Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Bizarre Nature of Voting in Israel

Americans (and Brits, like me) often have a hard time grasping the bizarre nature of voting in Israel. In other countries, you vote for the party that represents your ideology and which you therefore support. In Israel, even if such a party exists, you might well vote for a different one instead. There is ideological voting, semi-ideological voting, and strategic voting.

There are two reasons why this might happen. One has to do with the fact that every government is made up of a coalition of a variety of parties. So, for example, I personally identify most closely with Ayelet Shaked's Bayit Yehudi. However, since in this election she would support a coalition with Bibi's Likud, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir's Religious Zionism, Shas and UTJ, which in my view are a terrible combination for the country (just look at how this past year they openly voted against Israel's best interests), I would not vote for her. Instead, I would choose a party that is less aligned with my ideology, but which creates a coalition that is less problematic and is overall closer to my ideology.

The second reason has to do with the electoral threshold. The votes are divided among the 120 seats of the Knesset - but if a party does not receive at least 3.25% of the electoral threshold, then all their votes are discounted. Some people don't grasp the mathematical significance of this, so let me spell it out with an extreme example. If there was one right wing party that was 40% of the country, and twenty left wing parties that equally represented 60% of the country, the right-wing party would get every single seat in the Knesset, even though they are a minority. It would be a minority having absolute power in a democracy!

That's an extreme example, but there is a very realistic scenario that might play out this week. Bibi's bloc contains four parties which will all definitely cross the threshold. However, if all the other parties also cross the threshold, he lacks a majority and cannot form a coalition. But the non-Bibi parties include several very small parties (who foolishly did not unite). If even one or two of these parties fail to cross the threshold, then all those votes are discounted and Bibi receives a disproportionately larger share of the vote (though doubtless you won't hear any of his supporters say that such an electoral win would be "undemocratic"). Accordingly, I know a number of people (and I am inclined to join their ranks) who are voting for one of these small parties even though they disagree with their values, just to make sure that every vote in the country counts in the correct proportion. 

Thus, you get a crazy situation where right-wing religious Zionists, in order to accomplish their ideological goals, are making a rational decision to vote for parties that are completely unaligned with their ideology, such as Labor, Meretz, or even Arab parties! Only in Israel.


30 comments:

  1. Well, the last paragraph was a total non sequitur, but other than that, yes, this is basically how elections work in most countries, not just Israel. You might like your personal local representative, but not like the party he’s affiliated with. Who do you go with? Or in open primaries with a gerrymandered district, you might vote for someone you completely disagree with, just because he’s better than the other guy. Why do you always think that you or your issues are somehow unique?

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    1. Because in Israel it's even more extreme. In Israel you could have the option of voting for someone that you agree with, but *still* might vote for a party that you disagree with!

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    2. These calculations reflect more on the neuroses of Jews (in your case I would say it's pathological based on this comment of yours) than the particularities of the electoral process here. By definition, voting for anything but a winner is a "wasted vote." This is something goyim seem to have an easier time understanding.

      I was hearing multiple people talk in such a manner here last Shabbos. The one guy who made sense argued in support of Likud, since they would likely be leading any coalition anyway. Arguments for voting for right wing parties to keep Bibi in check (or other such logic) can be disproven by over a decade of observation. It's the same reason third parties never really gain any traction, other than as potential spoilers.

      I still remember Charedim making a similar kind of calculation in 2015 (back when elections were still fairly uncommon) in deciding to vote for Eli Yishai's breakaway party. They should have stuck to Shas or UTJ and enjoyed 2-3 extra seats of influence peddling ability instead of voting for a party of disunity (regardless of justification for its existence).

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    3. I dont see the Israeli system as that much more different than other places. The only real weird part about it are the paper ballots you show in the picture above. How is Labor, for example, still allowed to get away with calling themselves אמת? Made no sense back them, and makes even less sense today.

      I agree also with the commenter below who basically said voting is not an issue of rational v irrational. You can think leftwing voters are stupid, or rightwing voters, but that doesn't mean they're irrational. It means they place different emphasis on different values or concepts. And, of course, you might be the one who's wrong, not the other guy. And, when you get right down to it, that's really true of charedim and DL and everyone else too, in their choice of lifestyle. Calling this blog "rationalist judaism" when its now become a political/anti-charedi thing is an anachronism.

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    4. Actually reading that רשימת אותיות or whatever its called is really interesting. There's a party that unabashedly calls itself "The Left". I admire that type of straightforwardness. And all the little slogans and catchphrases, and the way the parties try to manipulate the letters, or put final letters in front, so as not to look like one another - interesting stuff. (But still crazy.)

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  2. In every place you have a choice of parties to choose from. Some may not be available in your area of a country certainly in the U.S. where two parties prevail. You might be disgusted with all parties even but pick the least bad offered or the most winable in your area.
    The Usual YA.

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  3. So you would throw the baby away with the bath water. Or
    Cut off your nose to spite your face!
    You have an agenda and it’s easy to read.
    Anything to keep the hated Chareidim out of government. You know - those who banned your books.
    Chaim HaLevy

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    1. Who cares about my books being banned? The issue is that a third of all first graders are in an "educational" system that is against work and professional careers. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2015/01/rosenblum-we-all-need-charedim-to-get.html

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    2. It would be more strategic to vote for the religious zionist party because if a lot of chareidim do that they will realise that they have to change because they are disenfranchising young chareidim by not helping them get an education to help them make money.

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  4. If you don't want the Bibi/charedim/BenGvir bloc, then aside for voting for small parties to prevent them missing the threshold, there's another factor to consider. There are two Arab parties, both of which may not cross the threshold. One, Balad, has the traditional all-out hostility to Israel. The other, Raam, is trying to break out of that mold. If you want to show Arabs that this is the approach that they should move towards, then you should help that party pass the threshold.

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    1. There are actually three Arab parties running.

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  5. "I know a number of people (and I am inclined to join their ranks) who are voting for one of these small parties even though they disagree with their values"

    I have no problem with that vote, were I in Israel, I might vote for Labor without even holding my nose. But you just gave massive ammunition to everybody in the comment section who regularly accuse you of being a leftist.

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    1. Huh? I was a leftist, then I would be voting for them because I agree with their values!

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    2. [RNS, I assume you meant "IF I was a leftist..."]

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  6. I'm an apologist for no one and probably will make up my mind who to vote for in the booth itself. But I will say this about my choice- whatever it may be- and I will express a wish that all others, including the author of this blog, would do the same: I will not act like my choice is the only rational one. They are all, or nearly all, also rational, by their own lights. Can we at least grant that to each other?

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    1. No, democracy that allows arabs to vote is irrational and a fraud. Still Ben Gevir is a breath of fresh air. Let's what happens once he is a minister.

      Charedim will change with time and at their own pace.

      Rationally Israel is doomed by its political system, but not everything is rational, so who knows?

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    2. As a good Kahanist I'm obviously not going to argue that Arabs should be allowed to determine the course of the country, but how you can say that's *not* democracy is beyond me. One could much more easily say "democracy that allows *charedim* to vote is irrational and a fraud."

      "Charedim will change with time and at their own pace."

      That's a very commonly invoked cliche. Some right-wing Dati Leumi invoke it in all innocence and naivete. But as used by Bibi and charedim themselves (if they bother), it's code for "never gonna happen."

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    3. The author of this blog has recently been throwing around (with complete naivety) that the Chareidim are an existential threat to the state. It seems that he envisions that they will soon outnumber other residents of the state, remain in Kollel, and not serve in the army.

      I know that he likes to claim to really know how Chareidi society works, as an "ex-Chareidi", but the truth is that he was just a flip-out, or what we Americans refer to as a "Harry" and never had a full inside understanding of what makes Chareidim tick.

      The truth is that long term Kollel is not for everyone, and the majority of Chareidim are people just like everyone else and desire a financially stable and even comfortable lifestyle. In the diaspora, most Chareidim spend just a few years in Kollel, and eventually go on to earn themselves a living. I believe that the REAL reason in Israel it is so much different is for a variety of reasons, amongst them the hurdles placed by the government in acquiring a rishayon to those who do not serve in the army, as well as a justifiably perceived hostility from Israeli society towards Chareidim and their fear of being coerced and abused from it. This fear is deep routed and goes back around a hundred years to the beginnings of Zionism in Israel. If Chareidim continue their trend of growing larger, more powerful, and even more mainstreamed, these hurdles will fall by the wayside. If Chareidim feel spiritually comfortable, free, and not threatened, they will behave exactly how human beings (including Chareidim) the world over behaves. However coercing Chareidim into working, serving in the army, teaching Liba, or anything else for that matter, will just put them into defensive mode and have the opposite effect.

      It's quite simple. However, our irrational blog host just doesn't get it.

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    4. Nachum, you claim you are a good Kahanist, yet also claim that you do not yet know whom you will vote for yet. A real good Kahanist would be pretty darn certain voting for Ben-Gvir!

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    5. "amongst them the hurdles placed by the government in acquiring a rishayon to those who do not serve in the army" The current government tried to LOWER the age of exemption for charedim from the army. The charedi parties voted AGAINST it. They WANT charedim to be prevented from working, because it helps keep them dependent on the politicians for handouts.

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    6. If the right were in charge and the same law was up for a vote, the charedim would have supported it.

      The motivation behind voting against one's stated interests in politics invariably has to more to do with denying the ruling party a victory than with keeping their supporters dependent on them, even when the effect is the same.

      For the same reason, the ruling coalition will often vote against law in its own platform when the law was tabled by the opposition.

      This is well-documented behavior in politics and happens all the time, everywhere.

      You should have no problem understanding such retarded logic, because after all, "In Israel you could have the option of voting for someone that you agree with, but *still* might vote for a party that you disagree with!"

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    7. "If the right were in charge and the same law was up for a vote, the charedim would have supported it."

      If the right were in charge the bill wouldn't have come up for a vote.

      Anonymous, my problem isn't so much with Ben-Gvir's views as with the fact that his party (or at least Smotrich and Noam) will always back up the charedi position, and what the right has been doing the past year.

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    8. "and their fear of being coerced and abused from it."

      Which of course has no factual basis, right?

      "This fear is deep routed and goes back around a hundred years to the beginnings of Zionism in Israel."

      No, it goes to 1977.

      "If Chareidim continue their trend of growing larger, more powerful"

      The fears will grow stronger and have greater basis.

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    9. "If the right were in charge and the same law was up for a vote, the charedim would have supported it...such retarded logic"

      Nuff said

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    10. The current government tried to LOWER the age of exemption for charedim from the army. The charedi parties voted AGAINST it.

      The chutznik naivete of this sentence is touching. It totally misses the point of that law and why the Charedim needed to oppose it.

      The purpose of lowering the age of the draft exemption is in order that the Charedim have a harder time reaching the goals the law has set for their conscription. If the age is 28, many Charedim will have joined the army by then, like they did until now. Lowering the age to 24 meant that they would not be included and the goals would not be reached, triggering harsh sanctions or automatic conscription of all Yeshiva bochurim.

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  7. https://www.maariv.co.il/elections-2022/Article-955033

    This is how a Jewish state is governed?

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  8. " I believe that the REAL reason in Israel it is so much different is for a variety of reasons, amongst them..."

    You forget to mention money.

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  9. Natan, you know very well that the left would not flinch if they got a disproportionate percentage of seats due to right wing parties not getting in. In fact, due to the stupidity of the right and their inclination to split and divide, this has frequently benefited the left.

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  10. Question for the crowd. If Bibi manages to get to 61 this election, wouldn't that end up justifying his conduct - specifically voting against legislation that he would normally support - for the sake of taking down the gov't that was considered dangerous for the country (at least in some ppl's eyes)?
    - DD

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  11. Go Ometz
    vote against injection mandates and pharma corruption

    Ometz party in English

    ReplyDelete

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