Eleventh Week of Election Campaign
WHICH PEOPLE OR PARTIES WILL BE DISQUALIFIED?
A number of proposals to disqualify some parties and individuals from running in the elections were brought before the Central election committee. The committee’s chairman is Supreme Court Justice, Hanan Melcer. The members of the committee are MKs of the various parties.
The committee voted to disqualify the Arab list, Ra’am Balad. The petition claimed that it is “seeking to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, and supports the violent Palestinian resistance and Hezbollah, and most of its members are supporters and backers of terror.”1
The committee also voted to disqualify Ofer Kasif, a Jewish candidate of the mainly Arab Hadash-Ta’al list. He had called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum.” Kasif has also compared Israel and the IDF to the Nazi regime and called to fight against ‘Judeo Nazis.’ In an interview he has said that Israel was carrying out a “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians.
The committee rejected a petition to disqualify Michael Ben-Ari of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party. All three decisions went against the opinions of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who wanted Ra’am Balad and Kasif to be permitted to run. He also advised that Ben-Ari be banned from running.2 The Supreme Court is being asked to overrule the committee’s decisions.
The fact that Mandelblit’s opinion was rejected is yet another indication of the decreased public standing of Israel’s senior legal structure. It does not necessarily express distrust of Mandelblit specifically. Mandelblit’s announcement that he intends to indict Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has had little influence on the number of people who intend to vote for the Likud party. It is yet another indication of the Attorney general’s decreased standing in sizable parts of the population.
The committee has cleared the placement of Jewish Home MK, Eli Ben Dahan on the Likud list. If elected, he will move back to the Jewish Home faction.3 Pinchas Idan, who was placed nineteenth on the Likud list, withdrew his candidacy as there were questions regarding his eligibility.4 In the past week the police have recommended that Likud MK, David Bitan, be indicted for accepting a bribe, money laundering, tax offenses and other crimes.5
In the meantime, Mandelblit has accepted Netanyahu’s request to withhold further details about his indictment until April 10, the day after the elections. He told Netanyahu that the first pre-indictment hearing will be scheduled no later than July 10. This deadline enables Netanyahu to form a new government if the Likud and its allies win the election. The deadline for forming a new government is May 30th.6
On March 6, the Blue and White party released its political platform. Besides the items leaked earlier it included a statement that “there will be no second disengagement. Any historic political decision will be brought to the people’s decision by referendum or approved in the Knesset by a special majority.”7 The Blue and White platform stated that the “Golan Heights are an inseparable part of Israel.” It also stated that it would “reject any overtures to return the territory annexed from Syria in the 1967 war as “non-negotiable.”8 The platform also promised to add 12.5 billion shekel to the health care system over the coming five years which would alleviate the heavy pressure on Israeli hospitals.9
Ayman Odeh who heads the Hadash-Ta’al list said he could recommend Blue and White leader, Gantz, to form the next coalition. In order to do so, he would require clear commitments from Gantz and the party’s number two, Yair Lapid, to advance some of his list’s positions.10
A poll by the Times of Israel found that the security issue is of less significance for the public than in previous campaigns. The respondents were asked which of five issues are the most important for the government to deal with. Forty seven percent considered economic issues as the most important. Twenty one percent said that security is most important. This was followed by democracy, the rule of law and corruption at 17%. Relations with the Palestinians, diplomacy and the peace process (11%), and religion and state (5%) followed.11
Eleven polls have been published about the number of seats parties would receive between the February 28th announcement of the planned indictment and March 11. There are substantial differences between them. The highest figure for Blue and White was 38 seats and the lowest 31 seats. For the Likud, the range was from 31 to 26 seats.
Of particular importance is which of the smaller parties will pass the election threshold of 3.25%. This could well determine what type of coalition government will be formed. In eight of the eleven polls Ra’am Balad passed the threshold. The libertarian Zionist Zehut party led by Moshe Feiglin did so in four polls. Yisrael Beiteinu led by Avigdor Liberman passed the threshold in three out of eleven polls while Gesher led by Orly Levy-Abekasis only passed in one poll.12
A Channel 13 poll on March 12th, in addition to asking respondents which party they would vote for also asked who was more suited to be prime minister. Forty seven percent answered Netanyahu, and thirty seven percent said Gantz.13
The election campaign is heating up. One indication is that the police considered death threats against Feiglin sufficiently serious to provide him with security protection.14 Also Labor MK Stav Shaffir received a death threat.15