not all. There is a huge gap between a local list and a list running for Knesset, in elections that are supposed to determine the country's fate on the issue of bidding farewell to Greater Israel, and also sharpened messages - for the first time in years - and over which a substantial part of public debate on social and economic issues was focused. The ballooning of such a sectoral and one-dimensional party, nearly all of whose members are total unknowns, demands an explanation.
The Tel Aviv precedent is important, since 10 percent of the Pensioners' voters are Tel Avivians, but it is only one of several symptoms that created the phenomenon. Some of the voters are middle-aged and elderly former supporters of Labor, Meretz or Shinui. Others are yuppies. They wavered, didn't want to vote at all, sought a charming option to stick to, and finally opted for a choice that might be termed "Green Grandpa" - between the fashionable Green Leaf and a self-righteous expression of social compassion - that is supposedly above "petty" political considerations. This is compassion limited to the point of stupidity: Why the elderly? And what about single moms? And kids? And the disabled? Will a separate party be formed for each?
Thus, while the economically weaker segments of society are breaking with harmful sectoralism and voting, with maturity and responsibility, for the major parties - the Tel Avivian "trend" joined up with the opportunism of a few politicos and with the short-sighted alienation of others to produce another bubble party, which eats away at the power of politics to perform its democratic duty.