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Palestine Monitor - Will the Outcome of Israel’s

Will the Outcome of Israel’s Elections Really Make a Difference?
Palestine Monitor
9 February 2009

With the upcoming February 10th Israeli election approaching fast, the outcome is still not certain. There’s been talk about alliances, accusations at various levels, and also the banning of three parties. On the 12th of January, the Central Election Committee banned all three Arab parties, Hadash, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad, by accusing the parties of incitement, support for terror groups and refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. The Israeli Supreme Court however overturned the decision from the CEC, with a unanimous vote on Wednesday the 21st.

The rumor of an alliance between Kadima and Israel Beiteinu, has been coming from right-wing parties, whose slogan ”If you vote for Lieberman you are going to get Tzipi Livni as prime minister”, tries to remind people that in 2006, Israel Beiteinu was part of the Kadima-led government. These rumors were spread further by Tzipi Livni herself who would not rule out a coalition with Beiteinu

The Likud party with Benjamin Netanyahu, is in the lead, according to a broadcast on Channel 2 Wednesday night, but Kadima is a close second - just 3 mandates behind. Kadima is followed by Israel Beiteinu. On Thursday the 5th, Netanyahu reached out to the voters who are planning to vote for Israel Beiteinu, by reassuring them that a vote for Likud would guarantee Lieberman a senior ministry.

Declining Arab vote

A worrying trend was identified in the Jerusalem Post this week concerning the gradual decline in the participation of Israeli-Arabs in the Knesset elections. Numbers show, that between 1996 and 2006, there was a 21 % drop in participation.

The reasons for this are numerous. Mistrust of the parliamentary political process, disappointment with the achievements of Arab MK;s, ideological, religious or Islamist ban on participation or simply a protest against the legitimacy of the government establishment. The truth is that there has been no significant improvement in the relations between the Arab community and the establishment since the last election. Even though Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recognized the continued discrimination of the Arab population on several public occasions in 2008, little has changed.

Expected Results, the latest numbers from 6th of February

The right-wing bloc:

Likud: slogan “Because we have a country to run, remaining strong together” (“consolidation”, conservative-nationalist party headed by Benjamin Netanyahu): 26 seats. Opposes Palestinian statehood and supports Jewish settlements in the West Bank claiming that the Jordan River is the eastern border to Israel and that Jerusalem is “the eternal, united city of the state of Israel and Israel only”.

Likud is not the ‘Centrist’ they are believed to be in the West, or when compared to more radical parties. In reality, Likud membership is composed of a wide range of right wing elements – from the pragmatic to the extreme. In a New Yorker magazine interview Moshe Feiglin, a member of the Likud Central Committee, is quoted saying –“You can’t teach a monkey to speak and you can’t teach an Arab to be democratic. You’re dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers. An Arab destroys everything he touches.”

Yisrael Beiteinu: slogan “Lieberman, I trust him! Leadership You can trust” ("Israel is our home" - a far-right pro-transfer party headed by Avigdor Lieberman): 17-18 seats. The party wants to fulfill the three cardinal principals of Zionism: Aliyah (immigration), settlement and security movement. The main platform is reducing the amount of Arab citizens by redrawing the borders with a future Palestinian state alongside of efforts to increase Jewish immigration. They also plan to enact a citizenship law saying that in order to enjoy the full right of Israeli citizenship, one need to pledge allegiance to the State and perform military or alternative national services. In May 2004, Lieberman said that 90 % of Israel’s 1,2 million Palestinian citizens would “have to find a new Arab entity” in which to live beyond Israel. “They can take their bundles and get lost,”.

Shas: slogan “Yes, we can” (Sephardi (means Jews with family origins from the Iberian Peninsula, but in todays Israel, it is used to include most Jews of Asian and African origins) ultra-Orthodox party headed by Eli Yishai): generally supports the Greater Israel consolidation movement. Shas do not strongly support the Israeli settlements and are prepared to relinquish land in return for peace, but feel uncomfortable with this policy possibly increasing terror.

National Union-Habayit Hayehudi: slogan 1 “ Not afraid at all”, slogan 2 “Strength, strength and strengthened” (religious Zionism, coalition between two right-wing parties, the long-standing National Union and fledgling Habayit Hayehudi [the Jewish home]): the Jewish communities in ‘Judea-Samaria’ (the West Bank) and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Hard-line supporters of the settlement and advocate of the use of military power against “Palestinian terrorism”. Rejects the current Oslo-based peace efforts, and the notion of what they call an “Arab state”. They do also support the voluntary transfer of the Arabs from the West Bank. Shmuel Klein, spokesman for the party’s representative Uri Ariel, recently said that “at a time when settlements are in a real danger of being dismantled, we must proclaim the message that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.”

The left-wing bloc:

Kadima: slogan 1, “The courage to change” slogan 2, “Different leadership” (centrist party established by Ariel Sharon in 2005 after leaving the Likud party, now headed by Tzipi Livni): seats 23. Kadima believes that the Israeli nation has the national and historical right to the whole of Israel. They want Jerusalem and large settlements to be kept under Israeli control and a Jewish majority in Israel to be preserved by territorial concessions to Palestinians. They want to reserve the right for Israel to unilaterally draw final borders of Israel if Palestinians do not fulfill their obligations under the Road Map. Kadima will not negotiate with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority unless Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, accept past agreements between Israel and Palestine and end all militant violence.

Labor: slogan “Look me in the eyes and see the truth, not nice, a leader” (labor zionism, headed by Ehud Barak, used to be a strong party but has declined rapidly over the last decade): 14 seats. They want Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, plus all the areas that are major Jewish settlement blocs. Palestinians living in Jerusalem will “enjoy” municipal rights in the quarters in which they reside. The Jordan River will be Israel’s eastern security border. In other words, they can accept the establishment of a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty. New Movemment-Meretz: slogan “Doing what is good for Israel” (coalition of a social-democratic green party, latest incarnation of the left-wing Meretz, led by Haim Oron): supports a comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine based on a two-state solution as laid out in the Geneva Accord. However, thinks that negotiations with Hamas are ill-advised. They do want to dismantle most of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and struggle for the protection of human rights in the occupied territories.

Hadash: slogan “Building a new left” (non-zionist Jewish-Arab communist party): Supports evacuation of all Israeli settlements, a complete withdrawal by Israel from all occupied territories taken since 1967, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Also want the right of return or compensation for Palestinian refugees. Advocate that Israel Arabs should become equal citizens of the Israelis in all respect, excluding army service.

United Arab List-Ta’al (a union of two predominantly Arab parties, the United Arab list and Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al,): wants a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Fighting for the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and a two-state solution, Jewish and Palestinian. Supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.

Balad (predominantly Arab party whose name is a Hebrew acronym for National Democratic Assembly led by Jamal Zahalka): Demands withdrawal of Israelis’ from the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Supports the conversion of the state of Israel to a democracy for all its citizens - no matter national or ethnic identity - and the returning for Arab refugees from 1948. Demands that Israel recognize Palestinian Arabs as a national minority, entitled to all the educational, cultural and medial rights that come with that status.

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