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What We Voted for, and Against

The night before the elections for Prime Minister, I dreamt I was standing in an election booth faced with three buttons. I knew exactly which one I wanted to press, but there seemed to be so many things I was being asked to vote for. I just kept pressing button after button, making choice after choice. Finally, I remember facing the buttons and pressing all three of them and realizing, to my horror, that I had accidentally voted for Ehud Barak.

I stood still in the booth filled with shame, hoping that he’d lose anyway and that no one would find out what I’d done. I remember being awash in a sense of failure: I had waited so long, and so patiently, to send Mr. Barak home and here, I had gone and voted for him.

I was glad when I awoke and found the sun shining and my time in the voting booth still ahead of me. I felt hopeful as I dressed and had breakfast and then hurried with my precious voter’s card to the local school building serving as our election headquarters. All around me, piles of garbage from the ongoing strike of municipal workers created a Third-World stench, and I found myself holding my nose as I hurried through them.

Although it was still early, there was a lively flow of my neighbors, apparently as anxious as I to put the little yellow note in the envelope and drop it into the box. And I thought: what a pleasure it is to live in a democracy, however flawed, in which a citizen can vent his frustration and anger by removing power from the powerful through a process as civilized as voting. After all, in other countries where people feel those in power are endangering their lives, heads have been know to roll.

As I placed Mr. Sharon’s name in the envelope, I checked it carefully to make sure it wasn’t misspelled, because of all the e-mail warnings I’d received that the left was planning to put fake ballots in the booths that would be disqualified. I was careful, too, to make sure I put in only one ballot. Nothing, I thought, a little frightened, could interfere with my vote being counted.

And then it was over, my little moment of empowerment. And I wondered if it was enough for me. If I’d really been allowed to say all I’d wanted. If my vote would be interpreted correctly by those who read the election results.

Because my vote, like my dream, was full of meanings, complex and passionate and life-affirming and angry and bitter… I wanted to say to Ehud Barak that his willingness to gamble with our history, our future, and our lives has earned him our unending contempt, distrust, and dislike.

I wanted to say to Yasir Arafat that his gunmens’ bullets (that I believe are totally under his control- because otherwise he risks having the bullets turned against him) have shattered the delicate newborn shell of peace that took seven years to grow, killing the tiny fledgling within.

I wanted to say to Mr. Ben Ami, that I hope I never have to see his face again in any public forum, and that he will not be able to hold public office in this country as long as both of us shall live.

I wanted to say to Mr. Sharon that I have given him my very tentative support– not the Likud Party, which consists, like all of Israel’s political parties, of mostly aging, corrupt, unemployable mediocrities with neither faith nor character. He will have that support as long as he displays an uncompromising stance on security. We expect him to treat the Palestinians as the American Indians are treated: with respect. And we expect him to respond to shootings and bombings and riots by the Palestinians in the same way the Americans would respond to similar activities by American Indians with land grievances in Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico…

As I rode home, I passed the home of Dr. Shimanovitz, whose two young sons were injured in a terrorist attack in the Mahane Yehuda shuk during Oslo. And the home of the Edri’s, whose son was killed in Lebanon during Oslo. And the Wachsman’s, whose son was murdered by Palestinians who kidnapped and held him hostage during Oslo.

And as I walked through my front door, I realized that most of all, I hoped that my vote would mean an end to the years of horror unleashed by the phony rhetoric and dangerous defeatism of Oslo. That I, and all my fellow Israelis, might once again experience what civilized people all over the civilized world enjoy when they walk their streets and enter their homes: safety and freedom from fear. Because we’ve learned the hard way that that is the only kind of peace worth having. It is the only kind I will ever again give my vote to pursue.

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