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The Mistake That Strategic Voters Make

Zehava Galon
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Likud and Kahol Lavan campaign posters in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2019.
Likud and Kahol Lavan campaign posters in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Zehava Galon

The banquet will soon resume, and, in the best tradition, this time too it will take place far above the crowd, oblivious to and mocking its needs. The Likud has been preparing for this banquet for a long time. Their urging of all the right-wing parties to unite is their way of loading up the buffet.

Kahol Lavan will put aside their good-old-boy’s demeanor and turn to voters with their piercing blue eyes, telling them that this time it’s important to vote strategically “so that we’ll be the largest party,” one that could topple Netanyahu, obviously. It’s only coincidental that the proposed strategy benefits them. The banquet always works. Some leftist voters hear the words “strategic voting” or “the largest party” and immediately see themselves as Napoleon, rushing to vanquish Russia.

But this time we have the rare benefit of hindsight, seeing the results of the last round of strategic voting, results that turned Kahol Lavan into a party bloated with Knesset seats. Who knows, maybe someone will wise up. The results didn’t topple Netanyahu, but we got a chance to see how Kahol Lavan would have functioned had it been condemned to four years in the Knesset.

In its first important parliamentary test, the vote for a new state comptroller, they not only dropped the ball, they punctured it, before passing it to the rival team. Giora Rom, who was Kahol Lavan’s candidate for the job, said afterward that he had asked himself how this party might be characterized. What he conjured up was a military unit from an old, satirical Israeli movie about the IDF, at least as far as its bumbling commanders were concerned.

The blame doesn’t lie with Kahol Lavan. This party is what we deserve. For years, strategic voters have been keeping alive the myth of attracting voters from the right. Parties on the left and center have been sucking up to a sector of voters who never vote for them, and these parties are never punished for this at the ballot box because a few leftists see themselves as strategic thinkers, only to lose again and again. Every time, leftists vote for this season’s savior who will bring Netanyahu down. Instead, they get Netanyahu again, along with a bunch of useless people who will represent them in the Knesset. This time it’s a bunch of former army chiefs-of-staff who find it difficult to part from their field jackets.

Voting strategically means voting on the basis of faulty knowledge. How many times must we repeat that it’s not the size of a party that counts but the size of the bloc of parties that backs a candidate for prime minister. We already know the value of relying on the latest public opinion polls, and more importantly, what good are promises not to join a Netanyahu coalition?

One has to be naïve to believe Benny Gantz, who said he hadn’t heard the question put to him after leaked recordings caught him saying he was willing to sit with Netanyahu in the government. “I’ll tell Netanyahu, ‘Pardon me, it’s without Smotrich, it’s without this one, it’s without that one, it’s Kahol Lavan and Likud. Let’s talk,’” said Gantz. The Democratic Union is right in warning that Kahol Lavan leaders Gantz, Gaby Ashkenazi, Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Lapid will form a unity government with Netanyahu. Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz is also right when he calls such a coalition a “coalition of cowards.”

A vote for the Democratic Union is doubly safe. This party will recommend Gantz, but if he doesn’t have a majority, this vote will not go to Netanyahu. But strategic voters think of being in power, and these are the parties they get in return. These parties don’t know how to be in opposition, they barely remember why they wanted to be in power in the first place. In the meantime, leftist voters are punishing the only parties that have been loyal to them the whole way. That too is a strategy.

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