Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

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

Fear More of a Factor Than Hope as Israel Votes

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 11 febbraio, 2009

11 February 2009

By Robert Mackey

As Israelis vote in Tuesday’s parliamentary elections, the final opinion polls suggest that either the conservative Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister, or the centrist Kadima party, now led by Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister, could end up with the most seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. Neither party, however, is expected to win anything close to a majority of the seats, and the contest between the two leaders is to see who will be in the strongest position to stitch together a multi-party coalition to govern the country.

Watching the opinion polls tighten in the final days of the race, The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy wrote — in an article headlined “Israel’s Election Cliffhanger as Livni Closes Gap With Netanyahu” — that the change was due less to a surge in confidence in Ms. Livni than to the phenomenal rise of another party, Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Is Our Home), led by Avigdor Lieberman, which has drawn support away from Likud. As Mr. McCarthy wrote:

Only a few weeks ago Netanyahu had a commanding lead in the opinion polls, a lead apparently reinforced by Israel’s devastating war in Gaza. However, in the final days of the campaign he has begun to lose support to Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right secular politician whose populist tone has captured the public mood like never before.

In an article on Monday, Ethan Bronner, The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, described the unease Israelis across the political spectrum feel at the sudden success of Mr. Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist party, which wants to impose a loyalty oath on all Israeli citizens, Arabs as well as Jews:

Most of the political establishment, including members of the Likud, Kadima and Labor Parties, are furious and afraid of either possibility because they broadly consider Mr. Lieberman a demagogue. […]

They say he is drawing in Israeli Jews who feel the country needs a greater display of power to survive.

Writing on the Web site of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Monday, Benjamin Hartman said that:

The fear of a far-right (let’s just call it extremist) government headed by Bibi Netanyahu and his ghosts of Knessets past, in alliance with the surging Yisrael Beiteinu party, threatens to determine the results of tomorrow’s election. […] This fear may very well be the best thing Tzipi Livni has going for her in this election.

In other words, if Ms. Livni does manage to eke out a narrow victory in the election, it may have little to do with the success of her own campaign, which, as Griff Witte reported last week in the Washington Post, has been trying, perhaps a little too hard, to take a page out of the playbook of the new U.S. President Barack Obama. As Mr. Witte wrote of Ms. Livni on the stump:

A relative newcomer to politics, she presents herself as a fresh alternative to her chief competitors, both of whom are older men who have held Israel’s top job before.

On the stump, she invites Israelis to “vote for change.” Her campaign distributes T-shirts emblazoned with the made-up word “Believni.” And she brags that unlike the race’s front-runner, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, she could partner with Obama in pursuing a peace accord with the Palestinians. “The American people voted for hope,” Livni told an audience of college students recently. “This is also possible in the state of Israel.”

But the Netanyahu campaign answers with its own T-shirt: “No, She Can’t.”

In an article and video report, The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont discussed (and showed) how far Ms. Livni has gone in her attempt to emulate Mr. Obama’s success by winning the youth vote:

Livni announced she would be the “prime minister for the young”. To reinforce that point she chose to make an appearance in Haoman 17, one of Tel Aviv’s huge warehouse dance clubs, as popular with the out-of-towners as with the city’s cool set, who prefer more intimate places.

Footage of Ms. Livni, the normally undemonstrative, former Israeli secret service agent, dancing and working the turntables at a nightclub comes about three minutes in to the video report accompanying the article. Mr. Beaumont described the scene this way: “The ‘Ice Queen’ wearing a white jacket, T-shirt and faded jeans — rather than the skirt suits she favours — bops self-consciously.”

The campaign in support of Ms. Livni has even featured a ‘Livni Boy’ video on YouTube, echoing the Obama Girl. In December The Jerusalem Post reported that Ms. Livni’s Kadima party played the Livni Boy video at a press conference where it announced that one of the campaign’s slogans would be: “Tzipi Livni: The Audacity to Change.”

A full English translation of Livni Boy’s rap is available on Ben Smith’s blog on Politico’s Web site, but these sample lyrics give a flavor:

In my dream you’re at the podium to the chanting of the anthem
At the end of the day we’ll drink together at Michal Coffee
If the recession is over then we’ll also eat
I would walk far and make the journey for you
In the end you will conquer the premiership
Oh Oh Oh Oh Tzipi
You are what I wanted
Everything that I expected
From a political leader
I don’t want Ehud
I don’t believe Bibi
Tzipi if you let me
I’ll be your man

Arguably less helpful than Livni Boy’s support was the last-minute decision by Israel’s outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who, less than a year ago, was supported by about 3 percent of Israeli voters in opinion polls, to endorse his own party’s new leader, Ms. Livni. As The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert entered the political fray at the eleventh hour ahead of Tuesday’s election when he announced at a Maccabiah conference on Sunday night that he hopes Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will succeed him.

The endorsement came after weeks of speculation, spurred by Livni’s associates, that Olmert was secretly working behind the scenes on behalf of Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu.

More than any posters, t-shirts or viral videos though, what appears to have propelled Ms. Livni in the campaign’s closing days is the fear of the more conservative alternative offered by Mr. Netanyahu, and the prospect of the right of center coalition he might lead with support from Mr. Lieberman’s nationalist party.

Lisa Goldman, in one of a series of posts on “Israel’s largely leftist, and Hebrew-language, political blogosphere” on The Guardian’s news blog wrote last week:

A friend – and occasional blogger – who lives in a prosperous town in central Israel phoned me from her car this morning to moan about the state of the country. “I’m depressed,” she announced from the driver’s seat of her child-friendly SUV. “I’m driving around the main streets of my town, looking at the campaign posters, and they are all for far-right parties! What’s going on in this country?! What happened to the moderate left?”

My friend, who considers herself a member of the moderate left, said that she planned to vote for Tzipi Livni – not because she is particularly impressed by the Kadima candidate’s platform, but because she would rather see anyone but Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu become Israel’s next prime minister. And she is not alone: a Hebrew Facebook group called “rak lo bibi,” or “anyone but Bibi” has already attracted 4,466 members.

Ms. Goldman also notes that support for Mr. Lieberman, who emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and is supported by many fellow Russian-speakers, is hard to find in the Hebrew-language blogosphere:

If you’re looking for Israeli political bloggers who plan to vote for Lieberman, you’ll need to learn Russian. I could not find any Yisrael Beiteinu voters among the Hebrew political bloggers, but there are plenty in the large and lively Russian-language blogosphere on livejournal.

While Ms. Goldman reported that many Israeli bloggers pledged to vote for Israel’s Green party, Al Jazeera English, in this recent television report found an active debate going on among Arab citizens of Israel as to “whether or not to vote” at all:

In an opinion piece published on Monday by Ynetnews, the English-language Web site of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, one Arab citizen of Israel, Ali Zahalka, the principal of an elementary school in the Israeli town of Kfar Kara, implored his fellow Palestinians to vote for any Israeli party that had a chance to form a government that would not include Mr. Lieberman’s nationalists. Mr. Zahalka blamed the leadership of the Arab-Israeli community for helping to make Mr. Lieberman’s party popular:

The Arab-Israeli leadership is increasing pushing us into anti-Israel radicalism. This extremism climaxed with the “Death to the Jews” chants during Operation Cast Lead. Here is what I have to say to those leaders: Look at what you’ve done.

We did not cry out in the face of rocket attacks on southern residents that went on for years. We did not cry out in the face of the suffering of our brethren, Gaza residents, who have been brutally repressed by Hamas. Yet we cried out, of all things, in the face of an onslaught against the most radical element in the Arab world. […]

So now we can accurately measure the result of this conduct: 18. Why 18? Because this is the number of Knesset seats that the polls predict for Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Apparently, we got what we deserve. If we, citizens of the State of Israel, which has a Jewish majority, connect to the worst enemies of the State, why are we surprised that this is what we get?

Lieberman and his party are not a marginal political element such as Meir Kahane’s party, Kach. We are dealing with immense political power that constitutes tangible danger to Israeli Arabs. He hates us and incites against us, and we can see that it’s going very well for him: The more he incites against us, the stronger he gets.

More in fear than with hope, Mr. Zahalka urged Arabs with a vote in Israel’s election to use it wisely:

I turn to Arab residents of Israel: This is a moment of truth for us. We are facing grave danger, and don’t say that you weren’t warned. Eighteen Knesset seats for Lieberman is no longer a political game. For us, it’s genuine trouble. We cannot stand by and watch on, as if this does not pertain to us. We must enlist and massively support the moderate parties that will weaken Lieberman. […]

Therefore, do not abstain from voting, and do not vote for the radical Arab parties. Rather, vote in a way that reduces the great danger we are facing today – Lieberman and his colleagues. In other words: Support parties that are still willing to give us the opportunity to integrate as citizens with equal rights.




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