Election political analyst JAMES MARLOW has been covering Israeli elections since the eighties with reports, news briefs, analysis and polls based on surveys conducted and commissioned for Israel’s news networks and brings The Jewish Weekly the latest updates.
Israel is a tiny Jewish democracy in the heart of the middle east – imperfect but vibrant with a free press, free elections, a boisterous parliament, minorities working at the highest levels of government, army and in business, BUT yet in 2018, the UN General Assembly found time to condemn Israel 21 times. In comparison, Syria and North Korea each received just one condemnation and the large totalitarian Peoples Republic of China received none.
But unlike those countries, more than 30 political parties, so far will be running in the upcoming general election on April 9 where Israeli Jews, Christians, Muslims and all ethnic minorities will be eligible to vote.
One party to watch out for is the new “Resilience for Israel” led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, who this week broke his silence on his policies and declared he would change the Nation-State law.
Speaking to Druze activists outside his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, Gantz said the law was discriminatory towards the country’s non-Jews and specifically pointed to the Druze community who were a valued segment of Israeli society.
The law enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also defines Arabic as a language with a “special” status, effectively downgrading it from its de facto status as a second official language, though it stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”
The Netanyahu government said the new law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already anchored in existing quasi-constitutional legislation. But critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines Israel’s commitment to equality for all its citizens. It also received huge opposition from Israel’s Druze minority – many of whom serve in the Israeli army.
Gantz is seen as the only possible threat to a Netanyahu victory on April 9 but is still only polling around 12 seats as opposed to the Likud who are on around 30 seats.
Shortly before Benny Gantz vowed to change the Nation-State law, a Channel 10 poll found that when presented with a choice between the former Chief of Staff and the Prime Minister, 41 percent of the public chose Netanyahu while 38 percent picked Gantz. Twenty-one percent were undecided.
When asked to choose between Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Netanyahu won 45 percent of the vote while Lapid received 29 percent, and 26 percent, were undecided.
By James Marlow