You know that annoying expression, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?". I think I have found a good use for it. It expresses the plight of the Israeli voter before national elections - presented with choices that most find less than ideal, we find ourselves making the most of a bad situation.
Why is it that the choices presented are usually less than ideal?
In a word, the Israeli electoral system stinks.
For a detailed explanation of why, read Evelyn Gordon's excellent opinion piece appropriately titled "Throw the Bums Out".
The "Readers Digest" version is this: In Israel, you don't vote directly for a Prime Minister or Knesset Member, you vote for a party. The larger parties have primaries (open to all members) for the leader of the party - but the smaller parties don't. A small subset of party members (sometimes called a central committee) are solely responsible for electing the Knesset slate. Consequently, the quality of the slate is dependent on the decision making skills and the good intentions (or lack thereof) of this small subset of people. Worse, the elected Knesset Member is on a practical level only responsible to this subset of people.
To be fair, there are Knesset Members who are upstanding people who work hard and are a credit to us all. But there are also Knesset Members who are nothing more than party hacks, and I wouldn't trust them to pick out an ice cream flavor for me, let alone make decisions affecting my childrens' safety and the future of the country that I love so much.
The obvious question is, why don't we change the system?
Simple really. The Israeli governmental system may be democratic in that we have open elections, but this is where the similarity to American democracy ends. There is no system of checks and balances in place. Therefore, the only people who have the power to change the system are the ones who will lose the most from changing it.
So, what is the poor hapless Israeli voter to do? Heave a great sigh and make the best of it.
Stay tuned for the next episode, where our hero tries to make sense of platforms and polls. (Hint - salt is required).