There was a solar eclipse today. In Israel it was only partial, but still quite impressive.
Sadly, while I was watching the sun being gradually eclipsed by the shadow of the moon, I could not but think about the greater eclipse that occurred only hours earlier: the great vanishing act of the Israeli electorate. In this election – which saw the disappearance of the third largest party, the near-disappearance of the ruling party and the suprising rise of a party of sexagenarians – a large portion of the Israeli public chose not to choose. This election set a record low turnout (just over 60%), in a country that used to be proud of the deep involvement of its citizens in the democratic process.
Some say this is the result of a general feeling of “what’s the point?”. Israelis have long distrusted their politicians and with Prime Ministers such as Netanyahu and Barak who can blame them? But maybe this is only another sign of Israel growing up and becoming a “normal” country; after all, in most Western democracies the voter turnout is even lower. Perhaps it is time to follow the Australian example, and fine people who choose not to vote. Especially as election day is traditionally a day off in Israel, giving people ample time to spend a few minutes fulfilling their democratic duty. The chutzpah has no limits..