COUNT THE BLANK BALLOTS
was Israel further from democracy as it is in the coming elections. In the
polls, 60% of the voters wanted another candidate to run against the two
generals, but the political system, blatantly ignoring anything known about the
will of the majority, forced a choice between only two candidates, neither of
whom nears the majority of 50+%, required by law.
than a month ago, we were still at the peak of the war hysteria which Barak and
his close military circle have generated. "I have not yet managed to
understand from Arafat that he is willing to acknowledge the existence of the
state of Israel" - he declared. The spirit of 1948 was thick in the air:
war with the occupied Palestinians, with the Israeli Palestinians, and "if
necessary" - with Syria and the whole Arab world. For the first time in his
cadence, Barak looked glowing and focused, like someone who has finally reach
dangerous and power-driven general is now being packaged as our savior the
knight of peace. And those who don't want him, are stuck with Sharon.
reached this state through a long process of neglect of the basic values of
democracy. Formally, the elections system of Israel is similar to that in
France. There too, the law states that the (presidency) elections can be decided
on the first round only with absolute majority, namely, if there is a candidate
who got more than 50% of the votes. But there, there are always more than two
candidates. The underlying assumption is that the elections are the time at
which the society determines its way for the next few years. If no
candidate has gained in advance the support of the majority, there should be a
second process of discussion and convincing, towards the second round.
in Israel, there is already a tradition of forcing a decision in the first
round. In the last, 1999, elections massive pressure was exercised on the other
candidates to withdraw before the first round. This time this was already
guaranteed at the start, with a hasty decision process, in a military style.
even under such circumstances, it would not have been possible in France to
force the voters to elect in a single round one of two hated candidates. Assume
that one candidate got 35% of the votes, and the other - 40%. The other 25%, who
object to both, casted a blank ballot. The result is that no candidate got the
required 50%, and a solution should be found in another round.
in Israel, at the eve of the 1996 elections, when Peres feared the blank ballots
which awaited him following his 'grapes of wrath' attack on Lebanon, he enforced
a regulation stating that the blank ballots are "disqualified",
namely, they are not counted in the total of which 50% is required. Thus, with
just one arbitrary law, the most essential principle underlying this system of
elections - that an absolute majority is needed to decide in the first round -
has simply vanished.
practice, it is because of this regulation that Peres lost the elections. 5% of
the voters, from the left, voted nevertheless blank. Had their votes been
counted, Netanyahu too would not have passed in the first round. Nevertheless,
the regulation stayed, like so many illegal regulations, so easy to pass in
Israel. In the present situation, those who do not accept the predetermined
choice generated by the power system face a clear verdict:
"disqualified" - out of the political game!
should Barak worry about the smashing lack of support he encounters? The winner
will be the one who can get the peace-voters, and on this front, Barak believes
he is omnipotent.
is possible to pull out of one's hat a new peace process. As in the case of
Syria, Barak can even instruct his aids to spread rumors about dismantling
settlements. As long as it's all only in the media, and not in any written
document - why not? In any case, all that is being discussed is yet another
"framework" agreement for three to six years. Possibly, Arafat can be
forced again to sign, shake hands, and be photographed in peace positions, as he
was trained to do so well during the years of Oslo. To ease his way, the same
lies about 67 borders, or division of Jerusalem, can be recycled once again.
is a bit hard to believe that it will be possible, indeed, to sell the same lies
again after Syria, after Camp David, after the attack on the Israeli Arabs,
after Barak's "There is no partner for peace" declarations, and while
in the territories, the Israeli army continues to starve, torture and
assassinate the Palestinians.
Barak knows that he is very well covered. At his service there is a government
that has long given up its right to be informed of his plans, and three loyal
peace parties - One Israel, Meretz, and Hadash (CP)- which will each explain to
the slice of population it is in charge of, that this time it is really peace
and we must vote Barak. He also has obedient media that will recycle happily the
praises of his new peace offers, and a battery of intellectuals who will prove
with a magic wand that we are only imagining that the king is naked.
Barak chooses indeed this scenario (rather than opting directly for war,
avoiding altogether the nuisance of elections), it is possible that, as the
jubilees of the elections peace fade away, we will find ourselves again with a
single ruler who consults only with the army, and who will, perhaps, try to
argue that he is not subjected to the parliament decisions because he was
crowned directly by the people. And then it will just turn out that after
all, 'there is no partner to peace and Arafat does not respect agreements', and
we will go back to 1948.
before we complete this transition into a military dictatorship in parliamentary
disguise, it is still possible to go back to the spirit of democracy and the
law. It is necessary, first, to annul the shameful regulation disqualifying the
blank ballots, and let the voters decide. If there is no candidate with a 50%
majority, the process should be reopened, so we can have real elections.