Israeli Politics Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld: 2nd Israeli Election Campaign, Only a Few More Days To Go…….



Fifteenth week

September 4-11, 2019


Manfred Gerstenfeld

The last full week prior to the upcoming election on September 17th did not change the overall lackluster campaign atmosphere. Rockets once again were fired from Gaza into Israel. On one occasion, a campaign event for Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and other politicians in Ashdod was interrupted by rocket sirens. Netanyahu left the podium. He returned to speak afterwards.1


An important issue under debate was the proposed law to place cameras at voting stations. Attorney General Mandelblit attended a cabinet meeting to lobby against this proposed bill.2 During the week this bill was voted down as it did not reach the required 61 votes. Netanyahu blamed Avigdor Liberman — leader of Israel Beiteinu — for the failure of the bill to pass.3 During the Knesset session, the leader of the joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh was forcibly removed from the plenum after he placed a cellphone camera directly in front of the Prime Minister’s face.


Earlier the High Court rejected a petition of Blue and White to freeze the Likud’s bill to legalize videotaping polling booths on election-day even before it becomes law. The High Court stated that this could only be done if it becomes law through approval in the Knesset.4


During the campaign, fatigue about Netanyahu and the Likud was found among part of the right wing voters. One expression of this was when former Likud Minister Benny Begin announced that he would not vote for the party.5 In the last five polls, by September 10, Blue and White had on the average 32 seats, one more than Likud. This however did not represent an increase of the center-left block because the Democratic Union only polled 6 seats on the average and Labor-Gesher was between 5 and 6 seats.6



One poll found that if Blue and White cancelled the rotation between Gantz and Lapid it would increase support for the list by one seat. This seat however would be taken away from the Labor-Gesher list so that the center left block would not gain anything.7


The main new element of the last five polls was that in four out of five of them, the extreme rightparty passed the election threshold gaining four seats. This had only happened once previously, in the more than fifty polls since the Knesset was dissolved. It was reported that Likud research had found that many English speaking voters had switched to Otzma Yehudit from Zehut after it dropped out of the election due to an agreement with the Likud.8


Blue and White leader Benny Gantz appealed to Arab voters. He said: “there is no obstacle for me to take care of problems of violence in Arab society, in planning problems, in education problems.” He added that he would not bring the joint Arab list into his coalition for diplomatic reasons which referred to their position on the Palestinian issue.9 Blue and White candidate Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF Chief of Staff said that it was still not too late to kill Syrian President Bashar al Assad.10


The Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit asked the State Prosecution to determine whether there were any criminal aspects by the Fifth Dimension, a cyber security company which went bankrupt. It was owned by Gantz. Any suspicions however do not concern Gantz himself.11


The mudslinging also continued. United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman, attacked Gantz after the latter said that he wants a secular unity government. He added that Gantz’ number two, Yair Lapid is a “contagious disease that Gantz has caught.” Concerning Lapid, Litzman said “whoever hates the religion, I believe, has antisemitism. I won’t take it back.”12



It seems that the upcoming elections are unlikely to lead to the easy establishment of a new government. With that probably in mind, President Reuven Rivlin said that he was surprised when Netanyahu refused to return to him the mandate of forming a coalition after he failed to do so in late May. Instead he led the Knesset in a vote to dissolve itself forcing a new election. Rivlin also said that he would do everything possible to avoid a third election.13


There was a report that Likud MK Miki Zohar had a meeting with the leaders of the extreme right wing religious Zionist party Noam to find a way to have them drop out of the race. It was reported that in that case, the Likud would close the egalitarian section at the Western Wall. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that this report was ridiculous.14


Netanyahu said that after the election he would unilaterally apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley. He also said that all West Bank settlements would be annexed but he would only do so after U.S. President Donald Trump released his peace plan and it would be done in coordination with the U.S. as much as possible.15 Liberman promised that Israel will apply sovereignty to Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement city near Jerusalem with close to 40,000 inhabitants.16


There were major developments in the United States which may affect Israel. U.S. Special Envoy for the Middle East Jason Greenblatt resigned.17 Furthermore, President Trump fired National Security Advisor John Bolton — a friend of Israel –due to disagreements about policies.18







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