It's possible, even necessary, to vote for one of the real left-wing parties that's in favor of peace, but unfortunately not everyone will. Fortunately, not everyone is going to vote for the right either. People for whom Meretz is too left-wing, and Hadash, Balad, United Arab List-Taal and Da'am Workers Party too Arab, and Eretz Chadasha too newfangled, are left with four possibilities: Labor, Hatnuah, Yesh Atid and Kadima. For those of you vacillating among these four - and only you - I dedicate this column and advice: Vote for Hatnuah.
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The name of the game is elimination. The natural choice should have been Labor, but it has abused its trust and is motivated by the cowardice and officiousness of its leader. It's hard to exaggerate Shelly Yacimovich's destructiveness in having taken the occupation off the agenda, and it's hard to understand the silence of the lambs prettifying her slate. Much has already been written about this and the conclusion is clear: One cannot vote for her.
Yesh Atid is worse. Yair Lapid is even better at ignoring the gigantic elephant in the room. Lapid rules out war on a much more fateful topic: if he'll have any ministers without a portfolio. If you're interested in such petty trivialities, well then - vote for Lapid. One would hope such people are few.
Kadima is the pity party: Will Shaul Mofaz be ousted from the Knesset and such a foul injustice be perpetrated? Kadima's election campaign looks more like a fundraising drive for an NGO distributing hot meals to the homeless on a cold winter's day. But it's hard to arouse pity for someone whose military career was marked by unusual brutality, even by the IDF's standards. And it's not as if Mofaz regrets it: His ads proudly count the deaths he caused. So it's best to reject this option too.
This leaves us with Hatnuah headed by Tzipi Livni, the lesser of the evils. For people who find Meretz too radically left-wing, Hatnuah provides the only decent, reasonable opposition. Livni is driven by an ideal, by an honest and real sense of mission. She is the only one in the center who doesn't hesitate to talk about the elephant. In fact, she won't stop talking about it. While she isn't motivated by the desire to end the occupation for its own sake, for human rights or justice or morality, she at least acknowledges the existence of an enormous problem and is even convinced she's capable of solving it.
Unfortunately, the problem for Livni is the same problem bothering the nationalistic parties: She wants a Jewish state with as few Arabs as possible. But even if her motivation is questionable, at least she understands that things cannot continue as they are. She's also almost the only one who understands that there's a world out there, almost the only one connected to international reality, almost the only one who doesn't think Israel can operate in a bubble and be, in the words of the bible, "a people that shall dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations."
In recent weeks, I've seen Livni on several occasions. She is impressive; she really cares. She can also tell the difference between what's important and what isn't. The fact that she's flanked by Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz lends her weight. The solution she's offering isn't enough; no responsible Palestinian would sign it. She's also in love with negotiations, which long ago should have been a thing of the past. Everything has already been negotiated to distraction. Livni: This is the time to decide and Israel has to decide first. Is it going to end the occupation - yes or no? Everything else is consequent to that.
It's also true that Livni was once in a place of influence and came up with zilch. She too put trivialities ahead of the main decision, which she probably hadn't made at the time. But the road she has traveled from the Irgun family in which she was raised to the negotiating table across from Ahmed Qurei is admirable, albeit with reservations.
So it's fine to have reservations about Livni. Personally, I'm not going to vote for her. But Livni is the only alternative for people who think that "left" is a four-letter word.