With nothing better to do than engage people whose opinions I had not yet asked about the election in Israel, I sent a simple message to a few dozen friends stating, “Partly because I remain undecided and partly because I’m curious and asking people who I respect, who are you voting for and why. “
While official polls ended on Friday, mine is unofficial and unscientific. The margin of error could be 50% or more. I surveyed a random group of people who I thought of, who I respect, and who’s position I truly did not know.
The comments below represent most of them, even the most mundane comments, with the exception of those from friends who were too lazy to write a text and, rather, sent an audio message in response. And since I am too lazy (or busy) to transcribe all their messages, their input is not registered here, with one exception.
I did however ask a diverse group of people who represent the right and the left, Jews and Arabs, immigrants and native Israelis.
Here is what my crazy friends have to say. By full disclosure, two of them are biologically related to me (second and third cousins who are not related to one another and also represent opposite sides of the spectrum). For the record, punctuation, capitalization and spelling are my friends’ mistakes. All comments are anonymous because I didn’t ask anyone if I could use their words with attribution.
I realize that some of the names and comments require a background into details about Israeli political leaders, politics, and society that readers outside Israel may not have. Please feel free to be in touch to ask for clarification, or to join the webinar I have planned after the ballots are counted to look at what the results might mean.
First, the number of people who remain undecided in my poll is unusually high. It is a word and theme repeated over and over and will have a significant impact on tomorrow’s actual vote that I believe is not sufficiently represented in the polls.
I haven't decided yet.
Still figuring it out.
I'm undecided as well.
Going step by step.
I’m undecided also but I’m really scared about Ben Gvir.
The chorus is definitely “undecided” but there’s very little harmony beyond that. If you try however, these could be sung to the tune of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Easy come, easy go, I do not know for whom to vote. No, we will not let you vote, let him vote, will not let you vote, let him vote, we will not let you vote, let me vote, Will not let you vote, let me vote.
Never, never, never, never let me vote
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh, undecided, undecided, undecided, let me vote…
Adding an element of exasperation to his being undecided, one wrote, “I am probably not going to decide until I’m in the voting booth and then will promptly forget who I voted for.”
When prodded with a gentle question even among undecided “where are you leaning?” layers of the onion were revealed showing a wide range of ideas.
There were some common themes. First, if the number of people considering voting for (right wing) Ayelet Shaked and her Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party won’t vote for her because it might be a wasted vote actually did vote for her/them, it might be enough for her party to pass the threshold rather than becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The concern is that if the party doesn’t receive at least 3.25% of the vote they won’t make it into the Knesset at all. But some just support her outright:
I think Shaked.
If I were confident that Shaked passes the electoral threshold, I would vote for Bayit Yehudi.
I've always wanted to give Ayelet Shaked a chance at leadership, I think she's compromised on her values the least and stayed roughly in the same lane.
I probably won’t decide till I’m in the ballot room. If I do vote, I’m slightly leaning towards Ayelet Shaked.
Among the current round of party leaders, she’s probably the one I trust the most. But I have to weigh that against the real possibility that she won’t make it to the “finish line.”
I decided to vote Bayit Yehudi. I don't trust anyone or any party on the right, and still have much anger towards Ayelet Shaked. But I'm voting for them because politically and religiously I relate to them most. And I decided to vote with my heart, and not "strategically".
I liked Ayelet and Bennett. But now without Bennett and a bunch of religious Zionist mediocres and without her likely even making it in, I’m likely voting for gantz although Lieberman checks off a lot of boxes for me:(. Feeling depressed about the entire thing.
This is a rough one. Was actually considering not voting. Then I was leaning towards Ayelet Shaked, even knowing that polls give her no chance of getting in...but with the one in a million chance that my vote will get her in. However after last night's news ... I am leaning towards voting for Smotrich/Ben Gvir.
Probably Ayelet. But kinda hoping she doesn't cross the threshold and brings Netanyahu down.
I’m voting bayit yehudi - I trust Ayelet Shaked, want her in Knesset, i support their platform and feel that they took a courageous chance last election - even if it didn’t pan out - it should be commended - people have short memories.
I am in the states - if I was (home), I would vote - Shaked my first choice, and my second choice would be Lapid. Reason - many more would vote for her, people on the right ran a negative campaign convincing people not to vote for her because she will never get in (which becomes a self-servicing prophecy) even if she does not make it in. the votes will be divided up so it’s not 100% a loss- now the reason,
1) I feel that she works for what’s best for the country as a whole vs her party, 2) honest and sincere, 3) she understands a larger picture, 4) she is “not religious “she more religious than me. She understands what a Jew means. 5) she is not running a negative campaign.
If I believe Ayelet Shaked will pass the threshold, I would vote for her. My first elections in Israel in the 80's I voted for a party, (that) didn't pass the threshold. I told myself I would never take that chance again. But I always vote by my ideology. Except for once that likud tricked me into voting for them.
It’s obvious that people on the left and center left don’t want or trust former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi. In many ways, the election is a referendum on him. But there are a surprising number of right-wing voters who want to vote right wing but won’t, for one of a variety of reasons including not wanting Bibi to be prime minister, not wanting to vote for a party that would enable Bibi to become prime minister again, and/or which might line up ideologically with their Zionist leanings, but cannot and do not see the current Religious Zionist party by the same name, or it’s leaders, being palatable (also for one of a variety of reasons).
If Bibi wasn’t leader of Likud, I would probably vote Likud
National Unity. Solid people on the ticket, Gantz is fine, I like Sa’ar, Matan Kahana, Pnina Tamano-Shata
They seem reasonable and closest to what the Right used to be. Just feel unity has substance and is more right leaning.
Well, I wish there was a political party that had a bit of Bibi (his understanding of global issues is his one strength), a bit of Ben Gvir (I like his tough stance re terrorists), and a bit of Shaked (her judicial reforms and religious institutions overhaul are refreshing).
Bibi did good things, besides losing his footing, just as Moses was good as a leader, sometimes you need someone with a different approach ( like Yehoshua to lead a different generation) also as Moses or king David who took the Jews out of Egypt or planed the building of the temple- it should not be the same person who brings the Jews in or build the temple because that can lead to corruption.
Nevertheless, Bibi and Likud still have their supporters.
As I told you before, there is not much choice, I’m voting for Bibi.
Very complicated. I think Bibi and Likud. But Ben Gvir would become disaster to Israel. Bibi needs to be very careful.
Support for current Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left to centrist) varies among people who like him and admire his leadership in the recent government (and being incumbent PM helps), along with the perception that he and his Yesh Atid (There is a Future) Party are the best choice not just for an (extremist) right wing government, but also to keep Bibi out of the Prime Minister’s residence.
Lapid. He has done a good job, has plans to continue his centrist path, not Bibi, not a racist.
My wife decided on Lapid few weeks ago. I only decided on last week. I feel It's really the only way to Stop Bibi.
Going with Lapid. Best chance of unseating Bibi. Once Bibi is gone, which might take 2-3 more elections. Then unity government will be easy.
I have been pleasantly surprised with Lapid. I feel he is working for the country's best interest, he’s has Apologized for mistakes he's made, and he willing to work and understand. He worked well with Bennet. ( Hard to Judge what going on in a person's head ) Leadership is representing the whole country, not just your party, he’s not running a campaign of fear. He understands from his father what it means and the importance of a Jewish state. I wish he had more of an understanding of what a Jewish state means not just because of the Holocaust.
If I was in the country, then Lapid. Don't want a government with Ben Gvir.
About half the time when referring to the (far right/religious/nationalist) Religious Zionism party, the person said they are voting for Ben Gvir, number two on the party’s list behind Bezalel Smotrich. Either way, it seems that the recent terror attacks this week have given them a bump among some people who had been wavering.
Ben Gvir. He speaks to me.
I am voting for Smotrich and Ben Gvir. When thinking it over I felt it was important to vote for people who I believe believe in my existence and are proud to be Jewish and believe in a strong Jewish Identity. We need a strong Israel, enough apologies to the Arabs and the world for our existence. I know Netanyahu will win and I would rather he choose them than Ganz.
I know I have to compromise my some of my other ideals, but I am voting for what is most important to me at the moment.
Religious Zionism. I don't see any other alternative.
I am going with the national religious party. For me all the parties to the left of Bibi are out. That leaves Likud, nrp, charedi parties and maybe Shaked. Shaked is out because of the mess she was involved in with the last government- the fact that she admits she made a mistake makes it worse- Israel can't afford those types of mistakes. The charedim or out because they are about the money and the stronger they are the harder it will be to integrate those of them that want to join mainstream Israeli society to join. (Note: NRP is the name of the former National Religious Party but the writer means Religious Zionism. Charedi also spelled Haredi, means the two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.)
I've never voted as right as Ben Gvir but I might. I voted for Rechavam Zevi, Moledet more than once, but It isn't that Ben Gvir is more " right wing”. I just don't care for his style.
Benny Gantz and the National Unity Party have an appeal because of what they stand for, who’s on the list, and/or as the most palatable alternative to a vote that will hopefully keep Bibi as head of the opposition. Confusion exists as to what he stands for personally, though as former IDF chief of staff he knows defense, and that he’s been connected to so many different parties by different names in his short political career, some don’t even know the name of his current party, so just refer to Gantz.
I’m missing the election in the US, but would likely be voting Ganz. Why? Cuz he won’t sit with Bibi and I think he’s reasonable.
Gantz. Least bad.
I am probably voting for Ganz's party. I toyed with voting Shaked. In some ways perhaps my best realistic hope would be Bibi not getting 61 and needing new elections (yes crazy to do this again)...but maybe we can get some better people/party composition I could vote for more enthusiastically, like Matan Kahane and his attempted, reforms, Chili Trooper...there are enough right wingers like Gidon Saar etc. to keep Gan from veering too far left...at least that's my hope.
Gantz because of Matan Kahana and others in his party, despite him.... And to vote against Bibi.
I’m leaning towards Gantz but I’m still undecided.
Leaning towards Gantz' party mostly because of Chili Tropper and the mix of dati/right wingers and left wingers and centrists.
I'm considering National Unity... Because I'm hoping that Gantz will join whoever wins... and form as large a coalition as possible. But maybe it's because I don't want to vote for Bibi or Lapid...
Some people didn’t answer directly, because of their position and didn’t want to appear partisan, or decided to be philosophical.
LOL. Boy, have you picked the wrong person. I make it an iron clad policy never to discuss this. I found it ONLY leads to uncomfortable places (even subtle) and this is the reason we vote in private. I have held on to many good friends by not sharing this. I don't even tell my wife. So PLEASE forgive me! 🙂 But I will tell you - this is what I feel like at this point....
Not sure you will like my answer...am quite fed up with the status quo.
I’m choosing not to vote. Last night I decided that I’m no longer participating in the farce. Believe me, I’m shocked that I’m saying these words.
I am voting for saving the democracy.
I honestly don’t want to vote. I don’t like anyone on the right these days and I don’t want to help vote in a left-wing government
I am hoping there will be a new election. there are too many extreme fractions that do not represent the people of Israel. the people of Israel are much more United than the political establishment.
I would not vote for any religious party because I believe that the Torah needs to be protected from politics, it must be kept honest. and not used as a tool of manipulation. We saw what happened when the kahuna got involved in politics.
Hopefully whatever turns out is best for the Jews and the Jewish country.
In the current reality, a grudge is forming between religious Zionism/Smotritch and Ben Gvir who opposes the amendment of the criminal law to abolish the offenses of which Netanyahu is accused/violation (and who) will receive significant portfolios in a Netanyahu government such as the justice and internal security, an end to the declared democracy, therefore this should not be allowed. The government of change, Lapid Gantz, Eisenkot from the national camp with the participation of Labor, Meretz and the others, while providing a safety net, support from the outside of Tibi and Odeh may form a government for several years.
To quote my daughter, doctor: “You are in good hands now you need to pray that you have the right emisaries” let's pray that whoever leads does well for all of us.
No party really represents me that I wholeheartedly want to vote for. I want o find and vote for the one person who I admire who is doing meaningful work in the government and I’ll vote for that person and whatever the party that person is with even if I am not enthralled with the party. This time the person I feel has really made a difference is Matan Kahana so I am going to vote for National Union even though I am not enamored with the party and I do want to vote for him.
There were a few notable miscellaneous honorable mentions.
I'm leaning toward Avigdor Liberman (center right party Yisrael Beytenu).
Not sure yet, Lapid or (left wing Labor party leader) Meirav Michaeli.
Ra’am (the Arab Islamist party headed by Mansour Abbas) - I was impressed with he risked his life by joining the government, also by him joining the government, is another nail in the coffin for the Palestinians, he put his ideological belief aside to help his people.
Most other countries would have had riots in the street and the economy would be in shambled after 5 elections - it shows Israel as a stable strong and unified country in the world despite the political situation (hopefully Bibi does not change it - that's why he needs to go)
Some people are undecided but vacillating between different parties for different reasons and, interestingly, different ends of the spectrum being considered by the same person.
That leaves Likud and NRP for me. I think we need someone stronger on security and prouder to be a religious Jewish in his homeland than Bibi. I think Bibi will be a good PM but he needs that pull from the right to give him cover - the stronger NRP is the less chance he will have to leave them out.
Still debating Shaked or Ben Gvir. BG has a lot of charisma is a real fighter for his cause.
Vacillating between gantz and Shaked. I’m thinking gantz. I’m a non-religiously motivated security hawk who ultimately wants building in already dense Jewish populated sections of the West Bank and no building in the rest which will be held in trust for a future peaceful Palestinian state. And I’m fiscally conservative. So, there is slim pickings for me.
There are several outtakes.
Some comments would be seen as a surprise given the number of right-wing voters who are voting for parties to the center and left, Jews voting for an Arab party, and Arabs voting right wing, or hoping for a “change government” with outside support from the Arab parties. The only support mentioned for Arab parties came from Jews.
There is an appeal among left- and right-wing voters for a centrist party or at least a centrist coalition. Specifically there are right-wing voters not comfortable with the current options and possible outcome of these options and are turning away from ideology and voting practically. The right-wing parties would do well to internalize this and build parties and a block that’s reliable and not as shrill. I suspect that if there were a party in the image of the old Mafdal running today, they’d do surprisingly well.
Today a friend is celebrating his birthday. After exchanging political ideas yesterday, I sent him a heartfelt seasonal message, “Happy birthday. I decided to get you a new government. I hope you like it. If not you might be able exchange it in a few months.”
These are some of the thoughts from an array of friends in Israel. Outside Israel, many friends write, asking me what I think, to explain intricacies that people overseas don’t see or understand, and how to pray for Israel.
While I can and do offer personal insight and am open with who I want to see and who I don’t want to see as part of a government (surprising many), as it relates to praying for Israel, I have three basic prayer points:
That we have a decisive election with a clear outcome that is good for Israel and brings us together rather than being divisive,
That our neighbors and enemies don’t use this as a chance to threaten us and test our ability, will, or resolve to defend ourselves, and
That whatever the outcome and whoever our leaders may be, they be imbued with a sense of the awesome responsibility that they have been given, not just as leaders of a nation state, but one that embodies God’s promises to Abraham and all the Jewish people since, and that they have a sense of their own responsibility not just to us, the citizens, but to God in their role as such.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He is host of the popular Inspiration from Zion podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.