The polls were set to open in Jerusalem at 7:00 AM. This turned out to be a suggestion. In our neighborhood the barriers were moved aside at 7:40. The delay allowed those who arrived on time to shake their fists and shout thank yous to the soldiers and election officials who blocked their way. I do not understand why everyone seemed so upset. Maybe they objected to the armed soldiers keeping order at the polls?
This was understandable, but should little Israel hope to emulate the American standard of voter security enjoyed in, say, urban Philadelphia?
Advanced election technology was also missing; Israelis use “ballots.” We were deprived of voting machines, chads and modern counting software. I doubt many Americans can imagine the uncomfortable feeling associated with placing an ordinary piece of paper in an envelope then putting it into a plain blue box while an election supervisor looks on. Virtually anybody could have counted my vote or recounted it, if need be, with absolutely no mystery regarding its authenticity.
The Israeli government is a parliamentary democracy. Voters do not vote for individuals but cast single votes for a political party by selecting a Post-It-sized slip from a tray filled with papers marked with Hebrew characters representing the parties. The Knesset (legislature) membership is then established by party-list proportional representation.
After the election a period of haggling and negotiating among the elected parties (quaintly called, “forming the government”) becomes the stuff of headlines and nightly news, rivaling, while it lasts, the nation’s enthusiasm for bad driving and the odd kind of football.
Two other likely differences between elections in American and Israeli are first, the absence of the existential question, “Will we survive?” in the American version and, secondly, the relatively few holocaust survivors one might find beside them in the states while standing in line to vote. [Read more…]