12 July 2008

A Disengaged Nation Goes to the Polls - Early Israel Election News

בס''ד

Authors Note: This is now 12 July, 2008, and I am picking up articles at Blogcritics Magazine that should have been posted here a long time ago but weren't. At this writing, the country looks forward to a new elections, as the sitting "crime minister" is under threat of indictment and has been questioned by police now three times. Whatever purpose Ehud Olmert may have served for his foreign masters in the United States, that purpose seems to have been fulfilled, and he is being thrown to the wolves - the wolves being those politicians who are loyal not to the United States but to the European Union - politicians like MenaHem Mazuz, the "Attorney General".

Published at Blogcritics Magazine 28 March, 2006


Today is a holiday in Israel. Everything will be closed. The supermarkets, drug stores, banks, and shops will all be closed. Only the self-employed, the restaurants, the shopping malls, the reporters, and the bus drivers will be working. Today is election day. So this is a wrap-up.

In my article here at Blog Critics,"All the Trash is Jumping into One Bin", some months back, I made some specific predictions. One was that Ariel Sharon, for one reason or another, would step down from his post as prime minister in 2006. Another was that he would remain prime minister, whether elections were held or not (until he stepped down).

It appears that Ariel Sharon has remained prime minister, but indeed he has "stepped down" - or should I say been struck down. But he will not remain prime minister, assuming elections are actually held - a strong likelihood given that the polls have already opened at 10:00 this morning. I can hear the jets flying overhead on patrol. If anyone plans an attack to stop the elections, they will have to consider those jets.

If for some unforeseen reason, the elections are cancelled, he will remain prime minister.

There are 31 parties running for the 120 seats in the Knesset. The Israel Project
has summed up in English what all of the 31 political parties running stand for and the home page of this link explains briefly how the government works here.

It used to be that election day was a day that everyone went to the polls to vote. A turnout of nearly 80% was normal, and a turnout of 75% was considered poor. According to many news sources, not all that many people will be voting. This article in Debkafiles says that many young people, who form a large percentage of the population, will be staying home out of disgust with the choices in front of them. According to the article,

"At the last sampling, one-third of the 120 parliamentary seats were undecided. What most rocked campaign managers was the frank admission by 21-28-year olds that they do not intend to turn out at all because they do not regard a single party leader, whether Kadima's acting prime minister Ehud Olmert or opposition leaders, Binyamin Netanyahu (a former Likud prime minister) and Amir Peretz of Labor, worth the candle.
If they bothered to vote at all, many younger voters said, it would be for fringe parties like Green Leaf (which is campaigning to legalize marijuana), the environmentalist Greens or the Senior Citizens."


This does not augur well for the large parties running expensive election campaigns. Acting Prime Minister Olmert has made few campaign appearances, opting for the magisterial look of the leader already in power. But he has not been able to stay out of the battle entirely. Gil Hoffman from the Jerusalem Post writes how the battle between Netanyahu and Olmert has gotten personal. One of the Likud ads mentions the fact that both of Olmert's sons have emigrated from Israel, one living in New York, the other in Paris. Another ad attacks Olmert's wife, Aliza, and his daughter, Dana, both of whom have left-wing views. On the other hand, Olmert attacked Netanyahu, who lived in Philadelphia for several years and while there, changed his name to Benjamin, which is English for Binyamin.

The group most people refer to as "ultra-Orthodox," who are properly known as Hareidím, may be preparing a surprise for their rabbis and for the list that has represented them for quite some time, United Torah Judaism. According to this article, from Israel National News,

"A campaign is underway in Hareidi-religious circles not to vote for the party that has traditionally won their support, United Torah Judaism.

A Geocartographic Institute study, quoted in the Hareidi publication Mishpachá (Family), states, 'Tens of thousands of Hareidi Jews will not vote for UTJ this time. Most of them will vote for Shas, and some for NU/NRP [National Union/National Religious Party] or Marzel, [of the Jewish National Front] and a minority will not vote at all. The main reasons: the fact that the child allowances were cut so drastically, the abuse of the Torah Sage Rabbi Elyashiv, ignoring of the Council of Torah Sages, and the behavior of the party faction during the Disengagement.'"


The party held the balance of power in January, 2005, eight months before the expulsion of Jews from the communities of Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, the infamous "Disengagement," and had the option of staying out of the government and possibly forcing elections, or joining the coalition and receiving money for its yeshivot. The party chose the money for the yeshivot. Shortly afterwards, the party split and half of it sat in the cabinet the entire time the expulsion of Jews from Gaza was taking place.

According to Aryeh Zelasko, who sent me this article in an e-mail, "the sector of Israeli society that has undergone the greatest and in many ways the most profound changes in the past generation has been the Ashkenazi Hareidim."

The title of this article in Haaretz: Poll - Kadima down to 35 seats, but right lacks 'blocking bloc'. In other words, the right wing parties, according to this poll taken at the end of last week, would get 51 seats. Last year, Ariel Sharon was able to turn to the UTJ for votes, but if it is punished at the polls as suggested by the Israel National News article quoted above, the UTJ may not have the seats to save Kadima, the leading party in the poll, in its efforts to make a coalition. Then Kadima would be forced to turn to Arab parties to cement a majority in the Knesset and name a government. Only one of the three Arab parties running actually supports the State of Israel

The falling numbers of Kadima appears to be the continuing thread of many stories as we go into the election here. At this story at IMRA, the final polls of several sources are listed. According to the last pre-election polls: Kadima 34-36, Labor 17-21, Likud 12-14, Yisrael Beiteinu [a Russian immigrants' party] 7-15, NRP/Nat'l Union 8-12. The key element in these polls is that only the parties that presently have seats in the Knesset are asked about. This means that the Jewish National Front, the Green Party, the Green Leaf Party, the "Gil" (retirees) Party, which have no seats in the Knesset presently, are not usually even asked about. One of the polls did ask about them, and they are listed.

It is a distinct possibility that Kadima, which had been favored in the polls up until now with as many as 40 mandates in the new Knesset, will have difficulty forming a new government.

Even the developing Sanhedrin has weighed in on the elections, calling on the public to vote for only religious parties, defining religious parties as those which will not give up any territory in the Land of Israel and stating that "with the election of an Arab authority, by an Arab public which openly declares their intention to destroy the State of Israel, the Halachic [Jewish law] ruling of obligatory warfare comes into force, to save Israel from the hand of danger. There must be a fitting military response, to 'subdue the enemy and expel him from the land'". The only political party that appears to fit the requirements of the Sanhedrin as a religious party is the Jewish National Front.

So now we'll see.

Author's Postscript to the Article

ELECTION RESULTS

This is according to Haaretz (29 March 2006), which, no matter what I think of its editorial slant, usually gets in first with the burst.

With 99.7% of the votes cast yesterday tallied the results are as follows.

Kadima...............................................................................28
Labor...................................................................................20
SHAS....................................................................................13
Yisrael Beitenu................................................................12
Likud....................................................................................11
National Union/National Religious Party..............9
Retirees Party.....................................................................7
United Torah Judaism....................................................6
Meretz....................................................................................4
Arab Parties (combined totals only) ..............................10

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