A while back I made a joke. Israel’s first round of the current elections didn’t work out and we were forced to go to second elections. I took a look at the political landscape, contemplated how most of it would pan out, didn’t see a scenario in which things would be any different the second time around, and predicted there would be a third set of elections.
My Son and the Elections
My joke? My son was 15 at the time. I thought things were so messed up, I quipped that this would just continuously happen again and again, so much so that my son would actually get to vote in this election.
And here we are. We just had round four. There is no clear path for anyone to take hold of the country’s leadership, which will inevitably lead to a round five… And my son is turning 18 in just over five months.
It’s a heaping ton of wildly unpredictable and completely expected. The system was good for a time. But right now the system is its own worst enemy. And at the rate we’re going, we’ll be having the election over and over again until the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, either steps down or leaves this world permanently. I honestly couldn’t imagine which scenario would be more likely to happen first.
Some observations from a rather underwhelming experience:
1) Aren’t they ALL throwaway votes?
This time around, I voted for a party that basically had no chance of making it into the government. Why would I do something so wasteful and irresponsible?
Way back when I did so, and kicked myself, since every vote really does matter in Israel. And I had tossed mine into the trashcan.
But this time around I felt different. My vote for an obscure party is no less a throwaway vote than someone who voted for one of the most mainstream parties if this whole ordeal just finds us going to elections again. So I might as well take a stand. I might as well demonstrate that I’m voting for principles that mean something to me. Who knows? Maybe the more people who think like that, the easier it will eventually become to let the country know there are issues truly important to us we don’t feel get represented nearly enough.
So I voted for economic reform. Not because I thought the party I chose would become productive members of our government. But because the economy is cruddy, and got battered horrifically in 2020 through countless thoughtless decisions. And someone needs to know that there are those of us who want change.
2) Term Limits: Has Their Time Come?
The time has come for term limits. Benjamin Netanyahu has served for twelve years (and 15, if you count his first run). When someone holds power for this long, nothing good ever comes out of it. When someone has massive amounts of unchecked power for long enough, it starts to feel more like a dictatorship than a democracy. And that is not a position any of us wants to be in.
I know it would seem counterintuitive, but I think Netanyahu himself should be the one calling for term limits. Why? He would be a hero who brought Israel just another step closer to having a flawless democracy. And it would give him the opportunity to leave the office with his head held high.
At this point, he’s poising himself to go down in history as the leader who stayed in power way too long and capitalized on repeated idiotic elections, never able to form a government because he was too stubborn to step away from leading his party. Wouldn’t it be better for him to leave office with a laundry list of incredible accomplishments, with a grateful country sad to see him go, than the likely inevitable crappy ending we are heading toward?
Do I think whoever is coming next will do a better job? I have no idea. Honestly, probably not. But I think fundamental changes to the system are worth it. For the future of Israel and for the future of democracy. And if you think it’s silly to expect or hope for quick systemic changes to the process, please note that in the eight years I lived in Israel the first time, the election system underwent extremely major changes twice. There is absolutely no reason it couldn’t happen again.
3) Time for Israel to Grow Up!
There is nothing that can make a person feel like their country needs to grow up more than shoving your ballot slip of paper into an envelope and then placing it into a cardboard box. Every time I do it, I feel like I’m in 8th grade and I’m voting for class president, pushing for Vinny who promised more ice cream in the cafeteria.
Why in the world can’t the country that gave us flash drives, the Pillcam, and, of course, cherry tomatoes, come up with an election system that doesn’t look like it was designed by children? Why in the world can we not modernize, even just a little bit?
Not only would it be more attractive and more efficient, and less prone to biases of social proof, but it would be far less wasteful. I can’t even imagine how much paper is wasted on election day. Actually, I don’t have to. I looked it up. Holy crap!
You’d think with all the practice we’ve had with elections in these two years, we would have gotten much better at this!
4) Election Wastefullnes
And speaking of wastefulness, election day in Israel sadly highlights one of my biggest concerns about the country: Littering.
My wife and I like to go vote at the last possible minute. It’s so much easier with all the crowds gone. We’re in and out in minutes.
However, it comes at a small cost. After a full day of people harassing others to vote for their party, for whatever reason people usually choose the ground as the proper place to dispose of their leftover cheesy flyers. So as we head off to the polls, we walk past massive amounts of trash all over the floor. Yes, elections serve the sacred purpose of covering the ground of the holiest city in the world with litter. Not a very noble outcome! Especially in an era in which online advertising is so much more essential than pieces of paper. And a whole lot cleaner!
So, Israel, you want my vote? Create a party that fights against littering… and smoking too! What else could I possibly need?
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