A lot is at stake in Israel’s 2019 election. If you care about democracy, human rights, and social justice in Israel, here are some things to know.
NIF doesn’t support or oppose any candidate or political party for election; we look at the big picture and share the most important stories about issues that affect Israelis from all walks of life.
- A Note from Michal Sella: The Rule of Law or Ruler Above the Law?
- What Happened This Week. What to Look For Next Week.
- NIFC Issues at Play
The Rule of Law or Ruler Above the Law?
Michal Sella is the Director of the Center for Policy Change, NIF’s department of Shatil devoted to organizing and amplifying the advocacy voices of civil society organizations in the halls of Israeli government.
Last week, two of the most significant developments in this election to date occurred at once. First, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, concluded two years of investigations by announcing his decision, subject to a hearing, to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The second was the unification of a single, consolidated right-wing list that would include the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party. What ties these two events together is their implications for the rule of law in Israel.
For the first time in our history, an incumbent prime minister will be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust while standing for reelection. What is equally significant, however, has been the prime minister’s response. Netanyahu did not simply say he would defend himself vigorously to prove his innocence. Instead, in a televised response in the immediate wake of the announcement, and in subsequent messages and speeches, he attacked the legitimacy of the legal institutions. He claimed that the attorney general and State Prosecutor’s Office had acted based on ulterior political interests, in a conspiracy to overthrow his government. The prime minister sought to portray the case against him as a campaign of “political persecution” against him—a “witch hunt.” Belittling Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, saying that he was only “flesh and blood,” the prime minister insinuated that the charges levied against him were the result of the attorney general caving to immense pressure exerted on him by “the left” and “the media.”
But what about the second development — the inclusion of a Kahanist party in a consolidated right wing bloc? Netanyahu’s most promising path out of his legal trouble is by passing the so-called “French law,” legislation that would make it impossible to prosecute a sitting prime minister, shielding Netanyahu altogether from facing trial. Most parties committed to the rule of law in Israel have announced their opposition to the French law, because it is apparent that the sole purpose of such legislation would be to stop the criminal judicial proceedings that have already begun against the prime minister. The corrosive effects to the rule of law are apparent.
Center and left-wing parties will not support such a move. Even Netanyahu’s ideological allies and rivals on the right, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, the former Justice Minister, have announced that they will not support the bill. In addition, while much of his own party has joined in the chorus of condemnations targeting the legitimacy of legal proceedings against Netanyahu, old-guard liberals from Likud like Benny Begin and Dan Meridor, came out against the prime minister’s attack on the judiciary.
But for some factions, the rule of law has never been a constraining force or core ideological commitment. They are beholden to forces they consider above the laws of the State of Israel. Many in the ranks of such parties have said that the Torah of Israel, the religious laws of halakha, must come before the laws of the state. They see the judicial system of the State of Israel as standing in their way. These parties, unbeholden to the rule of law, are now indebted to a prime minister who has brought them into the mainstream.
MK Bezalel Smotrich, number two in the new union of right wing parties and head of the National Union faction, presented a plan to legislate a bill that would empower lawmakers to block criminal charges against sitting members of Knesset. These factions, it is clear, are Netanyahu’s dependable allies that will help him not only form a government, but if Netanyahu manages to win a majority, pass the French law—and save his skin.
Director, Shatil’s Center for Policy Change
What Happened This Week. What to Look For Next Week.
Last updated: 3/8/2019
The biggest wild card in this election has been the looming announcement of the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week, that card was dealt when Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his decision to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. The announcement brought to an end to a period of speculation. In his announcement, Mandelblit explained his decision to announce in the midst of an election, citing “the principle of equality before the law and the public’s right to know.”
What are the charges that Netanyahu is facing?
Here is a breakdown — based on reporting in Haaretz — of the charges:
- Case 4000: Netanyahu is accused of providing regulatory concessions to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecommunications, in exchange for favorable coverage from Bezeq’s news website, Walla. The charge: Bribery and breach of trust.
- Case 1000: The prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy business figures in return for political favors. The charges are fraud and breach of trust.
- Case 2000: Centers around a deal between the prime minister and Arnon Mozes – favorable coverage in return for damaging the Sheldon Adelson’s competing newspaper, Israel Hayom. The charge: Breach of trust and fraud.
Historically, Israeli prime ministers have voluntarily stepped down when allegations of corruption have arisen — none have ever continued a campaign after an indictment. However, Netanyahu has said definitively that he will not resign in the face of these charges.
Read more: Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption scandals, explained by Ben Sales (JTA)
While the election to date has been characterized by a great deal of speculation about the impact of a prospective indictment, this week has borne out some initial results. Polls publishedin the immediate aftermath of the attorney general’s announcement for the first time indicated shift in the balance between the right-wing bloc led by Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the center bloc, led by his main rivals, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, which for the first time, indicate Netanyahu may not have the votes to form a majority coalition. That has remained the case throughout the week. In light of criminal allegations against the prime minister, Israelis may be, as New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger phrased it, “starting to ask whether Israel can not only survive, but thrive, without the man who has come to dominate their national self-image.”
Netanyahu Faces Indictments and a Rising Opposition—Could He Lose Reëlection?, by Bernard Avishai (New Yorker)
Israel’s Netanyahu May Be Indicted—but He Could Still Be Re-Elected, by Mairav Zonszein (The Nation)
How to Read Election Polls, Explained by an Expert, by Dahlia Scheindlin (+972)
DISQUALIFYING PARTIES AND CANDIDATES
Israel’s Central Elections Committee rejected requests to disqualify Kahanist candidates and parties but decided to ban an Arab party.
Opposition parties along with civil society leaders, including the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Reform Movement, petitioned the Israel’s Central Elections Committee to disqualify the Kahanist party Otzmah Yehudit (Jewish Power). The Committee this week considered requests to disqualify the candidacy of Itamar Ben Gvir and Michael Ben-Ari (Otzma Yehudit) on the grounds of their track record of anti-Arab racism and incitement. Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recommended to the Committee disqualifying MK Michael Ben-Ari but not Itamar Ben Gvir.
- On Wednesday, the Committee, by a slim majority of 16-15, rejected the Attorney General’s recommendation and voted not to disqualify chairman of the far-rightOtzma Yehudit party, Michael Ben Ari. MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) will petition the High Court of Justice to overrule the Committee’s decision to approve the candidacies of Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit).
- Disqualification of Arab Parties: In a 17-10, vote the Israel’s Central Elections Committee voted to disqualify the United Arab List and National Democratic Assembly (a joint list of the Palestinian nationalist Balad Party and the Islamist Ra’am party) from running in the upcoming election along with individual candidate Ofer Cassif, who was running on the joint Hadash-Ta’al list. The Committee rejected the petition to disqualify Hadash-Taal list altogether.
The decisions of the Central Elections Committee will be subject to review by Israel’s Supreme Court.
Read More: Israeli Arab Slate, Far-left Candidate Banned From Election Hours After Kahanist Leader Allowed to Run, by Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury (Haaretz)
CONSOLIDATION OF BLOCS RESHUFFLED THE ELECTION
Efforts to consolidate smaller parties into unified blocs took place across the political spectrum. Former justice minister and opposition leader, Tzipi Livni resigned from politics and from the 2019 Knesset race, not wanting to risk drawing votes away from a united center-left alignment that might be able to challenge the incumbent prime minister.
Meanwhile, the centrist parties of Benny Gantz, Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel Resilience) and Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid (There is a Future) united under a joint list Kachol Lavan (Blue and White). The agreement stipulated a rotating premiership between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Recent polling indicates Kachol Lavan leading the Likud party by a small but solid margin, making the new party the central challenger to the Likud party headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The party list features three former IDF chiefs of staff in the top four positions, including Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon (Telem), Gabi Ashkenazi and Gantz himself.
During the last day of parties’ registration, there was public pressure from the grassroots among Labor and Meretz members to unite lists. Meretz Party Chairperson Tamar Zandberg indicated openness to the idea, out of concern that Meretz would not meet the electoral threshold to enter the Knesset; Labor, headed by Avi Gabbai, decided against a merger. As in the previous elections, ultimately, Gabbai tried signed a surplus agreement with Meretz, a mechanism that allows individual parties to combine or share their “surplus votes,” (votes cast for a party beyond the electoral threshold but which are not sufficient for a whole seat) which can enable a party at the cusp of meeting the threshold requirement to make it into parliament.
The pressure to unify also led to the crossing of political red lines. Prime Minister Netanyahu eager to consolidate his own right wing bloc, orchestrated a merger between the extreme right wing party Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) in a consolidated right-wing bloc with National Union and Jewish Home. Otzma Yehudit is the latest iteration of a political party based on teachings of Meir Kahana. Kahana’s party, Kach, was banned from the Knesset in 1988 and still appears on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu to normalize these factions was widely condemned within the Israeli political arena. Prominent national religious leader Rabbi Benny Lau described the political program of Otzmah Yehudit as “a racial doctrine” akin to “the Nuremberg Laws.” Meanwhile, the unificiation caused a wave of discontent across the American Jewish community. Opposition parties and civil society organizations were unsuccessful in their petition Israel’s Central Elections Commission to disqualify the Kahanist party Otzmah Yehudit from running.
- The merger agreement orchestrated by Netanyahu, which was ordered to be made public by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Justice Hanan Melcer, stipulated that Otzma Yehudit will be a member of the coalition and that the Likud will let it have a representative — either Itamar Ben Gvir or Michael Ben-Ari — on the Committee for Judicial Selection. (Prior to this decision such agreements between parties were not required to be made public).
Israel’s Fascist Sideshow Takes Center Stage, by Natasha Roth (+972)
How to Stop Kahanists From Taking Over, by Raluca Ganea, Executive Director of Zazim – Community Action (+972)
NIFC Issues in Play
Last updated: 3/8/2019
DEMOCRACY AND THE RULE OF LAW
The last Netanyahu government was characterized by frequent attacks on the institutions of government — following populist trends we see globally. Israelis witnessed the prime minister take aim against the president, the culture minister attacking freedom of art, and the justice minister openly opposed the independence of the judicial system, taking measures to politicize the selection of judges and agitate against the high court. Members of the government engaged in a campaigns against the police commissioner and the attorney general, whom the prime minister himself appointed.
Early in the election season, Benny Gantz, former IDF chief of staff and head of the Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel Resilience Party), highlighted the weakening of Israeli democratic institutions and the assaults on the rule of law. He criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for its assault on the rule of law, emphasizing the priority of strengthening Israeli stateliness and uprightness in public policy (mamlachtiyut) and to enhance the public trust in the Supreme Court and the Israeli legal system in general. Meanwhile, since the unification of the centrist parties under the banner of Kachol Lavan (Blue and White), the announcement of the decision to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu issues of rule of law, the democratic system, and corruption in government have become centerpieces of the 2019 campaign.
Following the announcement of Netanyahu’s indictment on criminal charges, the prime minister has gone on the offensive–launching an open assault on the legitimacy and impartiality of the institutions of criminal justice. In a press conference last Thursday, Netanyahu characterized the indictment in a manner similar to way way President Donald Trump has characterized the investigation led by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller — as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” Netanyahu depicted Attorney General Mandelblit’s decision to have been a result of his caving to pressure by his opponents on the left. A recent poll found that 42 percent of Israelis believe the prime minister’s characterization.
Meanwhile, the Israel Police have ordered additional protection be provided for the individuals named by Netanyahu in his televised appearance, State Attorney Shai Nitzan and Liat Ben-Ari, the director of the tax and economic crimes unit and lead prosecutor in the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom the prime minister accused of politicizing the investigation against him. Outgoing Likud minister Benny Begin characterized the prime minister’s broadside against the investigation as “an assassination attempt on the public’s faith in the law enforcement agencies.”
On social media, Netanyahu tweeted a cartoon campaign video (see below) modeled on a children’s book format aiming to “burst the balloons” of the three cases he faces–mentioning neither the elections nor his political rivals–but instead targeting individual journalists by name.
שבוע טוב! pic.twitter.com/91yqUqmEMc
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) March 2, 2019
WOMEN IN POLITICS
According to a special election survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, 52% of the Jewish public believes it “important to ensure that women rank high on their party’s list of candidates” and observed significant differences between political camps in this regard. 80% of those polled who identified as left, 57% in the center, and 45% on the right deemed gender diversity in Knesset representation important. After party primaries and final submissions of list, here is a breakdown of the representation of women in key parties:
- The Labor Party primary elected four women to the top ten spots on its party list.
- Likud selected two women to its top ten spots—with only three elected to the top twenty.
- Hayamin Hechadash (The New Right) Party of Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked released its list of twenty four candidates, which features five women in the top twelve positions.
- Meretz held its first primaries ever last Friday, selecting a diverse slate – including three women in the top six slots. Number six in the Meretz slate, Mehereta Baruch-Ron, was the first woman of Ethiopian descent to serve as Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv. Led by Chairperson Tamar Zandberg, Meretz is the only party, apart from Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party that is led by a woman.
- The Yesh Atid Party led by Yair Lapid announced its list, which included three female candidates in the top ten positions on the list, including as its tenth Pnina Tamnu Sheta, the first woman of Ethiopian descent to hold a Knesset seat. (Yesh Atid does not hold party primaries to determine its slate).
- Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel Resilience) party also released its full list of candidates, with two female party members making its top ten. While, no women are represented in the party’s top eight positions, the list includes five women in the top twenty slots, including ultra-Orthodox social activist and attorney Omer Yankelevich and Druze anchorwoman Gadeer Mreeh.
- Finally, the merger of the Yesh Atid Party with Hosen L’Yisrael into the new Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) Party issued a list dominated by military generals, and with only two women in the top ten positions, Miki Haimovich and Orna Barbivai.
- In light of the criticism of the absence of women from the top ten spots, Kavhol Lavan(Blue and White) leader MK Yair Lapid tried to address the issue at the Nes Tziona conference, but he was entangled in a ill-considered joke that caused controversy. “You see, there are two women on the list and they are not so disciplined, they tell her to get up, she does not get up.” Lapid responded to this on Twitter by saying: “I apologize to the women who were hurt. It was a bad joke.”
- The party of Orly Levy-Abekasis, Gesher (Bridge) failed to merge with Benny Gantz’s party before the deadline to submit finalized lists, and may not make the final threshold. Levy-Abekasis has attempted to recast her party as a women’s rights party, with the first ten slots filled by women candidates.
Israel’s Blue and White Boys Club Wants Your Vote, by Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz)
Women Should Take These Elections Seriously, by Nurit Daboush (Yediot Achronot)
Israeli Women’s Rights Party Launches Campaign: ‘We Will Dictate the Next Government’, by Lee Yaron (Haaretz)
While social justice issues have not been the central focus of any party’s campaign, in light of recent events, there has been a focus on the quality of Israel’s healthcare system, which has been mentioned in party platforms and in media interviews by candidates. This week Ayelet Shaked (The New Right) spoke about the state of Israel’s healthcare system. The Labor Party voiced repeated criticism of Deputy Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) over the state of the healthcare system, and Itzik Shmuli who secured the first slot in the Labor Party primary, has especially emphasized this issue. In it’s recently released party platform, Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) committed to adding NIS 12.5 billion to the health system over the next five years, and to building new hospitals in the South and the North. This issue is coming up now because of the fact that hospitals in Israel reached hundreds of percent capacity this year and health officials repeatedly warned of their distress. Hospitals in the socio-political ‘periphery’ suffer from a lack of beds and human resources, and patients experience long waiting periods for treatment and surgery if they do not have access to private medicine.
THE BATTLE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Parties from all over the political map are positioning themselves on issues of religion and state in interesting and unexpected ways. Overtly religious parties, continue to advocate for a greater role of religion in public life and law, while non-religious parties are positioning themselves in various ways to translate popular attitudes about the relationship between religion and state, which largely support things like public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriage, into political success.
In Kachol Lavan’s (Blue and White) recently released platform, the party discusses preserving Shabbat as the national day of rest “while enabling activities that meet the needs of all Israeli citizens.” It refers to controversial issues relating to transportation on Shabbat, allowing flexibility for municipalities, and commits to canceling the “Supermarket Law” a law championed by the ultra-Orthodox parties which permits the interior minister to nullify municipal bylaws that allow businesses to open on Shabbat.
An Israeli NGO called Hazon allegedly with ties to MK Eli Yishai (Yahad) launched two defamatory campaigns targeting the LGBT community and Reform Jews.
- The first was a homophobic appeal which centered on LGBT families: “So that there will not be a child with father and father.” A billboard with this message appeared in Jerusalem. The campaign was criticized by MK Meirav Michaeli (Labor) and MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), as well as by civil society leaders. Amnesty International Israel filed a complaint with the police for inciting violence against children of LGBT families.
- This week a billboard appeared outside the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan with a message delegitimizing Reform Judaism which read: “A Reform grandfather = an assimilated father = a grandchild who is a ‘goy [non-Jew].’” and which advocated for safeguarding a “normal” Kotel (Western Wall), referring to (since scuttled) negotiations between non-Orthodox Jewish denominations, the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.
Read: The Yachad Party’s Desperate Campaign is Loaded with Homophobia and a List of Other Hatreds, by Yonatan Gher, Director of Amnesty International Israel
OCCUPATION AND ANNEXATION
Zazim — Community Action, Israel’s campaigning community for social and political change modeled after MoveOn.org, along with Breaking the Silence launched a civil society campaign that shows Palestinians from Hebron asking Israelis going to the polls April 9, who are voting to determine the future for Palestinians, to vote on their behalf. The campaign message is: “military rule is a choice – but not for the people living under it. Vote to end the Occupation.”
תקשיבי לאחמד ולסונדוס. תקשיב לסמיח וליאסר. הקול שלהם ושל עוד 5 מיליון נשים וגברים, לא נשמע כשמדובר בעתיד שלהם ושל הילדים שלהם. ההצבעה שלנו ב-9 באפריל תקבע את הגורל שלהם. תצביעי נכון. תבחר בסיום הכיבוש.
צפו בסרטון שהכנו יחד עם @ShovrimShtika ושתפו עכשיו: pic.twitter.com/84oWT8vKEV
— זזים – קהילה פועלת (@zazim_org_il) March 1, 2019
Meanwhile, in the political arena the word “peace” has largely been marginalized in the mainstream discourse. In her parting speech after resigning from the Knesset race, MK Tzipi Livni, said that “peace has become a vulgar word.”
- Read: Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni discusses the upcoming Israeli election and why she bowed out – interview with Tzipi Livni, by Joshua Mitnick (Foreign Policy)
Benny Gantz, in his first speech, before his party’s union with Yesh Atid, mentioned the necessity of pursuing peace, saying that under his leadership “the government will strive for peace and will not miss an opportunity to bring about regional change.” Gantz, in a subsequent interview, used Benjamin Netanyahu’s own framing from the prime minister’s 2009 Bar Ilan speech to affirm a commitment to find “find the way in which we don’t have dominion over other people.” Since then, the new joint party Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) issued a platform which advocates the pursuit of “separation from the Palestinians.” The platform [available in full here] notably does not mention either a two-state solution or a Palestinian state. And the plan rejects the notion of unilateral withdrawals (which Benny Gantz had hinted at earlier in the campaign) — as well as any territorial concession in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, while committing to retaining the settlement blocs, while restricting building of new settlements outside the major blocs.
Labor leader Avi Gabbai, having early on in the campaign called the settlement project “beautiful and devoted face of Zionism,” this week issued what amounted to traditional Labor positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The party released an official plan entitled, “Three Pathways to Separation” based on the principles of security, breaking the deadlock and preventing annexation, and proposing a concrete timeframe. That plan includes three major components:
- Stopping all settlement construction outside of the main settlement ‘blocs’
- Passing a law within six months of a new government on evacuation and compensation of residents of settlements
- Initiating a national referendum on the future status of Palestinian refugee camps and villages in the outskirts of Jerusalem
Having issued its own political plan, the Labor Party went so far as to attack the Kachol Lavan(Blue and White) Party as a “right-wing party” whose platform would lead to “the annexation of millions of Palestinians.” Its aim: to situate the Labor Party as the only party that voices a clear policy for “separation on the basis of a two-state solution.”
The Likud Party’s ideological bureau voted last week to formally oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, reaffirming a May 2002 decision by the Likud Central Committee in opposition to the two-state solution. In December of last year, the Central Committee passed a resolution in favor of formally annexing the West Bank, urging faction leaders to act to “allow unhindered construction and to extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all the areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria.”
Meanwhile, parties on the right have been consistent in expressing support for annexation of the West Bank.
- MK Naftali Bennet: “We believe, and this is no secret, that the time has come to apply sovereignty, to the Israeli territories in Judea and Samaria, and we must begin.”
- MK Yarin Lavin: “The implementation of Israeli sovereignty in all of the territories of the Land of Israel, in my opinion, is not a question of ‘if,’ but rather a question of how we do it, and when we will do it. In my opinion the first steps must begin with the application of laws that are relevant not only to the residents but also to the territory.”
- MK Uri Ariel: “The sovereignty of the people of Israel over its land has existed from the days of Abraham our forefather, and we must in this generation are responsible for fulfilling the vision of the divine promise.”
- MK Ayelet Shaked: “I think that in the last few years history has placed before us a unique opportunity, and it’s our obligation to seize it, and begin to prepare extending Israeli sovereignty [to the West Bank].”
Watch: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recorded telling journalists from national religious press in a closed meeting he is hopeful the Palestinian village Khan al-Ahmar is demolished before the elections. “It will surely help” his electoral chances, he said.
Read: Shlomi Eldar on how fringe support for annexation has migrated into the mainstream (Al Monitor).
EQUALITY AND INCLUSIVE CITIZENSHIP
Over the past year or two we have witnessed deterioration in the relationship between the Jewish and Arab populations in Israel. The nation state bill, which discriminates against Israel’s non-Jewish population, has become law. And a political taboo preventing political cooperation between Zionist parties with Arab parties has been strengthened.
On the matter of shared society, Jewish-Arab partnership is a topic of discussion in the public domain. Omdim B’Yachad (Standing Together) a non-governmental Israeli movement of Jews and Arabs, recently released a short video whose protagonists — four women, Palestinian citizens of Israel, tell viewers, “Without Us, You Can’t.” Without Jewish-Arab cooperation, that is, there is no possibility for political change. These women are telling the Israelis who want to bring about change “You want change? You need us. Because without us, you can’t.”
Must Watch: Omdim B’Yachad Video “Without Us, You Can’t” (Hebrew / Arabic)
This week, the Likud launched a new slogan in its campaign materials, meant to generate support for the party by framing the election as a choice: ‘Bibi or Tibi,’ referring to Ahmed Tibi, a prominent Arab MK and leader of the Ta’al party. Likud candidates Miri Regev, Gila Gamliel, David Bitan and others, repeated the Likud party line: that the choice is not between Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist challengers from Kachol Lavan (Blue and White), but rather between Likud and a government that includes Arab parties.
This strategy, consistent with past efforts to stoke fear about Arab participation in the political process, is not about Tibi specifically, but is a dog whistle meant to delegitimize the Arab parties and voters.
The Likud party submitted a proposal to the Central Elections Committee to disqualify the Ra’am-Balad list. Avigdor Lieberman and Otzma Yehudit submitted proposals requesting the disqualification of the Hadash-Ta’al list. This move — to disqualify Arab parties as well as Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) — repeats itself in every election campaign. This week Israel’s Central Elections Committee, a body comprised of representatives of political parties — not jurists — voted to disqualify the entire Balad-Raam list, as well as number five on the joint Jewish-Arab party Hadash, Dr. Ofer Cassif. These decisions will be appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, however the impact of disqualification — while permitting openly Kahanist candidates to run — has already made its impact among the Arab sector.
- Meretz MK Issawi Frej, reacting to the Central Election Committee’s decision: “I will fight for my existence…The process which began ten years ago has reached its conclusion: you [members of the committee] have allowed into the Knesset, with a red carpet, [open racists]. If racism were not allowed [in Germany], there would not have been a Holocaust. Now I am standing in this position [as an Arab] and this you do not understand.”
Netanyahu Opens the Doors of Power to Extremists, by Ayman Odeh (NYT)
Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid Must Not Repeat Tzipi Livni’s Mistake, by Jessica Montell (Foreign Policy)
Treat Israeli Arabs As People, Not Things, by Michael Koplow (IPF)