Lieber-fear and Bibi-phobia: How Fear of the Far-right Could Make Livni PM

A vote is really just a tool to help stave off the person you hate or fear the most.

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I have to confess, at times, these last two weeks, I've drifted off to sleep only to find myself in a halcyon Israel where the skin of every Israeli is painted blue and white, and the birds fluttering through the eucalyptus trees on Allenby Street chirp "Hatikvah" with a Russian accent at lines of flatbed trucks carrying Arab families away to points unknown.

The fear of a far-right (let's just call it extremist) government headed by Bibi Netanyahu and his ghosts of Knessets past, in alliance with the surging Yisrael Beiteinu party, threatens to determine the results of tomorrow's election.

In an election where truth has been stranger than fiction (see "Marijuana legalization-Holocaust survivors alliance"), no spectacle could be more bizarre than the meteoric rise of Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party. Having raked in 11 votes in the last election, they now stand to bring in as much as 20 seats, and be the real power-broker in this election.

This is where the visions start of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman banging his shoe a la Krushchev against the podium at the United Nations, crying out for Israel to bomb the Aswan Dam. Or there's Lieberman as Education Minister, teaching Israeli High School Civics classes that loyalty tests as a requirement of citizenship are essential to any functioning democracy. Sometimes I see Lieberman the Justice Minister, trying to force through poll taxes and Hebrew- (and Russian-) only literacy tests for the ballot boxes in future Israeli elections. Or Housing Minister Lieberman, whose first act is to build a moat around Umm al-Fahm.

This fear may very well be the best thing Tzipi Livni has going for her in this election. After all, even if you are the biggest Tzipi fan in the world not named Mr. Livni, you can't deny that there's a serious drop-off in Kadima after our esteemed Foreign Minister.

At #2 you have Worst-Transportation-Minister-Ever Shaul Mofaz, a man whose statements are so asinine and pointless he is rarely even quoted anymore. Further down you have compulsive subject of police investigations Tzahi Hanegbi, known in his younger days as a Likud prince and far-right activist. Then there's former finance minister Avraham Hirschson, a man on trial for bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ministry, in monthly payments of cash-filled envelopes. And did we mention that this is the party that gave us the double-billing travel expenses suspect Prime Minister Ehud Olmert?

Simply put, Kadima bears little resemblance to the party formed by Ariel Sharon in 2005. The in-choice in the 2006 elections, the one driven by the ghost of Sharon, Kadima stared down a Likud Party that was nothing more than a swiftly sinking ship, and itself looked every bit a political force for years to come.

Now only a shell of that promise, Kadima must hope that enough people are terrified of a Likud victory that brings a coalition with Avigdor Lieberman, and will cast their fears about her experience and her party's pending police investigations aside and drop the right little white slip in the ballot box.

After all, what other choices does a left-wing or moderate Zionist have?

You could vote the Arab-Communist party Hadash, whose slogan seems to be "Hey we're Jews, and Arabs, and we speak Hebrew, and Arabic! This is crazy! I'm Jewish, and I'm wearing a Kaffiyeh!" Or you could vote Labor, good old Labor, led by ol' warrior Ehud Barak, who seems to have had a leather jacket welded to his skin for the last 6 weeks. Barak showed great leadership during the Gaza operation and helped exorcise the defeat of the Second Lebanon War. But there is always the sinking feeling that since Labor, unlike Kadima, doesn't have a chance of being the largest party and forming a coalition, so a vote for them is more or less a vote for Bibi, and thus a vote for Lieberman, a man who would definitely make the next Gaza war more interesting.

The sad reality of the 2009 election is that for many Israelis, it is not at all a matter of picking the candidate you like the most, it's not even a matter of picking the lesser of many, many evils. Rather, your vote is really just a tool to help stave off the person you hate or fear the most. And with that in mind,

Da, Livni.

More by Benjamin Hartman:

  • Benjamin Hussein Netanyahu, or, How a little bit of Obama goes a long way
  • Israel's Knesset: I wish I knew how to quit you
  • Ben Hartman on the U.S. elections