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For the last few weeks I haven't been able to decide who to vote for. Finally, I figured it out. There's a party whose ideals I agree with, and whose leadership I respect.
But I'm not going to vote for them. Instead, I'm going to vote for a party whose ideals I don't agree with, led by people who I don't respect.
Because of the strange way that Israel's electoral system works, I think that this is strategically the correct move. Allow me to explain.
The party whose ideals I do agree with, with the leaders that I do respect, is Bayit Yehudi (now part of Yamina). But the problem with the religious right wing receiving a lot of votes is that the coalition that Bibi would build with them includes Shas and UTJ. And this means nothing less than the gradual destruction of the State of Israel.
Those sound like crazy, extreme words. But it's all based on simple math and measurable facts. I cannot strongly enough urge everyone to read a terrifying article, titled Demography, Democracy and Delusions, just published by Prof. Dan Ben-David, an economist at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Public Policy who heads the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research. It's important to read the article in its entirety, but here are some highlights. First, spelling out the basics:
"...The next few years will not only determine Israel’s future character but also whether or not the country will even exist for our grandchildren. Life is not a computer game. It’s not possible to click “undo” or “reset” in the future if it turns out that we messed up today. When those who threaten our very existence are plowing ahead in their efforts to obtain game-changing weapons, our national security will continue to require that Israel have a first world army, and that’s contingent on having a first world economy. "
That's an indisputable, basic fact. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that having a first world economy is not about living a materially comfortable lifestyle - it's required in order for this tiny country to survive. (In the article, he explains at greater length why this is the case.)
"Israel’s future ability to maintain a first world economy is being determined in the country’s schools today. Only a very small portion of Israeli society belongs to the hi-tech, the universities, and the other parts of the Start-Up Nation. Most of the country’s population is not receiving either the tools or the conditions to work in a modern society – and it has been dragging down the entire country since the 1970s."
Also an indisputable fact. The notion that charedim can today nevertheless adapt later in life, via various "catch-up" programs, is a myth. It's too little, too late. And those programs have an astonishing 75% drop-out rate.
Next comes a point that many people don't even realize at all:
"The implication of Israel’s multi-decade retreat from the leading countries is reflected in large and increasing gaps between what Israel’s most educated are able to earn abroad versus their earning possibilities in Israel. Just a very small portion of society has been responsible for keeping Israel in the first world. If a critical mass from this group decides to emigrate, the gap between the leading countries and Israel that has been steadily growing over the past forty years will be blasted to the heavens with the force of a booster rocket."
Modern Israelis - the ones who ensure that Israel's economy and army keep it alive - are not going to hang around while the country turns into Bnei Brak or even Beit Shemesh. They'll leave, and the country will not survive.
The goal of chareidi politicians is short-term voter appeasement via giving them cash handouts and preventing any societal change, in particular in the field of education. Consequently, they are dragging down charedi society. But even worse, they will take down the rest of the country with them:
"If a population group this large continues to exercise considerable influence on the direction and amplitude of flows from the government faucet in a manner that only further enhances their exponential growth, while concurrently depriving their children of the vital tools necessary for integration into a competitive global economy and a modern society, Israel will cease to exist."
Lest you think that only a secular hater of charedim could talk this way, I would like to stress that I personally know people in charedi society who think exactly the same way. And no less a person than Yonasan Rosenblum, one of the premiere spokesmen in the charedi world for decades, also stated it explicitly. Noting that "20% of the school children in Israel between first and sixth grade are now in chareidi educational frameworks," he asked “who will fund the maintenance of this army if Israeli society is poor?” He also notes that “the modern economy puts a high premium on education, and ever more jobs require academic or vocational training of some kind.” Of course he couldn't spell out the consequences of nothing significantly changing, but they are exactly as Ben-David said: Israel will cease to exist.
That is the single most relevant issue in these elections. On security matters, there is no significant difference between any of the large parties, because there is no left wing to speak of any more (due to the Second Intifada and the disaster of the Gaza disengagement). The only significant issue is whether there will be a religious right-wing government with Shas and UTJ, or a national unity government with Likud and Blue-And-White. The latter will also include some smaller parties - perhaps Yisrael Beiteinu (Avigdor Lieberman), perhaps Bayit Yehudi.
It's the latter option that is crucial to implement now, in order that the country will still exist twenty years from now. The way to help it happen is to vote either Blue-And-White or Yisrael Beiteinu (which strongly advocates for a national unity government and will not join a coalition with UTJ). And so, much as I dislike both of these parties, I will be voting for one of them. I urge everyone to put aside their emotions and to think about what the facts state about the long-term survival of our precious country.
For further reading:
Demography, Democracy, and Delusions
Rosenblum: We All Need Charedim To Get Academic Education And Professional Employment