Weekly summary: Israel's election campaign, thirteenth week

No election fever yet - and will it come at all? A rundown of events which may influence the elections less than three weeks away.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld,

Ballot box voting poll station
Ballot box voting poll station
iStock

The security situation keeps drawing major attention and is possibly worsening. On Friday August 23, a terrorist attack took place in Samaria, claiming the life of a 17-year-old Jewish girl, wounding her father and brother. Tensions continued during the past week both on the southern and northern border. A week earlier, two youngsters had been hurt, one critically, in a ramming terror attack in Gush Etzion. Rockets were again fired this week into southern Israel from Gaza. A terrorist trying to infiltrate from Gaza was killed. The IDF struck an Iranian drone site in Syria, prior to a planned launch of drones into Israel.

This however does not seem to change the voting intentions of the Israeli public, according to the polls. They indicate that neither of the two major groupings will get a majority in the upcoming elections. News remained fragmented without any major directions. There were reports that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's phone was hacked by Russian hackers a few months after Iranians hacked into his phone.

Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abekasis vowed to quit politics if the joint Labor-Gesher list wins only four to six seats. Labor leader Amir Peretz stated once again that the combined list will not sit in a Netanyahu-led government at any price. He called the Prime Minister a 'capitalist pig.' Blue and White MK Ram Ben Barak called the Likud "black."

Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin announced that his list may withdraw from the elections. He did so after a meeting with Prime Minister and Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. In return for the withdrawal of Zehut, Netanyahu offered Feiglin an economic portfolio in the cabinet if he forms the next government. Furthermore the government will legalize medical cannabis which is an important issue in Zehut's platform. As Zehut was not expected to pass the election threshold of 3.25 percent, the risk was that it might waste up to 2% of right wing votes if it kept running.

The Likud has announced that it will convene the Knesset in a special session to pass a bill that would enable the party to place cameras in polling stations. This bill would enable the Likud to bypass a ruling by the head of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, which prohibits this. Reports from the last election claimed that voters who did not come to the polls were impersonated in some places and in others, those representing the parties at the polling stations divided up votes between the parties.

The Supreme Court banned two candidates from the far right Otzma Yehudit party, the number two Baruch Marzel and the number five Bentzi Gopstein, because of what the court felt was their racist mindset. The Supreme Court, however, did not ban the Joint Arab List as Otzma Yehudit had requested. The court stated that some of the Joint Arab List’s candidates had violated a Basic Law by supporting armed struggle against Israel. Yet the court noted that the appeal submitted by Otzma Yehudit did seek the disqualification of the entire Joint Arab List.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, number ten on the Democratic Union list, accused Netanyahu of causing permanent harm to Israel's relationship with the US Democrat party. He remarked that President Donald Trump would not be in office forever.

MK Rafi Peretz, the number two on the Yamina list said that his party will quit the government if President Trump in his peace plan requires that Israel concedes land in Judea and Samaria (aka "West Bank").

Another Yamina MK, Bezalel Smotrich attacked mixed active combat army units. He called it a detriment to the IDF's competence and ability to meet its tasks. Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted that IDF women’s service "contributes to Israeli security."

The head of the Joint Arab List, Ayhman Odeh said that he would be open to enter a center-left coalition. His conditions include a peace proposal, annulling the Nation-State law, stopping Arab house demolitions, building a new Arab city, building a hospital in an Arab city and taking steps to limit crime in Arab towns and villages

Odeh's statement received negative reactions from other candidates on the Joint Arab List. The second candidate from Odeh's Chadash party MK Aida Touma-Sliman tweeted that the party will not sit in a government of "occupation, wars and racism." The leader of the Balad party which is part of the Joint Arab List, MK Mtanes Shehadeh, said that Odeh was speaking for himself and not for the entire list.

Former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi – number four of Blue and White – reacted that his party would not invite the Joint Arab List into a coalition. "We will not invite a party that does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state," he said. Democratic Union co-leader Stav Shaffir however welcomed Odeh’s statements. Labor leader Amir Peretz said that Blue and White should be open to the possibility of the Joint Arab List entering in a coalition with it.

Thus time goes by without much of great relevance in the campaign except, perhaps, Feiglin's withdrawal, the effect of which awaits future polls. The elections are less than three weeks away and one wonders whether there will be any election fever at all.

The writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism. This report is also published in European newspapers.




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