Israelis Need to Vote for Democracy

While a movement for democratization is taking place in Egypt, Israel is moving in the opposite direction.

The convening of the Knesset House Committee today to determine the composition of legislative committees to investigate citizens, proves physic's law of conservation works. While a movement for democratization is taking place in Egypt, Israel is moving in the opposite direction. Even more serious, Israel's distancing itself from democracy is an influential part of the growing regional extremism.

When Defense Minister Ehud Barak was seen as the hope who would carry on for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the voting percentages in Israel were still high. Since Barak began his desertion to the world of "there's no partner for peace," the voting percentages declined sharply. Most of the decline took place among groups that don't vote for the right.

voting - Reuters - February 1 2011

In the 1992 elections, when Rabin was elected, the voting percentage in the center-left was 83 percent. Since then the percentage has declined dramatically to 61 percent.

In 2009 the number of voters was similar to that in 1999, about 3.3 million. But in 2009 there were an additional million people with the right to vote.

Based on the voting percentage up to Rabin's assassination, that means another 800,000 voters. The vast majority of them, over 600,000, were taken out of the center-left bloc.

There is one answer to the racist attack against Israeli democracy - voting. Giving the finger to the rightist policies of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman means going to the polls. Imagine 80- to 90-percent voting percentages among secular youth and Israeli Arabs.

Brigades of citizens marching together and retaliating against the government, using the revenge of the "little" citizen - casting a ballot.

This realistic fantasy has far-reaching implications. If the rate of voting of the center-left electorate restores only half of the votes that have disappeared since Rabin's assassination and Barak's desertion, the center-left will increase from 55 seats in the last elections to a majority. If it returns to the level of 1992 it will have 66 places.

This is even before they are joined by life-loving center-right voters, who will translate their disgust and fear of the anti-democratic extremism on the right into a vote for the center-left.

In the past, the Black Panthers, when they ran in the elections, challenged the electorate to "put the letter 'zayin' in the ballot box - or that's what you'll get after the elections," playing on the Hebrew letter that also means to get screwed.

The vote against the racist and anti-democratic racism that threatens to trample life in Israel, making the country similar to the worst of its neighbors and endangering its very existence - belongs to an earlier letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

In the protest for the sake of life you have to put a "dalet" in the ballot box. Not the letter that signifies the defunct Poalei Agudah religious party or the Arab Balad party. A "dalet" - or "D" - for democracy.

To ensure that the democratic revolution won't remain a fantasy, its implementation must not wait for actual elections to be called. Every citizen, every young person, of Jewish, Arab or other origin, has to search already now for the party for which he or she will vote. Anyone who is also able to register for a party should do so. The greater the participation, the stronger the democracy.

And it's not only the citizens. The parties also have to prepare in advance and to remember that there is one number: 61, the minimum needed for a coalition. The last elections proved what has always been true: Size matters, but not of the party, of the bloc. If on the left there are 10 parties with eight seats each, and on the right one party with 40 seats - the next prime minister will, or should, come from one of the parties with eight MKs.

There is no point in merging parties. On the contrary, the citizens must have a large number of options, as lucid, clear and tempting as possible. Let the citizens go and vote for Tzipi Livni (Kadima ), Shelly Yachimovich (Labor ), Zehava Gal-On (Meretz ), Hanin Zuabi (Balad ), Avishay Braverman (Labor ), Isaac Herzog (Labor ), Amir Peretz (Labor ), Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash ) or (potential candidate ) Yair Lapid, according to taste; as long as they place a "dalet" in the ballot box.

A "dalet" signifying "dai-nimas" - enough, we're sick and tired. A "dalet" signifying "de'a" - opinion. A "dalet" signifying "dahka" - a joke.

Let voting become trendy. As long as it's clear: This time we're not staying at home. This time we're not going abroad. This time we're going to vote.