The results of the opinion polls are telling, following: a) Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement regarding his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, subject to a hearing, on three counts of fraud and breach of faith and one count of bribery, and b) Netanyahu’s melodramatic reaction to this announcement, which was made up of numerous factual inaccuracies, outright lies, emotional blackmail and libelous charges against all the senior members of the team that participated in the indictment decision.
With a slight shift in favor of the Center-Left and away from the Religious-Right, we are facing a political deadlock reminiscent of that following the 1984 elections. The only way out may be a national unity government in which the two main parties that together will command a majority in the Knesset will decide what the agenda of this government will be. It will be able to refrain from giving in to any unreasonable demands by minor coalition partners.
Such a government can only be formed after Netanyahu steps down.
However, despite the reservations regarding the value of pre-election opinion polls, there are a few other lessons to be learned.
The first is that the Likud has the solid support of a quarter of the voters, which is made up of those who believe that Netanyahu is absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing and that we are experiencing a witch hunt against the Right; those who believe that Netanyahu is so great a leader that he is above the law regarding the offense with which he is being accused; and those who understand that without Netanyahu, the Right will lose power, which they view as a national catastrophe since they believe the Center-Right to be incompetent at best and treasonous at worst (even though there are three former chiefs of staff and another two major-generals among its leaders).
The second is that there is a close run between the New Right, and Bayit Yehudi and its partners – known as the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) – regarding which of them will gain more seats in the 21st Knesset (together they are predicted to get 12 seats). This means that around half the voters of the National-Religious camp are not deterred by Kahanists being members of URP, while a majority is wary of opting for a right-wing list that is 50:50 religious and secular (many supporters of the New Right are seculars).
The third is that the more moderate combination of Hadash and Ta’al (Ahmed Tibi’s party) is stronger than the more extreme combination of the secular Balad and the Islamic Ra’am (7:5 seats in the poll carried out by Channel 11, versus 9:4 seats in Channel 13’s poll), but also that the Arab bloc does not lose seats by running in two separate lists.
Finally, all the polls show Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, Orly Levy-Abekassis’s Gesher and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut parties failing to pass the qualifying threshold, together with another 35 insignificant lists.
However, I Should Like To Return To Last week’s acrimonious debate (before Mandelblit’s announcement) that followed the agreement between Bayit Yehudi, National Union and Otzma Yehudit to form the URP, which Netanyahu concocted in order to avoid the loss of several seats by the Right.
The Center-Left (but also some Liberal-Right personalities) condemned the agreement, which will result in at least one Kahanist entering the 21st Knesset. They pointed out that in the 11th Knesset, Likud MKs boycotted the plenum speeches of MK Rabbi Meir Kahana and did not object to the decisions of the Knesset Presidium to reject several bills submitted by him, which were reminiscent of the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany, only directed against the Arabs rather than the Jews.
In reaction, the Likud, including three of its ministers – Miri Regev, Yuval Steinitz and Yo’av Galant – declared that in the elections to the 20th Knesset, Zionist Union leader Yitzhak Herzog had signed a surplus vote agreement with the United Arab List, which, according to them, is no less objectionable on moral grounds than Bayit Yehudi running together with Otzma Yehudit. Galant added that David Ben-Gurion is turning over in his grave as a result.
WELL, THERE are a few problems with this argument. The first is that in the elections for the 20th Knesset, the Zionist Union signed a surplus votes agreement with Meretz – though it has not been denied that Herzog had tried to get Meretz to sign a surplus votes agreement with the United List, so that the Zionist Union would be free to sign such an agreement with Yesh Atid, in order that no seats would be lost by default. The reason this plan did not materialize was because of opposition within the United List.
As to Ben-Gurion turning over in his grave, if he is doing so, I am sure that this is because of where Netanyahu has led the State of Israel, which he so laboriously established as a democratic, liberal-social democratic state, in which the rule of law is supreme. It should be remembered that until the elections for the 9th Knesset in 1977, all of the Arab parties, except for the mixed Communist Party, were established and supported by Mapai and later the Labor Alignment – and that Ben-Gurion was not opposed to political cooperation with the Arabs, though he never invited them to join his governments.
I suspect that it is Menachem Begin who is turning in his grave, because of Netanyahu’s insistence of bringing the Kahanists into the 21st Knesset. Incidentally, it was Begin, who fought for the cancellation of the Military Administration under which Israel’s Arab citizens lived until 1966. But who remembers?
There IS, however, a much deeper problem involved with this debate. What the Likud is suggesting is that there is something illegitimate about the Arab parties in their entirety – irrespective of their diverse ideologies – that puts them in the same category as the Kahanists – and that cooperation by Zionist parties with these parties is tantamount to treason.
I am not saying that among the Arab parties one cannot find any views that are objectionable. In my opinion, the ideology of Balad does not tally with article 7a of Basic-Law: the Knesset, which forbids parties that reject the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel; advocate racism; and support terrorist organizations that act against Israel, from running in the elections – just like the ideology of Otzma Yehudit does not tally with it.
Unfortunately, every time the Central Elections Committee has decided to disqualify Balad or Kahanist lists, or individual candidates running in them, the Supreme Court has taken a lenient approach and has reversed the decision.
In short, while it is permissible under Israeli law to reject individual parties or candidates under certain circumstances, comparing the Arab parties in their entirety to one anti-democratic, racist, xenophobic Jewish party is in breach of the Talmudic principle of g’zera shava (analogy). I would argue that not only was the Likud wrong to raise a false claim, but that the Labor Party erred in not rejecting the claim on principle, rather than with the argument that “I don’t have a sister.”