Hanin Zoabi and Israel’s point of no return

Posted: January 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Some more thoughts of the “death of democracy” scenario that might take place in the next elections

Susan Hattis Rolef has a piece in the Jerusalem Post dealing with the same issue I wrote about yesterday: the expected ban on MK Hanin Zoabi – and perhaps Balad and Raam-Taal parties as well – from participating in the next elections.

Hattis-Rolef seems to agree with me that this is a likely scenario, at least in the case of a personal disqualification of MK Zoabi.

There is no doubt that as elections for the 19th Knesset approach, right-wing parties will renew efforts to have Balad disqualified on the grounds that the party advocates turning Israel into “a state of all its citizens” – something they say essentially denies its existence as the state of the Jewish people. They also say Balad maintains contact with organizations that are defined in Israel as terrorist organizations.

In the past, the High Court of Justice has overturned Central Elections Committee decisions to disqualify Balad, but the last time the court ruled on this issue, it stated that Balad’s positions were problematic, implying that the party is walking on very thin legal ice. With the High Court’s more conservative makeup, and especially the approaching retirement of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, it is quite likely that next time the court will uphold a committee decision to disqualify Balad.

To that we can add that the 2009 ruling on Balad was a split decision, with Justice Levi arguing that the party should not be allowed to participate in the elections. It should also be noted that the law regarding these issues is very vague and broad, so if the court choses to do so, it could easily ban all Arab parties (and not just them). This is also from Hattis-Rolef:

According to The Immunity of Knesset Members, their Rights and Duties Law, MKs enjoy full immunity for any act they perform within the framework of their parliamentary work. There are four exceptions to this rule: the act involves denying the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People; it denies its nature as a democratic state; it incites to racism based on race or national-ethnic origin or supports the armed struggle of an enemy state or terrorist acts against the State of Israel, or for such acts against Jews or Arabs because they are Jews or Arabs, in Israel and abroad.

Incidentally these are also the four grounds for disqualifying parties from running for the Knesset.

Currently, three parties – Hadash, Balad and Raam-Taal – are calling for “a state for all its citizens” model in Israel, so essentially, they could be seen as violating the first article in the law (opposing the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People). One could also claim that some religious and rightwing MKs incite to racism or deny the democratic nature of the state. Yet it all comes down to the fact that the decision won’t be a legal but a political one, and since the right enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Knesset and the Supreme Court is more conservative than ever, the effort to limit the political representation of Arab citizens is highly likely to succeed.

If I had to bet on it, I would say that in the current atmosphere Zoabi is likely to be disqualified; the ruling on her party Balad, can go each way; and Raam-Taal will be banned by the Central Elections Committee but later allowed to run by the Court. Such rulings will also increase the court’s tendency to search for “middle grounds” that would please the Jewish elites.

[Needless to say, I personally find all of Balad's known positions and actions, including Zoabi's, perfectly legitimate, even if I don't agree or support them all.]

In such an event, we will be faced with the following dilemmas:

-    Should Balad participate in the elections if MK Zoabi is expelled from the Knesset?

-    Should other Arab or left parties participate in the elections if MK Zoabi or Balad are disqualified?

-    Should Arab citizens of Israel vote in elections in which their representatives – or at least some of them – are not allowed to participate for political reasons?

Since a general boycott of the elections by the Arabs would have grave consequences on the national conversation – it would surly help promote Lieberman’s plan to transfer the Palestinians to the future Palestinian “state” – and since there is no hope of ever forming a center-left coalition in Israel without a strong showing by the Arab parties, I believe that the Zoabi-Balad case might turn out to be one of Israel’s most critical moments of truth.


2012: The year democracy ends

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: elections, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

A not-so-crazy speculation for the new year: A date for new elections will be set; at least one major Arab party won’t be allowed to participate in them, resulting in a call for boycott in the Palestinian public and the Jewish left. With the Arabs out of the Knesset, the right will enjoy a much bigger majority, forever

If you leave out the West Bank, Israel is still a functioning democracy. New bills are threatening freedom of speech, minorities’ rights are not defended and specific laws targeting non-Jews effectively make them second class-citizens.

But still, the core elements of a functioning democracy – most notably political representation of all citizens – are still there.

Yet even this somewhat flawed system could disappear this year.

The common wisdom in the Israeli political system is that a new date for early elections – later this year or in the first half of 2013 – will be set in the coming months. Some claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to hold general elections in Israel before November 2012, because the prospect of Barack Obama winning another term might hurt the Israeli premier in the polls. Others cite the police investigation against Avigdor Lieberman as a reason.

According to the Israeli system, the Central Elections Committee has the right to forbid parties who support terrorism, racism or oppose democracy from participating in the elections. But the committee is a political body, composed of Members of Knesset, and is currently controlled by the right. In the past, it has tried to use this article in the law for political purposes, but has failed. This time it may succeed.

It is very likely that the Central Elections Committee may ban the two major Arab parties, Balad and Raam-Taal, from participating in the elections. Given the public hostility to Balad, and especially to its MK Hanin Zoabi, letting Balad participate would be a huge surprise.

The Central Elections Committee has already disqualified Balad and Raam-Taal from participating in the last elections, when the public sphere was much more tolerant. In Balad’s case, even representatives of Labor supported the decision.

As expected, the Supreme Court overruled the Central Election Committee’s decision and allowed the two Arab parties to take part in the 2009 elections that brought Netanyahu into power (same thing happened in 2003). Balad won three seats and Raam-Taal four. One could even argue that members of the Knesset knew in advance what the Court’s ruling would be.

The public atmosphere in Israel has changed, and so has the Supreme Court, which is more conservative than it has been in the last couple of decades. If faced with a similar scenario in the next elections, I believe that is very likely that the court will not overrule a Knesset decision to disqualify Balad and perhaps even Raam-Taal.

The result would almost certainly be a call for all Palestinian citizens to boycott the elections. And to be honest, I am not sure that any Jewish progressive should participate in an election in which the ruling coalition bans opposition parties. Arab parties that would be allowed to run – if there are such – would be faced with a major problem, as would Jewish democrats – the few that are left.

Historically, the dilemma whether to boycott elections or leave the parliament in protest of anti-democratic laws has always been a major crossroad on the way to authoritarian regimes.

Low Arab turnout, and perhaps even full non-participation, would hand the right a landslide victory in the elections (the left has not won a majority in the Jewish public since 1973, and currently it is far from it, even with the Arab vote). Such events would surely benefit Avigdor Lieberman, by framing the elections around the Palestinian citizens. Lieberman’s racist proposals surrounding the issue could attract many new voters to his party.

The 19th Knesset will be much more rightwing then the current one. More importantly, Israel won’t be able to go on claiming that it respects minority rights after forcing their representatives out of the Knesset. The left will be torn apart and the Palestinian minority will be forever alienated.

And from there it will all go downhill.


Final Results

Posted: February 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The final results of the general elections were published on Thursday evening. Here they are, together with the polls’ average I posted here and my own projection.

elections-final

Everyone missed out on the big surprise of the election – Kadima passing the Likud and becoming the biggest party again. The reason is simple: a new law prevents publishing polls in the last 4 days before an election. In the days leading to the elections, there was a significant move of voters from left-wing parties to Kadima, probably in order to stop Netanyahu. Meretz and Labor lost 3-4 MKs to Kadima in the 72 hours prior to the elections.

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Elections Night

Posted: February 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

netanyahu_bibi2:15 AM. As I write this post, around 25 percent of the votes have been counted, and one thing is clear: Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel’s next Prime minister

Don’t let Kadima’s narrow advantage in the exit polls fool you. These results are going to change as more votes come in, but even if Kadima maintains its lead, the Right wing will have a clear majority in the Knesset. That means that Tzipi Livni won’t be able to form a government, or to stop Netanyahu from forming one. The game is over.

2:40 AM: Ynet reports that after counting 83 percent of the polls, Kadima leads with 29 MKs, while the Likud has 27. Meretz suffered the biggest blow: Israel’s liberal party has only 3 MKs. The Right maintains its lead, with 64 MKs out of 120.

3:00 AM. Final results will only be published in a couple of days, but as things look now, we will have a Right-Center coalition, probably with Netanyahu as PM. He will try to have Livni and Kadima as his senior partners. Yes, all the leftists who voted for Livni in order to stop Netanyahu will discover that they actually helped him build a more stable coalition.

If for some reason Kadima will refuse to join Netanyahu’s government, he will have the option to form a coalition with the Extreme-Right and Orthodox parties.

3:05 AM. The “good” news: Liberman with 15 seats for now. He might get to 16 when the soldiers votes are added. It is still too much for the populist and racist politician he is, but far from the 20 MKs his supporters were hoping for.

3:30 AM. More than 90 percent of the votes are in. Kdima has 29 seats, Likud 27, Israel Beitenu 15, Labor 13, Shas 11, Yahadut Hatorah 4, Hadash 4, Raam 4, Ihud Leumi 4, Meretz 3, Balad 3, Habait Hayehudi 3. There will be some minor changes when the soldiers’ votes are counted, and all seat allocation rules applied.

3:35 AM. No reason to party. Going to sleep.

MORNING UPDATE: Kdima 28 seats, Likud 27, Israel Beitenu 15, Labor 13, Shas 11, Yahadut Hatorah 5, Hadash 4, Raam 4, Ihud Leumi 4, Meretz 3, Balad 3, Habait Hayehudi 3. 150,000 votes, mainly soldiers’, left to count.


Elections Projection

Posted: February 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, this is personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Here is my projection:

Likud 26

Kadima 25

Israel Beitenu 18

Labor 15

Shas 10

Meretz 6

Yahadut Hatorah 5

Ihud Leumi 4

Bait Yehudi 3

Hadash 4 (*)

Raam 4

Balad, The Greens, The Green Movement, Gil – not passing the 2% threshold.

Right-Orthodox Block: 66 MKs.
Left-Center Block: 54 MKs

(*) This is where I stand.


The Last Polls

Posted: February 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

A new law forbids publishing polls in the four days before the elections, in order not to influence voters’ decisions. The Israeli media published yesterday its final polls.

The numbers are not that different from one poll to another, and they all show a clear advantage for the Right-Orthodox block led by Benjamin Netanyhu (*). This means Netanyhau will be Israel’s next prime minister, even in the unlikely event of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima being the biggest party. Our average gives the Right a bit more than 67 MKs, meaning he can form a government even without taking in the extreme-right “Ihud Leumi” party. As I wrote before, Netanyahu will surly try to get Labor or Kadima into his government as well. Given the advantage he has now, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Here are the numbers. The later polls are on the right. The grey column on the right end of the table is our polls average. On Monday I will post my own prediction. 

(Click on the table to see it in full size)

final-polls

Avigdor Liberman is the big winner of the elections. His party will probably pass Labor and become Israel’s third largest. The latest polls indicate that he is still getting stronger, so given the fact that we have three more days before the elections, even a 20 plus result for “Israel Beitenu” won’t be a big surprise.

Liberman’s success is helping Kadima, who is getting slightly stronger, probably because of voters wishing to balance his power in the next Knesset. There are 1-2 percent of Left-leaning undecided voters, most of them women, hanging between Kadima and Meretz. Barak’s labor is not an option for them.

Labor’s war bump has stopped, and the latest polls show the party even weakening a bit. This goes to show that the public is still not trusting Ehud Barak with anything but national security.

Shas and Yahadut Hatorah, the two orthodox parties, are very stable in the polls, but one has to remember that Shas usually over-performs in the elections.

The Arab Balad party is in real danger of not passing the 2 percent minimum threshold. It’s also more than probable that the two environmental parties (“The Green Movement” and “The Greens”) won’t enter the Knesset. Their campaign has been hurt by the war, but still, if they ran together, they would have gotten in. If Balad does stay out of the Knesset, that means that the Center-Left Coalition has lost up to five seats because of parties not passing the minimum threshold.

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Today’s polls, February 4-5

Posted: February 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

we have 5 new polls in the last couple of days. We will probably have more tomorrow, and I’ll update the table as soon as possible.

The 30 MKs result for the Likud in “Israel Hayom”’s poll seems a bit too high, and so does the 20-21 for Liberman in the Globes poll. All the rest of the results make sense. Liberman’s “Israel Beitenu” party  is still gaining ground, while the Likud is stable around 27 for some time. The Right-Orthodox block keeps a 10-12 MKs advantage over the Left-Center block (*). That means Netanyahu is our next PM.

Balad party is in real danger of not getting into the Knesset, while Hadash is getting somewhat stronger. On the Right, “Habait Hayehudi” should be a bit worried as well.

Five more days to go. Here are the numbers (click on the table to see it in full size).

polls-5

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Today’s Polls, February 2-3

Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Exactly a week to the election, one thing is clear: Netanyahu will be Israel’s next PM. All polls indicate a 10 Mks or more lead for his Right-Orthodox block over Tzipi Livni’s Left-Center block (*).

But that’s all the good news Netanyahu is going to get. It is clear that the recent strengthening of Avigdor Liberman’s “Israel Beitenu” Party came at the Likud’s expense. Our average show the Likud with 26.7 MKs (it had more than 30 a few weeks ago) and Liberman with 17.3. This doesn’t hurt the Right block, but it will make life much harder for Netanyahu after the election. So far the Likud has been very careful not to start campaigning against Liberman. It will be interesting to see whether the latest numbers will change Netanyahu’s mind. UPDATE: They did. Netanyahu started going after Liberman.

The polls are very inconsistent when it doesn’t come to the four big parties (Meretz has 4 Mks on Channel 1 poll and 8 on Globes), so we might have a few surprises there.

The outcome of the election will also be affected by the number of parties not crossing the two percent threshold. As I explained here, this problem mainly concerns the Left-Center block, which has three parties in danger: Balad, the Greens and Gil, the Senior citizens’ party. Habait Hayehudi, the right-wing religious party, is also at some risk, but I believe they will get there.

Here are the latest numbers:

polls-33

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The Weekend’s polls, January 24th

Posted: January 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

We have four new polls this weekend: two by the daily papers “Yedioth Ahronoth” and “Maariv”, one by the financial paper “Globes”, and one by the free tabloid “Israel Hayom”. All polls indicate a significant strengthening of the right wing parties. Kadima, which was in a neck to neck battle with the Likud just one months ago, has lost almost a quarter of its support.

Benjamin Netenyahu’s Right-Orthodox block (*) has now almost 66 MKs in our polls average. This will put Netenyahu in a very strong position when the negotiation to form a new coalition begins, and he will be able to choose whether to invite Labor, Kadima or both to his next government. With Ehud Barak’s high approval rating as Defense Minister following the Gaza operation, it is more likely Netanyahu will prefer having Labor in his government, and hope that the fragile Kadima party won’t survive a term in the opposition.

Netanyahu will also be able to form a Right-Wing coalition without both Labor and Kadima, but as I wrote before, it is an unlikely scenario.

Two more things to notice: First, Avigdor Liberman’s “Israel Beitenu” party is getting stronger, and can easily become the 3ed largest party. Second: the Greens and the senior citizens party, “Gil”, didn’t survive the war.

polls24.1

* In the Israeli Parliamentary system, the MK (Member of Knesset) who has the support of the most MKs gets the opportunity to form the new government. That means that the leader of the bigger parliamentary Block will be the next PM. Tzipi Livni will probably have the support of the Arab Parties, the Zionist Left and the Center. Netanyahu will get the Likud, the Orthodox parties and the Extreme-Right. That means the two blocks will look like this:

Right-Orthodox Block: Likud, Israel Beitenu, Habayit Hayehudi, Ha-Ihud Haleumi, Shas, Yahadut Hatorah.
Left-Center Block: Kadima, Labor, Meretz, Hadash, Raam, Balad. To this block we may add the senior citizens’ party (Gil) and the Greens, if they manage to enter the Knesset.

The Only Democracy in the Middle East

Posted: January 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »
It’s time to change our ads

It’s time to change our ads

The central election committee decided today to disqualify Balad and Raam, two of the three Arab parties, from participating in the upcoming election. The election committee is a political body. Its members are representatives from all the Knesset parties, headed by a former Supreme Court Judge. All the right wing members, as well as Kadima’s, voted for Avigdor Liberman’s proposition to disqualify the two parties. The surprise came from Labor representative, MK Eithan Kabel, who supported the disqualification of Balad.

The fact that such a clear majority of Israel’s legislatives think that two of the three major Arab political movements shouldn’t be allowed to take part in the election is further proof that Israel is loosing its democratic core, even within the 67′ borders (on the Occupied territories its just plain Apartheid). As for Labor, this party has nothing to do with left wing or liberal ideas, but we’ve known that for quite a while now.

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