With Israeli election campaigns winding down before the January 22 vote, OneVoice Israel just wrapped up its own non-partisan election campaign. Traveling around the country was a ballot – not to elect a politician – but to vote on what everyday Israelis believe to be the top issues.
Youth leader and OVI’s coordinator for the region of central Israel, Ori Ben-Ner, talked about his experience at OneVoice, the ballot campaign, and what the elections mean for Israel’s future.
OneVoice: Why did you join the Movement?
Ori: I joined OneVoice for two reasons. First, I believe that this conflict is the main and most urgent problem that Israel is dealing with and that we need to solve it ASAP. The second reason is more personal – I don’t think that I can continue living in Israel, morally speaking. The conflict leaves me with no other choice because I like my home and country and wish to build my life here. The work at OneVoice gives me hope.
OV: Why did you want to get involved in the ballot campaign?
Ori: The main reason that I wanted to get involved in this specific campaign is its basic idea. This campaign symbolizes my main beliefs on the subject of the conflict: you simply can't maintain an ongoing and harmful conflict while expecting the economy to flourish and the citizens to feel secure.
OV: What cities or campuses were you located, and what did you say to people as they approached the ballot?
Ori: We did this campaign at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and at Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. We also put up the ballot at bars in Herzliya and again in Tel Aviv University and in crowded streets and markets in Tel Aviv, while other activists did the same in numerous towns and campuses across the country. I mainly asked people about the issue that most concerns them in the upcoming elections. About 90 percent of the people answered something that fits one of our voting slips. After they voted for their issue, we explained why it has to do with the two-state solution and we give them a flyer that explains it as well.
OV: What were the reactions of these people, and were there any confrontations or good discussions? Did they see the connection between the issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right away?
Ori: I think that the biggest advantage of this campaign is the fact that it is a great platform for discussion. Most people actually stayed listened to us, and read the information we gave them. I believe that it has to do with the fun and active platform with which we approached them. We had some great discussions at Bar-Ilan, a university with a large percentage of religious/right-wing voters. After they voted, we confronted them with our information and about the settlements, conflict, and occupation. Obviously, there were many students that started to argue or shout, but some religious and right wing students actually stayed for long discussions and were very open to hearing our views. Regarding the connection between the issues and conflict, it definitely takes some convincing. Many people are aware of the connection, but most citizens here need some explanation.
OV: What is the general feeling in Israeli society toward the elections?
Ori: I believe that people are mostly apathetic to the upcoming elections. Most people feel that the politicians aren’t dealing with their basic and daily problems. I believe that the politicians are trying to back away from the two-state solution because they feel that they can lose voters by promoting it. This is exactly what our campaign deals with. I do believe that any day that passes without negotiations and efforts to end the conflict brings us closer to deeper stagnation, violent acts and uprisings, and a dysfunctional future.