SECOND ISRAELI ELECTION CAMPAIGN
August 15-August 21, 2019
Forebodings of War?
The security situation became a more central issue in Israeli politics this week due to a number of new terrorist attacks and attempted attacks. A car ramming attack took place near Elazar. One Israeli youngster was severely wounded, his sister, moderately so.1 The IDF thwarted an infiltration attempt from Gaza killing five armed Palestinian terrorists. Several rockets were fired from Gaza. Arson that began in Lebanon while the wind was blowing toward Israel spread fires close to Israels Northern border.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted by saying that Israel will embark if needed on a wide scale campaign in the Gaza Strip irrespective of the upcoming elections.2 He said so at Ben Gurion airport on his way to Ukraine for a two day trip.
In reaction to an earlier lethal terrorist attack, Yemina leader Ayelet Shaked said that the government should act to stop the transfer of payments to convicted terrorists by the Palestinian Authority. She and another prominent candidate of her list, Naftali Bennett also asked the government to annex the Gush Etzion block of settlements.3
Shaked came out strongly against a report in the Haaretz daily. It claimed that she had offered Netanyahu assistance in obtaining immunity from prosecution in return for him to allow her to become a candidate for Likud in the elections. She said that she never spoke to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit about criminal probes of politicians especially not about Netanyahu.4
Many election polls have so far been published. If one does not take into account Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu – neither the government nor the combined opposition parties have a majority. Yet there seems to be hardly any compelling reason to cause voters from either block to switch sides.
This stimulates the competition between the Likud and Blue and White who will receive the most seats. In the April elections both ended up with 35 MKs. Neither of them approaches this figure in any of the current polls. That is particularly bad for the Likud as it has absorbed the Kulanu party led by Moshe Kahlon which gained an additional four seats in April.
While the efforts to draw people in from the opposite camp seem to have failed, there are claims that the two big parties are trying to draw voters away from their potential allies. For the Likud that means that the right wing Yemina is a target. The Democratic Union list leader, Nitzan Horowitz has accused Blue and White that it aims to draw away his voters.5
The YNet site published that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had hired a firm to find out who was leaking confidential information from his list. The site reported that a leading person from the Yesh Atid party which is part of the Blue and White list was the culprit.6 This story once again raises the question whether the Yesh Atid component of Blue and White and the factions led by Gantz and Moshe Yaalon will stay together after the election.
Likud Labor and Social Affairs Minister, Chaim Katz has resigned from the cabinet. The Attorney General had announced his intention to indict him on charges of fraud and breach of trust. Katz will remain an MK and is expected to be re-elected in the September elections.7
State Attorney, Shai Nitzan has recommended to Mandelblit to indict Interior Minister and leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party Aryeh Deri for tax crimes, fraud, money laundering and obstruction crimes.8 Deri has an earlier criminal record.
Horowitz, has stated that if his list would join a center-left coalition, it would ask for a freeze on settlement construction except for major settlement blocks, close to the pre-1967 green line. It would also insist on peace negotiations with the Palestinians as an immediate priority for the government, with the aim of the establishment of a Palestinian State.
Horowitz suggested about Gaza that it was a small enclave with millions of people who have no other option than to throw missiles at Israel and carry out terrorist acts.9 The list’s third candidate, former IDF deputy chief of staff Yair Golan, has said that Israel should cooperate with Hamas to stabilize the security situation for the residents of southern Israel.10
Parties can pool excess votes, not required for their seats. This may enable one of them to get an extra seat. Israel Beiteinu and Blue and White have entered in such a surplus-vote sharing agreement.11 It has also become known that Israel Beiteinu leader Lieberman has met before the municipal elections in Jerusalem in 2013 with the since then deceased leader of the radical ultra-orthodox faction rabbi Shmuel Auerbach. This in order to gain support for Lieberman’’s candidate for the mayoralty Moshe Lion. Lieberman is running the current campaign of his party expressing major opposition to the ultra-orthodox.12
The Likud has joined a court appeal from the far-right Otzma Yehudit party to the Supreme Court. They want to exclude the joint Arab list from competing in the election. The Likud said that it was opposed to Knesset members who incite to violence or support terror, This is what one of the components of the joint Arab list – Balad – has done in the past.13