Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Israel moving right ahead of polls

Posted by alicemarziali su 8 febbraio, 2009


Right-wing parties are clearly in the ascendance as Israelis gear up to elect a new government in the shadow of the nation’s war on Gaza.

“If I do vote, I will probably vote for [Avigdor] Lieberman … because I don’t like Arabs,” Orit Cohen, who is doing her national service in Israel’s armed forces, told Al Jazeera.

Lieberman,  the leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beitienu party who opposes peace with the Palestinians and who is reported to favour bombing Iran, has benefited greatly from the 22-day offensive in which more than 1,300 Palestinians died, most of them civilians.

Yisrael Beitienu, founded in 1999 by Lieberman, a Russian immigrant, has traditionally drawn its support from among Israel’s Russian-speaking immigrants.

But the party’s support-base has gradually widened to the point where his party is being talked about as a possible coalition partner.

Yisrael Beitienu lies third in the opinion polls, which has come as a nasty shock for Ehud Barak, the Labor leader, whose party has been knocked into fourth place.

The final opinion polls to be conducted before election day showed Yisrael Beitienu likely to win about 19 seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, while Labor appears set to gain only 17.

Since the beginning of the year the elections, due on February 10, have been overshadowed by the Gaza offensive, which Israel says was a response to rocket fire from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel. Thirteen Israelis were also killed in the conflict.

Growing support

Despite growing public disapproval outside Israel, the war on Gaza was largely supported by the Israeli public and while it gave a boost to the administration it was parties like Lieberman’s that really saw their support grow.

“Israelis have [since the war on Gaza] been more exposed to our views, the leadership and the people on our list – and they liked it,” Dani Ayalon, a former ambassador to the US who is running for Yisrael Beiteinu, told Al Jazeera.Lieberman’s ascendancy has infuriated his critics, who have alleged his views are racist, which he denies.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper recently carried a report alleging he had, albeit briefly, been a member of Kach, a right-wing party that was banned in 1988 for inciting racism.

One of Yisrael Beiteinu’s controversial policies is a proposed Citizenship Law that would compel Israeli-Arabs to swear allegiance to Israel and be willing to perform military service before being granted citizenship.

“We want to bring about what in America would be called a ‘pledge of allegiance’ as a common base for all Israelis,” Ayalon said.

“We state, very proudly, that Israel is a Jewish state. It’s ours. We’re entitled to it.”

Ayalon dismissed allegations that Yisrael Beiteinu’s policies are racist.

“We’re not targeting anyone, we’re not discriminating,” he said. “We just put it on the table – no political correctness, but no euphemism either.”

‘Dangerous force’

But the Arab parties see Lieberman as a dangerous force in Israeli politics.

“His whole campaign is known to be against the Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Yasmeen Dahar, a candidate for the National Democratic Assembly, known as Balad, told Al Jazeera.

She described Lieberman’s views as “frightening”.He wants us to give up our citizenship, he wants to transfer us to the West Bank and Gaza … he wants us to be loyal to what he thinks Israel should be.

“We will never be loyal to aggression, we will never be loyal to occupation. We will never be loyal to war.”

Ahead of the elections, Lieberman’s party called for the Israeli-Arab parties Balad and Ra’am-Ta’al to be banned from running, accusing them of being disloyal to Israel.

The electoral commission complied, though the ban was later overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Ze’ev Bielski, a Knesset member from Kadima, said the rise of Lieberman and the resurgence of the Israeli right-wing was a consequence of outside groups opposing Israel.

“I think the credit has to go Hamas, to Hezbollah, to the Iranians, because every opportunity to negotiate for peace – to stop shooting, to start negotiating – was violated by them,” he told Al Jazeera.

“So many Israelis, mainly young ones, have no hope in peace. So they go to the other side that says, ‘Listen, don’t waste your time. Only by force, this will be the solution’.”

But Bielski’s party has also benefited from Liberman’s rise in popularity.

Support for the Yisrael Bieteinu is shifting not from the centrist parties such as Kadima, but from Likud, the opposition party led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is still seen by many people as the man most likely to be Israel’s next prime minister, but, judging from the polls, it is generally Likud’s supporters who are moving even further  to the right and turning to Yisrael Beiteinu.

Kadima, headed by Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister, is close enough to Likud for that to make a difference on election day.

By Alex Sehmer in Jerusalem




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