DR.MANFRED GERSTENFELD: THE DULL CAMPAIGN IN ISRAELI ELECTIONS THUS FAR…….

Knesset

ISRAELI ELECTIONS: A DULL CAMPAIGN SO FAR

By Manfred Gerstenfeld

With less than a month to go until Israel’s Election Day on January 22nd, the campaign is rather lukewarm. The government announces its various activities including settlement plans, the opposition criticizes them and many politicians make statements. The general public hardly cares.

On 13 December 2012, Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced that he would indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of breach of trust and fraud. The main case against the Minister concerning money laundering and much wider fraud was however closed. It had been investigated for twelve years.

When Lieberman’s indictment became known, the opposition parties called for his immediate resignation. He did so the next day. Thus there was little opposition mileage left on this issue. Tzipi Livni’s Movement said that Lieberman’s resignation was the right thing to do. It wished him a “speedy trial.”1

Naftali Bennet, the new leader of the national religious Jewish Home party, caused a commotion when he stated that he would refuse an order to expel Jews from their homes. He was severely criticized by both the Likud and the opposition parties. Thereupon he retreated by saying: “As someone who led fighters into operations many times, I am opposed with all my heart and soul to refusing an order. I fulfilled all the orders I received in my 22 years in the IDF and will continue to do so.”2 This potentially hot issue thus became secondary on the agenda.

The decision of the Central Elections Committee to ban Arab extremist MK Hanin Zoabi of Balad from participating in the elections was hardly an item either. The decision is automatically referred to the Supreme Court.3 In the past, it has usually overturned these votes.

Events on the Palestinian side did not encourage parties of the Center Left to strongly claim that Israel could foster peace by making further concessions to the Palestinians. Hamas Leader Khaled Mashaal visited Gaza for the first time in forty years. He reiterated that his movement aimed at destroying Israel. Mashaal said: “Today is Gaza, tomorrow will be Ramalla and after that Jerusalem, then Haifa and Jaffa.4

Less than two weeks later a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that 48 percent of Palestinians would have voted for Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza as Palestinian President. He would defeat the incumbent Mahmoud Abbas who would get 45% of the votes.5

Foreign condemnations of the Government’s announced building plans in the territories did not abate.6 The Israeli public, which compares these statements vis-a-vis the subdued international criticism of mass murders and many other atrocities in Muslim countries, did not seem impressed.

Polls continued to show that voters within the Center Right and Center Left blocs were not considering crossing over. A Smith Research Poll for Israel Radio published on 20 December 2012 gave the Center Right 67 seats and the Center Left 43 seats, while the Arab parties were to receive 10 seats. If this were the final election outcome, it would mean that compared to the current Knesset, the Center Right would gain one seat at the expense of the Center Left and one at the expense of the Arab lists.

This poll confirmed earlier indications: the battle for seats will have to be within the various blocs. This Smith poll gave the combined Likud/Israel is our Home list only 36 seats against its 42 in the current Knesset. All polls show that The Jewish Home party is increasing in force. In this poll it got 11 seats, while its two components currently have 5. In the Center Left bloc, Labor under Shelly Yachimovich with 19 seats remains well ahead of Yair Lapid’s There is A Future with 11 and Livni’s Movement with 9.7

As the Likud/Israel is Our Home list seems to be losing many votes to The Jewish Home, its attacks against this party increase.8 After Bennet’s later withdrawn remark about refusing orders, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he will not have refusal advocates in his government.9 Such statements mean little, as election results will determine what the coalition possibilities are.

The Center Left parties had hoped that social issues would become a central element in this campaign. In 2011 there had been mass street demonstrations against the government on these themes. They may serve however, only to draw votes from other parties within the same bloc.

A Dahaf poll for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs showed that 83% of Jewish voters do not believe that an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a division of Jerusalem would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Seventy-eight percent of Jews said they would vote differently if the party they supported stated that it was prepared to relinquish sovereignty in East Jerusalem.10 These data indicate that security is likely to become more of an issue in the remainder of the campaign than the peace process.

Manfred Gerstenfeld fa parte del Consiglio di Amministrazione del Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, dove è stato presidente per 12 anni. Collabora con Informazione Corretta

Footnotes:

1 Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis , “Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to resign over indictment decision,” Haaretz 14 December 2012.

2 Jonathan Lis, “Habayit Hayehudi Chairman retracts comments on refusal to evacuate settlements,” Haaretz, 20 December 2012.

3 Telem Yahav, “Elections Committee bans Zoabi,” Ynetnews.com, 19 December 2012.

4 JPost.com Staff and Reuters, “Mashaal: First Gaza, then Ramallah, then Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Post, 8 December 2012.

5 Daniel Siryoti and Israel Hayom Staff, “Palestinians prefer Hamas leader Haniyeh over Abbas, poll shows,” Israel Hayom, 18 December 2012.

6 Elad Benari, “European Members of Security Council Condemn Israel,” Israel National News, 19 December 2012.

7 Gil Hoffman, “Poll finds Lieberman indictment had negligible impact,” Jerusalem Post, 20 December 2012.

8 Gil Hoffman, “Yair Shamir attacks Bayit Yehudi Anglo campaign,” Jerusalem Post, 19 December 2012.

9 JPost.com Staff, “PM: ‘Refusal’ advocates won’t sit in my government,” Jerusalem Post, 21 December 2012.

10 “Views of the Israeli Public on Israeli Security and Resolution of the Arab-Israeli Conflict – 19 December 2012,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 19 December 2012.

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