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One of the serious problems of the political system in Israel is the instability of governments, and the fragility of coalitions. This creates a situation in which Knesset elections are repeatedly held early.

There are many reasons for this, but one that keeps recurring is the weakness of the large right- and left-wing parties. New lists pop up in every election campaign. Sometimes they have tempting names and figureheads who seem to hold the key for solving all Israel's problems. But very quickly it becomes clear they have no coherent political doctrine and that their leaders, with all their rhetorical skills and winning personality, have no political experience.

And yet, due to dissatisfaction with the existing parties, these lists appear as the state's token savior, and win - sometimes surprisingly - a considerable number of votes. The Center Party, Shinui and the Pensioners Party are examples of this.

The truth is that these are not real parties but protest movements. Not a single one of them has become a ruling party, but all of them have bitten into Labor or Likud's power, making it difficult for them to set up a stable coalition.

Kadima is a different phenomenon, as it was formed around an innovative policy (the disengagement) and a charismatic figure with a record. It is all manner of things, but certainly not a protest movement. Quite the opposite.

A few of these lists managed to make their way into the government and inexperienced persons whom we never heard of before became ministers overnight. Since these were not real parties but rather haphazard groups of people with no clear political program, sooner or later they became embroiled in internal, and sometimes pathetic, disputes and splits and finally evaporated - not before severely impairing Israel's ability to maintain a stable government. A number of such ephemeral parties have emerged in the present elections as well.

On Feburary 10 voters will have a wide spectrum of parties with clear positions and records to choose from, beginning with the radical right, through the right-center and center-left to the moderate left and not-so-moderate left.

Nonetheless, one is always tempted to vote from one's gut for some fleeting party, to go with the heart's desire and cast a ballot for what you would want to happen in an ideal world - a decent, clean, green world - just as depicted in the social utopias we'd all like to see realized in our lifetime. But elections are not a beauty contest, but an educated choice between realistic alternatives dealing with the here and now, with the difficult decisions we must make in this world, in a complex reality, in which one must balance between the desirable and the possible, between our reach and our grasp.

Democratic politics is a difficult task and requires difficult decisions. Hence the oh-so-natural and human tendency to look for some savior, who speaks well and looks good and promises the world.

But we are in the deep pit of murky reality and must act and decide within its constraints. Every voter had better recognize that his decision requires him to act responsibly - to consider the kind of government he wants, whom he wants to lead the nation and the policy he would like to see implemented.

Voting for the nice, evanescent lists will only weaken and undermine the government's ability to make decisions. Nothing is more important for Israel at this time than possessing the ability to decide.