Bebert Malul of Yeruham says that if the dead were resurrected on election day, and his late father could see who Malul voted for, he would die again. Malul says he has always been a staunch Likud supporter, and his son, who was released from the army six months ago and will be voting for the first time, cannot believe that his father is now voting for Labor.
Malul, who hopes both his father and son will understand, says he just cannot vote Likud after the blow it struck against such a large part of the population. Labor chairman Amir Peretz, on the other hand, helped the Negev town of Yeruham and the Phoenicia glass factory where Malul works, saving it from closure. "I eat, drink, and enjoy life. I want others to, as well," Malul says. On the diplomatic front, in any case, he says, there is not much difference between Likud and Labor.
This Friday, like every week, the main activity at Ankav's kiosk on Yeruham's main street was filling out the Winner sport lottery forms. When the conversation turned from soccer to politics, the winner was Peretz. Haim Malka said that he was moving over to Labor, at least temporarily. "Bibi destroyed the country. I can't forgive him. As long as he's there, I won't vote Likud," he said. Emil Zaafrani, on the other hand, who works with Malul at Phoenicia, does not see himself crossing the lines. At most, he will vote Kadima, he says.
Moti Batito, a former Yeruham deputy local council head, cannot understand a vote for Kadima. "Who's Olmert? Does he care about the weak? Another guy from the upper thousandth of a percentile that likes cigars and expensive suits," Batito says. "A vote for Kadima is like a vote for Likud," says Batito, who is now head of the religious council in Mitzpeh Ramon. "The same people. Amir is social-minded, body and soul, and wants social revolution. The Likud drew all its strength, all those years, from periphery towns. Then it betrayed them. Diplomatically it doesn't matter Labor or Likud - the Americans are the ones to dictate," he says.
Batito thinks that Orthodox or traditional people should vote for Orthodox parties. He supports United Torah Judaism, because he studied at yeshivas of the same Lithuanian stream of Orthodoxy, but also because its leaders, Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman, he says, are good parliamentarians. "No appeal to them goes unanswered," he adds. But those not voting Orthodox should vote for Labor, he says, although he does not delude himself that Peretz has a chance at being prime minister. "He won't be allowed because his name is Peretz," Batito says.
In the periphery towns, the name is clearly advantageous. Yaakov Benishti, a former secretary of the Yeruham Labor Council has known Peretz for 25 years and says that the latter contributes anonymously to needy families in the town. "There was a time I couldn't walk around a periphery town and say I was a Labor man. Today I'm proud of it."