Next week, I will have to go to my polling station, stand behind a curtain, chose a paper ballot from among the 30 that will be arranged there, place that small square piece of paper in an envelope and put it in the blue ballot box decorated with the shield of the state of Israel.
I am having some trouble visualizing this process right now because, in my mind, when I reach for my small paper ballot, I have no idea which one I am going to take.
I have a pretty good idea of who I am not going to vote for, however.
I was hopelessly undecided when we went to the polls just five months ago. I wasn’t even sure who I was going to vote for as I took a break from Passover cleaning to walk over to my polling place at a local school to cast my ballot.
In the end I gave in to my biggest fears – security, and the fear of being evacuated from my home, and that is how I cast my ballot, even though I felt like I had to take a shower when I got home. As far as I am concerned now, and hindsight is 20-20, it was a wasted vote.
Yet, when I learned that we would have a new election, which many have called a “do-over,” though it is indeed a new election, I welcomed the opportunity for a second chance.
But, I am having a hard time getting security and the Israel-Palestinian conflict off my mind. Just as I also cannot stop thinking about education, justice, affordable food and housing and overcrowded hospitals either. I am truly the product of my liberal American upbringing plus the last 20 years spent living in a town surrounded by Palestinians, many of whom would not be sorry to see me, everyone in my town and most Jews drop dead and be out of their way.
We need it all – guns and butter, as my college economics professor would have said.
And after all of our recent domestic and international political machinations, which frankly have made us look half like a banana republic instead of the one true democracy in the Middle East, a post-election show of unity would be a positive development.
To achieve all of the things we truly need in this country, we need politicians from both sides of the political aisle to discuss our options, brainstorm together, and work together to make it happen.
Which is why I would like to see a unity government and I plan to cast my ballot accordingly.
I realize that Israeli unity governments have not always been all about kumbaya and compromise: though one of those kind of governments did get us through the Six-Day War and the War of Attrition.
Another unity government in 1984, post the first Lebanon War, oversaw the Israeli military’s withdrawal from most of Lebanon to the security zone along the Lebanese border. And still another managed to implement the Gaza Disengagement (hence my nagging worry about being kicked out of my home).
Polls still show Benjamin Netanyahu’s center-right Likud Party and the center-left Blue and White party led by former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz running neck and neck, with both blocks – depending on where some of the smaller parties fall – also running close to even. This along with Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party with its estimated 10 Knesset seats, serving as the kingmaker. But his stated preference is for a unity government and he might be crazy enough and pushy enough to get us there. Gantz has also expressed support for a unity government, but only if Netanyahu no longer heads the Likud.
None of this really means that I am completely comfortable voting for any party in the Sept. 17 election. And I may still need a shower after casting my ballot. But this time, I will vote my conscience and not my fears.
However, if anyone asks, I am voting for the Pirate Party of Israel. The party that got 816 total votes in the April elections. I love an underdog. And I love to keep ‘em guessing.
Marcy Oster is a former Clevelander who covers the Middle East for the Cleveland Jewish News from Karnei Shomron, West Bank. To read more of Oster’s columns, visit cjn.org/oster.