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Voices

Israeli parties take care not to say anything stupid

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AUBREY KATZEF

At a Labour party rally just before that election, well-known film and television personality, and the rally’s host, Dudu Topaz, made a derogatory remark about the sephardim or Mizrachi Jews, calling them chach chachim (a derogatory Hebrew term for low-life people or rough necks).

At a subsequent Likud rally, Begin made one of his finest speeches in a long political career. He praised the sephardim as “Jews, soldiers, brothers, and fighters”, and won the election. One stupid statement about the sephardim, and it cost Labour the election.

Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party must be trying not to make the same mistake. Just more than a week before the election, you would expect Gantz and others in the quartet of leaders, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, to be crisscrossing the country holding rallies, but there are no reports of this happening.

I believe the reason for this is that Blue and White does not have much to offer voters. Contradictory statements have come from the left and right of the party, especially regarding settlements. The left-wing wants the settlements dismantled, and the right-wing wants them strengthened. Details of policy is scarce. The party seems to exist solely for the purpose of getting rid of Bibi Netanyahu.

What of Likud? It seems obsessed with discrediting Gantz. It is a great pity that it has adopted this line. Since the last election, the government has had some great achievements. The economy is strong, and Netanyahu has had much success on the diplomatic front. Likud should push this record strongly, and draw voters’ attention to the fact that Blue and White doesn’t have any policies that will improve life in Israel.

Labour, now a sad shadow of the party it once was, is having a full go at Blue and White and Likud in trying to push its record in opposition. However, the voters don’t seem to be buying it. The party seems to have partially recovered from its initial disastrous showing in the polls, but some polls show that that it might not even cross the threshold into the Knesset. Now, the polls are expecting Labour to get eight to nine seats. In the past week, a mostly unheard of party is reflecting enough votes to pass the Knesset threshold with 3.25% of the votes. That party is Zehut, headed by an ex-Likudnik Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin describes his party as right-wing libertarian – and right-wing he certainly is.

As a former member of the Knesset, he was removed by Netanyahu from the Likud slate a couple of elections ago as being too extreme. Feiglin says his views about Arabs are similar to that of far right-wing Otzma Yehudit, a party which left-wing parties tried to ban from running in the election.

However, he claims that his social programme is very liberal, including legalising the use of cannabis. In the past election, a party called Green Leaf that also promoted the use of cannabis received about 47 000 votes.

With the worldwide move to make cannabis legal, Feiglin might find 150 000 votes to put Zehut into the Knesset. It shows how politics indeed makes strange bedfellows. I imagine that Feiglin’s Zehut will mostly draw support from liberal-minded people who l can’t imagine would dream of supporting a far-right party.

The other major news this week was that the Supreme Court banned Michael Ben Ari of the Otzma Yehudit party, now incorporated into the United Right Party, from running for Knesset. It’s the first time that the Supreme Court has banned a person from running for Knesset. It’s a foolish move in that right-wing voters will come out and support the United Right Parties.

With just more than a week to elections, all eyes will be focused on seeing which of the minor parties make it into the Knesset.

•     Aubrey Katzef is a Cape Town attorney who has a CA, BProc, and an Honours degree in Jewish Studies. He is a dedicated Zionist, and has been involved in Jewish communal affairs and various communal bodies his whole life, including the Jacob Gitlin Library in Cape Town. Aubrey has been an Israeli election pundit for many years, and his predictions are seldom off the mark.

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