Israel’s recent elections dramatically cemented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s mandate to draw finite defensible territorial borders and pursue a de-facto two-state separation. Rooted in the vision ushered by former PM Ariel Sharon, a strong supra-majority endorsed evacuating settlements from the Palestinian territories – a firm and historic rejection of absolutist visions informed by sobering pragmatism. This plan will only accelerate after Tuesday’s terrorist attack that left 9 citizens dead and 60 wounded without any condemnation from the Hamas-led government.
Nine OneVoice Israeli Board members were elected into the Israeli Knesset, representing a broad political spectrum, from Kadima to Labor, from Shas to the Arab Democratic Party. See who they are and which parties they belong to.
And outstandingly, one of the leaders of the OneVoice Youth Leadership Council, Yoel Hasson, was also elected into the Knesset. Yoel was chairman of Likud Next Generation and later, when the party split, he became chairman of KADIMA’s Next Generation. As a member of the Political Leaders Council in the OneVoice Youth Leadership Program, Yoel was instrumental in several of the initiatives undertaken by OneVoice Israel over the last 18 months.
See Break-Down of Election Results According to Camps.
What Path Now: Unilateral Steps vs. Negotiations?
Low Voter Turnout
A worrisome facet of the most recent elections was the low turnout: only 63.2 percent of Israel's approximately 5 million voters went to the polls, the lowest turnout ever for an Israeli parliamentary election. http://blog.onevoicemovement.org/one_voice/2006/04/low_voter_turno.html
This is reflective of a dangerous trend towards apathy and escapism, where citizens “sign-off” from participating in the political process. Two of the factors behind this are a) overall hopelessness and a belief that no solutions exist to existentialist problems; and b) a trend towards believing citizens don’t have a role to play and that decisions are made within “the corridors of power” by a political elite increasingly perceived as corrupt, self indulgent and detached from the concerns of the people.
OneVoice Poll: Youth Apathy/Disconnect
Recognizing the problem is particularly acute with young voters, OneVoice-Israel commissioned a poll to raise awareness about the challenges. Poll results showed a big indifference among young people (ages 18-32), especially among those holding moderate or “centrist” views:
• Only 44% of young people eligible to vote said that they would go out and vote. Among women and among moderates the percentages were even lower.
• Only 27% of young people expressed any “interest” in the elections and only 36% felt that their vote could have an influence.
• 20% admitted that they learn about politics from the top-rated political satire TV show “Eretz Nehederet” (akin to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart).
The survey became a hot topic in Israel and received wide coverage. Over 40 interviews were held with OneVoice activists and staff members.
explored the apathy of young people.
OneVoice Get-Out-the-Vote Pro-Moderation Campaign
In this context, One-Voice Israel organized a two-month intensive Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign to increase turnout targeted at mainstream youth with the motto “If you won’t vote, the extremists will vote for you.”
Events included outreach to night life areas such as the Tel Aviv Seaport, Haifa’s Moria Street, Hebrew University and Bar Ilan University cafes, and Beersheba’s Chika and BGU-centric bars, where the Youth chairs of some of the largest parties – including Kadima, Labor, Likud, Shinui and Meretz – together with 160 of OneVoice and political activists wearing OneVoice shirts – handed out night-life-party-like “invitations” to get out and vote that said: “Don’t let the extremists vote for you.” Coffee was served with the motto: “wake up and protect your rights.” http://www.onevoice.org.il/email/email_070306.html
On the day of the election, two OneVoice mini vans drove between Tel Aviv and Hertzliya and urged moderates not to stay home.
Two video clips were also released that generated a lot of buzz.
• an animated clip juxtaposing inactive moderates laying back on the beach vis a vis well-mobilized extremists. http://onevoice.org.il/media/voice_movie.swf
• a 2 minutes video clip by Eyal Kitizs & Tal Friedman, the stars of Eretz Nehederet, the highest-rated TV show in Israel that youth state they get their news from - calling on young people to vote. http://www.onevoice.org.il/email/email_260306.html
An estimated 1 million people were exposed to the internet campaign which besides the vide clips included a banner campaign in Israel’s leading websites frequented by youth ages 21-35. A total of 31,379 new visitors registered on the OneVoice Israel website.
Animated Banner: If moderates don’t vote, extremists will fill the void: http://www.onevoice.org.il/everybody.html
OV Israeli Monthly news update, including items on various activities - http://www.onevoice.org.il/email/email_100306.html
In the end, while turn out was very low, this time the mainstream majority showed up at the polls and a firm mandate against extremist positions was achieved. The incoming Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has been a staunch friend of OneVoice and he has taken a pragmatic path towards a very complex and intricate situation. The enormous challenge now is to prevent spoilers from derailing the hopes of millions, and to empower citizens to recognize that not only they have the power to positively influence the process, but that their hopes will not be achieved without them buttressing and propelling their elected leaders to reach a negotiated comprehensive and final resolution to the conflict.
This report was prepared with the support of OV Leadership Director Dr. Muli Peleg and OV Executive Director Gil Shamy.