Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Israeli elections, round three: Can the deadlock be broken?


By E. Lins - March 03, 2020
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Section: [Main News]
Tags: [elections]

Israeli citizens again had to cast ballots for the third time in a year on 2 March in an attempt to solve the political impasse the system finds itself in after two failed elections.

However, over 4.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will not be allowed to take part in the election that will inevitably impact every aspect of their lives and those of future generations.

As for the 1.7 million Palestinians living in Israel, their voting rights do not take them very far.

Two weeks away from standing trial, Netanyahu runs for re-election, but the latest polls project, once again, a tied election. The last months of the political campaign have seen Netanyahu repeatedly accuse former IDF general, Benny Gantz, of not being suitable for office. Netanyahu told Channel 12, “He is weak; he’s not a leader”.

Only four days ago, a leaked tape of a private meeting between a rabbi and Gantz’s top strategist, Israel Bachar, was broadcast on evening news. In the recording, Bachar makes depreciative comments on Gantz’s lack of courage to lead on security issues. The comments are very much aligned with Netanyahu’s rhetoric against his main opponent.

Gantz, who has focused on the bribery, corruption and breach of trust charges against Netanyahu, thus questioning his ability to stay in office, is due face a criminal investigation into a bankrupted high-tech start-up specialising in artificial intelligence and data mining.

With Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) parties projected to win an even share of 68 out of the 120 Knesset seats, there remains the question as to whether the right-wing and centrist parties will be able to form a majority coalition after such a turbulent campaign.

Meanwhile, left-wing Zionist Israeli parties lag behind in the polls. Netanyahu’s backbiting campaign on social media against the left, a copycat of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, made use of online strategies that ranged from micro-targeting to bots that warn voters against a "left-wing, secular, weak government that relies on Arabs who want to annihilate us all -- women, children and men". The online campaign has also tried to exert enough pressure on Arabs not to vote.

Gantz’s Blue and White Party killed rumours by ensuring voters that the building of a coalition would never include a partnership with Arabs, but only the Jewish majority.

Ironically enough, the consistent decrease in popularity of the left is also closely related to their inability to make real opposition to the right-wing Knesset majority; in fact, frequently committed to follow suit for the protection of the status quo.

Ori Goldberg, a lecturer at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, explained to the Al Jazeera that the left and right are "stuck in the basic, segregationist, racist trap". After two decades of unshakable support for the left-wing Meretz, Goldberg has decided to vote for the Joint List.

Recent polls do not allow high expectations of significant changes on the status quo conceived by Netanyahu’s 11-year administration. One of its most recent achievements, the Nation-State bill, seem to unite a great share of the Jewish population, as well as members of the Knesset, around the common goal of a Jewish state.

Israeli policies such as this, combined with the unwavering support of US President Donald Trump through a handful of means, including his proposed Middle East peace plan, reveal an increased commitment to a state project that is keen to marginalise millions of Palestinians and legitimise land grabs by Israel.

In view of current circumstances, the Joint List  - a political alliance of the main Arab-majority political parties in Israel: Balad, Hadash, Ta'al and the United Arab List - has gained increased importance in this Israeli legislative elections. 

An expected 65 per cent turnout among Arab-Israeli voters might allow the political alliance to secure two more seats, totalling 15, and make it into the third-largest bloc in the Knesset. Arab Israelis make 

Iman Khatib Yasin, a social worker running with the Joint List for a seat in the Knesset told the New York Times: “If we’re a big number, we’re a strength that cannot be ignored.”

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