SECOND ISRAELI ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Eighth Week Elections
July 18-July 24, 2019
ALIGNMENTS ON THE LEFT, HESITATIONS ON THE RIGHT
Two alignments took place this week in the left of Israel’s political spectrum. On Thursday, July 18, Labor’s old-new leader, Amir Peretz, and Orly Levy-Abecassis, leader of Gesher, announced a combined list for the September elections. In April under its previous leader, Avi Gabbai, Labor gained six seats, while Gesher did not succeed in passing the election threshold. In the united list, which will now be renamed Labor-Gesher, seven of the top ten spots will be reserved for Labor candidates. Gesher will receive the fifth, seventh and tenth slot on the list.
Peretz informed the extreme left Meretz party’s leader Nitzan Horowitz, that Labor and Meretz would not run together. There were furious reactions from Meretz. Its Arab MK, Issawi Frej called Levy-Abecassis “a fig leaf for racists” as she had been a Knesset member of Israel’s Beitenu. Ehud Barak, leader of the Israel Democratic party (IDP) warned leaders of Labor and Meretz that they would be held accountable for rejecting a political deal with him.
MK Itzik Shmuli, Labor’s number two who was defeated by Peretz for the leadership position, approved the Labor-Gesher merger. He said that a further merger with Meretz and IDP was necessary. It is unclear what Shmuli will do if there is no such merger.
A second alignment on the left took place later during the week between Meretz and the IDP. Labor MK, Stav Shaffir also joined. She was defeated by Peretz in the recent Labor leadership elections. This new grouping will be called Democratic Camp. Earlier, sources in Meretz were quoted as saying that it would be difficult for the party to accept an agreement with Barak unless he brings with him senior Labor figures.
The joint list will be led by Horowitz, followed by Shaffir. In third place will be former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan. Barak will only be in the tenth place. Meeting a precondition of Meretz, Barak apologized for the use of live fire against Arab protestors in 2000 when he was prime minister. Thirteen Israeli Arabs were killed.
Earlier three of six current Labor MK’s announced that they will not seek re-election in September. Shaffir became the fourth MK who has chosen not to be a candidate on the Labor List. While still in Labor she opposed the Labor–Gesher agreement. Peretz however believes that running jointly with Meretz or IDP will prevent voters from connecting to Labor and Gesher.
In the meanwhile, the Daily Mail refused to retract its story which stated that Barak had entered convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s house on the same day as four women.
On the right, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on July 21 — after weeks of a variety of rumors — that she will head the New Right Party in the upcoming elections. She called upon the leaders of parties from the ideological right to run together.
The former head of the New Right, Naftali Bennett, said that he gave up the top spot to Shaked. He said that he “put Israel ahead of my personal good.”
There were also reports that as part of the agreement Shaked would allow Bennett to have the more important ministerial portfolio between them should they join a coalition.
The negotiations between the New Right and the Union of Right wing parties, are ongoing. The New Right has requested an equal number of seats on the list. Rafi Peretz, leader of the Union of Right wing parties (URP) said that the New Right’s key demands of having half of the seats on a united list were not acceptable. Polls have found that the religious Zionist public, overwhelmingly prefers Shaked over Peretz to head such a joint list.
A source close to Bezalel Smotrich, the number two of the URP told the Jerusalem Post that Peretz, does not have much electoral value. Therefore, he was willing to have Shaked join the list and be its leader.
There have been reports that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has offered the Union of Right wing parties, two ministerial posts in the next government if they include the far right Otzma Yehudit party in their political union.
Ethiopian Blue and White MK, Pnina Tamano-Shata said that Likud has lost the 140 000 members strong Ethiopian community’s vote due to the government’s reaction to the recent — non-peaceful — Ethiopian protests. Blue and White have embarked on a campaign to capture their vote.
Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri claimed that Israel Beiteinu was responsible for the failure of the establishment of a right wing government after the April 9 elections. He said that Lieberman’s words are just words as he has been a partner with the ultra-Orthodox for 30 years and has never harmed the ultra-Orthodox community.
As the election lists have to be presented on August 1st, there is only one week left for additional negotiations on further joint lists.