With Israel’s third election looming, local missionaries express frustration over latest deadlock.
Featured photo courtesy of Nina Yahalomi Klevitsky
On Monday, March 2, Israelis will head to the polls for the third time in less than a year to participate in a national election. But some of the government’s emissaries in Michigan aren’t holding out hope for a different outcome.
“I think we are going to end up with the same result as the previous two elections,” Nina Yahalomi Klevitsky, Senior Community Shlicha for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit (JFMD), told the Jewish News. “There has even been some talk about a fourth election, but I really hope that these leaders will all sit in a room and figure this out.”
Klevitsky was sent to Michigan in 2017 by The Jewish Agency for Israel, a non-profit organization that operates in collaboration with the State of Israel, to bring Israeli culture and educational resources to the Metro Detroit community. She’s one of many Israelis currently living in Michigan who have watched the country’s last several months of political chaos from afar.
The two prior standoffs between sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, which began with the first election in April 2019, have each ended with deadlock. The election’s winners have thus far been unable to form a majority coalition in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Under Israeli law, failure to form a 61-seat coalition triggers another election.
Although there are Israelis living in Metro Detroit, not many of them can vote in the Israeli national elections, or even if they can, they often choose not to.
“In order to vote, you have three conditions that must exist,” Klevitsky said. “[The voter] needs to be over 18, be a citizen of Israel and must have an address or a residence in Israel.”
There are no absentee ballots, which means that any Israelis in the U.S. not on behalf of the government must fly back to Israel for the elections if they wish to vote.
“Most Israelis here don’t have the right to go back and vote. But, even if they do have that right, most Israelis here will not pay thousands of dollars to fly back to Israel just to participate in the election,” Klevitsky said.
Since Klevitsky has been sent abroad on behalf of the State of Israel on a specific mission, she and her husband do not have to travel back to Israel to vote. Instead, they are allowed to vote at the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest in Chicago.
Tomer Moked, Director of NEXTGen for JFMD, is also a representative from The Jewish Agency for Israel and can likewise vote at the Consulate in Chicago.
“While there are not many Israelis here in Michigan who can vote, the people who I do converse with about the elections are very frustrated and exhausted with them,” Moked said. “I do hope things will change and that these candidates will be responsible adults and move forward, because I do not believe we can go for another round of elections.”
Moked has even talked with some Israeli voters who have changed their votes from the previous two elections in hopes that their switch will help make a difference in the outcome. Netanyahu’s party won the first election, but Gantz’s won the second. Both failed to form a majority coalition. Since the second election Netanyahu has been indicted by the Israeli Attorney General on corruption charges, throwing yet another wrench into the political process.
“My worry is not with people who are changing their votes. My fear is that Israelis who can vote choose not to, because they believe that their vote doesn’t matter,” Moked said. “That is the worst thing we can do as Israeli citizens.”
Klevitsky agrees that Israelis are not only frustrated with the candidates’ inability to work together to form a government but are also at a point where these elections are becoming “ridiculous.”
“Our country is not functioning. There is no budget, no new laws or policies can be implemented, and everything is just at a halt,” Klevitsky said. “Our candidates need [to] put their egos aside and work together for the people of Israel.”