Almost final results from Israel’s Central Election Commission show that the Guardian mantra – parroted by nearly every commentator and reporter who’s been providing ‘analysis’ on the Israeli elections – warning of a hard and dangerous shift to the right will prove to have been entirely inaccurate.
In the final days before the vote, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood seemed certain that the elections would bring “a more hawkish and pro-settler government,” andGuardian Middle East Editor Ian Black warned that “Netanyahu [was] poised to…head a more right-wing and uncompromising government than Israel has ever seenbefore.”
Rachel Shabi predicted that Israel would elect “the most right-wing government in its history“, whileJonathan Freedland expressed gloom that diaspora Jews would have to watch “the centre of gravity… shift so far rightward [in Israel] that Netanyahu and even Lieberman will look moderate by comparison.”
However, based on preliminary reports, not only does it appear that there has been absolutely no rightward shift, but the makeup of the next Knesset may be slightly more left than the current one.
While in 2009 the right-wing bloc bested the center-left bloc by 65-55, the results of this election show that the new Knesset will have a narrower (61-59) right-bloc advantage.
The top three parties will be Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu with 31 Knesset seats, the centrist Yesh Atid with 19, and the leftist Labor Party with between 16-18. The rightist party, Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett, came in fourth and will have 12, while Shas, the ultra-orthodox party, came in fifth with 11.
Some Israeli commentators are already predicting that Binyamin Netanyahu will attempt to form a centrist or even a right-center-left coalition.
Though the final results aren’t expected to be announced until the early hours of Wednesday, a few things are certain:
The Guardian and other foreign media invested heavily in promoting their desired political narrative of a Jewish state lurching dangerously towards the right.
Israelis went to vote today in the truest democratic sense of the word. We chose from no less than 32 political parties (I think I even heard 34). You can’t say we aren’t diverse. We have several religious parties, several secular and even anti-religious parties. We have several Arab parties, nationalist parties – left wing and right wing. We have a party promoting the legalization of marijuana and parties that focus on social issues.
Someone asked me if Israelis were forced to vote or they had a choice…we so have a choice and we choose to vote. Pick your issue – and there is a party for you. Our government is formed by the party with the most votes – its leader will be our next prime minister. Of course. that isn’t a given. The President – mostly a figurehead, has the power to choose another party with less votes if he thinks they have a better chance of getting a majority of the other parties to agree.
This time, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Bibi Netanyahu will win big enough to remain in office. But it is also assumed he doesn’t have a chance of winning big enough not to have to deal with smaller parties. Some of the smallest parties may not cross the minimum two percent (two plus seats) threshold. It’s exciting; it’s fun – it’s Israel at its best. Today, people are urging each other to vote – no matter who – make your voice known.
I debated who to vote for – which party to support. Ideologically, I’m limited to about 2.5 parties. I came to Israel with the firm belief that Likud was Israel’s best choice. As soon as I moved to Israel, finally having the right to vote here – I joined the Likud party. Although technically, I left them a few years ago, they had long since abandoned their own mandate and beliefs. It is with great relief that I never even bothered thinking, never mind regretting, that I would not vote for Likud this time around.
Yesh Atid, run by Yair Lapid, is a party that I detest. I am smart enough to know that the anger I feel towards them is present at a level higher than they deserve. I was urged to listen to Yair Lapid speaking before an audience of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Kiryat Ono. I found him insulting, patronizing and obnoxious. Oh, sure – he’s handsome and charismatic – but he is so filled with himself, it’s hard to see that Israel will ever have a greater place in his mind than his own opinions. No vote for Yesh Atid.
Shas is one of the Ultra-Orthodox parties that Yair Lapid detests – and his endless attacks added to the dirt of this election. Sadly, he isn’t completely wrong. Shas has engaged, once again, in a disgusting campaign of negativity. Their spiritual leader, a great rabbi whose words are often taken out of context…often speaks words that shouldn’t be said. Shas does some amazing things at the community level – if only they would spend more time promoting the good things they do rather than attacking others.
If I ever considered voting for them – which to be honest, I never have – two remarks would have cost them my vote this time around. The first was when Rav Ovadia Yosef said that if there is a forced draft – he would tell his followers to send their children out of Israel. This concept of not serving while benefiting from the state bothers me no end. His second comment was that those who support Bayit HaYehudi are not Jews. I don’t need Rav Yosef telling me who is a Jew but I’ve wasted enough time on a party known for its corruption and rationalizing political positions based on the money for which it can sell its support. No vote for Shas…
HaTnua (the Movement), Labor, Meretz, Kadima – I’ll throw them all together and I’ll throw them all out easily. They are, for the most part, ignorant or ridiculously naive when it comes to Israel’s position in the Middle East. They demand social justice but have no real platform and more – when they had power, the situation wasn’t any better so they have no right to claim they know how to improve the situation. As for security and Shaul Mofaz of Kadima, a former Chief of Staff of the army – I can only assume delusional is a better word for the weakness he would have us show to our enemies. Or, perhaps like the others, interest in his own sense of importance makes him willing to risk Israel’s future for political gain? Whatever the truth – no vote for these parties.
Once upon a time, there was a group of people who wanted to rob a bank, but they needed a van and driver. They approached a man with a van, and invited him to join them, offering to reward him lucratively for his services. He told them that he was against robbing banks and he couldn’t accept stolen money. So they promised to pay him up front, not with money stolen from the bank. When he agreed, the group finished all their plans for the robbery, paying the driver up front. When the time came, the driver drove them to the bank and dropped them off at the corner. Seeing a policeman walking down the street, the driver quickly sped off, wanting nothing to do with the robbery, just as he told the group at the beginning. Eventually, all the thieves were arrested, along with the driver, who insisted he hadn’t participated in the robbery at all. “I’m innocent. I’m innocent,” he protested, but the judge found him guilty along with the others.
I am voting for “Otzma L’Yisrael” because I don’t want to be part of a robbery. What robbery? It is no secret that the Likud and Yisrael Betanu are in favor of the Two-State Solution, which would steal a giant chunk of Israel from the Jews and give it to the Arabs. The Two-State Solution is a part of their platform. So I can’t vote for them.
The Jewish Home party, “HaBayit HaYehudi,” has announced that they want to be a part of the coalition in the next government that Bibi will form. Even though they are against the Two-State Solution, they want to “influence from within.” They will probably stipulate in the coalition agreement that if the government enters into negotiations with the Arabs and decides to actualize the Two-State Solution plan, the Jewish Home party will be free to leave the coalition before the treaty is signed, just like the driver who took off before the robbery took place. In the meantime, for helping the coalition get to the signing ceremony, the Jewish Home will receive ample reward in the form of government positions, and money for worthwhile projects. But when it comes time for the photos of Bibi shaking hands with Mohammed, the members of the Jewish Home party will all hold up their hands and say, “Our hands are clean. We were against the robbery from the beginning!”
This scenario has happened before. The Mafdal party, the forerunner of the Jewish Home, was a member of the Sharon government leading up to the Disengagement from Gush Katif. They held the coalition in place while Sharon craftily arranged the robbery, then pulled out of the government when the end was already a fait accompli. Bibi did the very same thing, voting against the Disengagement on the final day, when the battle was already lost, after having helped the government get there, so he could hold up his hands and say, “I had nothing to do with the robbery.”
I don’t want to help anyone rob banks, and I certainly I don’t want to help anyone sell the Land of Israel down the drain. So I can’t vote for the Likud, and I can’t vote for the good people in the Jewish Home party, even though they are against giving Israel away to the Arabs, and even though they intend to pull out of Bibi’s government just before the robbery, because by sitting in such a government, they will be accomplices to the theft. And even if such a treaty is never signed, I still can’t vote for a party which will be a part of a government that advocates giving away the Land of God for “peace,” because, as Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught his students, even talking about surrendering the Land of Israel is as forbidden as eating pork.
So I’m voting for Power for Israel – “Otzma L’Yisrael,” because they don’t want to sit in a government that has given a phony Kashrut certificate to Two-State Solutions that steal from the Jewish People, violate the Torah, and make a mockery of the word of God.
The Jewish Home list led by Naftali Bennett was fined 72,000 shekels (just under $20,000) for disobeying an order of the Chairman of the central elections committee Justice Elyakim Rubinstein to remove campaign ads showing the Bennett next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Reshet bet radio reported.
Rubinstein had made clear that candidate lists running for election may not trifle with injunctions issued by the Chairman of the Central Election Commission, even if they do not agree with the rulings. “Obedience to the law and the provisions of the courts should be a guiding light for anyone who considers himself a member of the Israeli Knesset,” said Rubinstein.
At the same time, Justice Rubinstein also announced that he respects the Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the election broadcasts made by Power for Israel, even though he personally believes they contained a racist message. Rubinstein said that in Israel, a Jewish state, racism should be off limits.
The commercial in question shows MKs Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad lecturing on the idea that one must fulfill one’s duties in order to be entitled to rights – but they do it in fluent Arabic.
National religious Israeli voters like yours truly have three choices this coming Tuesday:
Vote for Likud-Beitenu and strengthen the hand of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party list includes at least six national-religious candidates in realistic spots. The polls are giving them between 32 and 38 seats.
Vote for Jewish Home, so that it would be large enough for Netanyahu to be forced to include it in his coalition government and necessarily stick to pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian state policies. The polls are giving them between 12 and 16 seats.
Or vote for Power for Israel, a small party made up of vehement lovers of the land of Israel and the Jewish nation, and which has been teetering between 3 and 4 seats and the prospect of not passing the blocking percentage at all.
Power for Israel has captured the much disdained corner of Israel’s political map once occupied by “right wing extremists” from Rabbi Meir Kahane to Rehavam Zeevi (both of whom were assassinated by Arabs), to rabbi Benny Alon and Benny Begin, who are considered more moderate (and are very much alive, thank God).
But in the process of taking on the mantle of ultimate right wingers, the two co-leaders of Power for Israel, MKs Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad have done a lot to make being right wing extremists sound cool and very much in.
Like the time they challenged Tel-Aviv’s wealthy liberals, who support letting illegal workers from Africa stay in the country—as long as they hang around the poor neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv: Ben Ari and Eldad got 50 Sudanese illegals together, bought them bathing suits, and took them into the prestigious Gordon swimming pool off of Dizengoff. The wealthy north-Tel Avivians were irate, they decried the “provocation,” and Power for Israel scored a great point.
Or their latest campaign, “No Duties, No Rights,” which demands—in signs written in Arabic—that Israel’s Arabs start paying taxes, obey traffic laws, submit formal requests for home extensions, and declare their loyalty to the Jewish state. Both leaders taped a video in Arabic stating all these points. The campaign was accused of racism, but the point was made, loud and clear.
I’ve been enamoured with political circuses since 1968, when legendary street theater performers like Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Danny the Red) and Abbey Hoffman used humor and pathos to defeat state systems. The fact that Danny and Abbey were on the left and Michael and Aryeh are on the right is trivial. They’re all good Jews, as far as I’m concerned, teaching the world that a little sense of humor and political conviction can defeat lines of cops in riot gear, and even, on occasion, tanks.
I shudder at the thought that the Palestinians might some day develop a sense of humor. But then I remember Hanan Ashrawi and I know we’re safe for a while.
Still, looking at MK Aryeh Eldad, the last thing that comes to mind is a radical provocateur. His co-chairman, Ben Ari, looks the part, with the salt and pepper hair and beard, the burning, dark eyes and the big mouth, full of teeth. Eldad, in comparison, looks like someone you’d ask to do your taxes.
He comes from radical stock, though. His father, the late Israel Eldad, was a leader in the Lechi underground (the Stern gang, as the British named it). Incidentally, a disproportionate number of today’s leaders in Israel are children of Stern gang members: Tzipi Livni, Yair Shamir, Dan Meridor, Tzahi Hanegbi. Surprisingly, many of them are center-left, if not altogether leftists.
I ask him if, as an ex general (he was chief of the IDF medical corps), and a famous plastic surgeon, he’s not setting foot in political water that’s too murky for someone of his stature.
“You say murky water,” Eldad responds with a glint in his eye, “but my engagement in medicine has taught me that in order to heal one must come in contact with the most repulsive things you can imagine: birthing, draining abscesses. I don’t have the privilege to be spoiled.”
A story that made the rounds a few years ago has Dr. Eldad, then chief of the Hadassah Medical Center Dept. of Plastic Surgery, taking care, free of charge, of a teenage girl from Gaza, who was honor-burned by her family. The girl would come in frequently for follow-up visits. One time she was caught on her way to his Jerusalem clinic, wearing a suicide vest. It turned out that her family told her they would forgive her romantic transgressions if she blew up the doctor who healed her.
A new poll examining the anticipated voter turnouts among different segments of the population, predicts significant changes in the modes of voting this year, Ha’aretz reported Wednesday. This could mean the transfer of 3 to 4 votes from the right to the left, as compared with the regular polls which do not take into account the “unlikely voters” and their political leanings.
Now, before we dig into these claims, we have to consider both sources: Ha’aretz, which is directly involved in promoting left-wing politicians, and Proyect HaMidgam (the Sample Project), operated by Dr. Ariel Ayalon, which conducted the poll, and which is an Internet pollster. Those two factors weigh heavily on the numbers being provided, but they may still be correct about the trend.
Incidentally, Ha’aretz fails to mention the part about this being an online survey, as opposed to being conducted by the pesty and the jobless.
Based on the responses of a sample of 1200 Israelis who participated online, it turns out that right wing voters who took part in the last elections are showing “a lack of enthusiasm” about voting for the right wing block this time around. On the other hand, leftist voters are more charged and eager to vote for their parties’ lists.
The reluctance is most prevalent among those who voted Likud, Israel Beitenu, and Shas.
According to the survey, 62% of voters who skipped the polls in 2009 say they will vote this year (30% for sure, 32% positively considering it). Many of those have tied their decision to the 2011 summer of protests, saying that’s what shaped their decision to vote again. And 70% of those intend to vote left, only 30% right.
On the other hand, the same survey discovered that 5% of those who did vote in 2009 said explicitly that they intend not to vote this year. This represents some 160 thousand voters. Another 24%—about 750 thousand voters, said they’re undecided about voting this year.
And, according to the pollsters, the vast majority of those come from the right.
A few senior pollsters have commented on these results saying they show things are much more liquid than we’ve been anticipating. One result of this, they say, might be increased voting for the small, niche parties, which could either end up helping those parties cross the blocking percentage threshold (a party must win two full seats to enter the Knesset)—or it could cause the waste of a large percentage of the votes.
Israel’s election rules permit parties to sign agreements on sharing excess votes between them, meaning a party with more than, say, the number of votes needed for 5 seats, can contract to receive a second party’s extras, which might award the first party a sixth seat. But in order for that deal to be sanctioned, both parties must first cross the blocking percentage.
The poll was conducted on January 13 and 14, among 1200 participants, and was ordered by the Institute for Israel’s Future leadership, a think tank located in the souther town of Sderot.
As a right-wing voter who speaks to other right-wing voters in shul, in the supermarket, in public transportation—I must sadly state that anecdotally I can confirm this survey’s findings. Right wing voters in Israel have been swindled so many times by the elected representatives, that they’ve moved beyond cynicism, to a kind of apathy. We list our parties not according to what we expect them to do for us, but rather according to how fast they’ll betray us once we gave them our vote.
Shas must be the least trusted of all the right-wing parties (based on my personal, strictly anecdotal observation). Likud-Beitenu is next, with the average right-wing, National religious voter expecting it to form a left wing coalition. Jewish Home might score a little higher in our eyes, but watching its chairman, Naftali Bennett, flip-flopping, and refusing to answer some very important questions, especially on how he intends to deal with a Knesset list that combines culturally modern liberals such as himself and Uri Orbach, with others who advocate not renting to Arabs. And each new day brings new flips and flops, it appears.
And so, at least among people I talk to in shul, there’s a growing tendency to pick MKs Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad, about whom there’s a broad consensus that they will not vote for the 2-state solution, come hell or high water. And just like the nice pollster warned, this could end up with thousands of our votes ending up on the election committee’s floor.
In the spirit of their party slogan, “No privileges without duties,” on Tuesday morning the party Otzma L’Israel – Power for Israel – began their tour aka march of the village of Musmus, in the largely Arab Wadi Ara section of “green line” Israel. The marchers are demanding the enforcement of the law in all villages of Galilee and the Arab Triangle, Srugim reports.
The tour was accompanied by a heavy police entourage, which permitted only one bus full of activists to enter the village. The remaining activists have camped at the Megiddo junction and are being transported by police minibuses to the village.
Both party leaders, MKs Mordechai Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad are leading the tour, walking the village streets with maps and the “No privileges without duties” banners.
MK Ben Ari told the accompanying press: “This has been our message throughout the campaign. It cannot be that entire cities and many villages, especially in the Negev and Galilee, life would go on as if they’re in a separate country. Anyone who wants privileges must pay municipal taxes, must obey the laws governing construction, and must be loyal to the State of Israel. Just as we have the Talya Sasson Outposts Law controlling settlements in Judea and Samaria, so we must have reporting of illegal construction in the Negev and Galilee.”
The Musmus village council announced that the police alone would bear responsibility for the consequences of the visit, no matter what those might be.
“Musmus will not behave in any lesser way than other Arab villages which kicked out the right-wing Zionist human garbage from their lands. There’s no Ahlan and no Sahlan (hello and welcome) for you, foreign, rootless orphans,” the announcement declared.