As Israelis Go to the Polls, There’s Little Reason to Expect a Conclusive Result

Today Israel holds its third election in twelve months’ time, after the two 2019 elections failed to deliver decisive results. Yet the various surveys of voter opinion taken in the past several weeks uniformly suggest that neither the Likud party (led by Benjamin Netanyahu) nor the centrist Blue and White party (led by the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz) will win a decisive victory or have a clear path to forming a majority coalition in the Knesset. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

[W]hile it’s true that some Knesset seats shifted around as some voters reconsidered their options [between the April and September 2019 elections], what is more surprising . . . was the loyalty exhibited by the vast majority of voters—and the unexpected staying power of Blue and White.

Barring a shift in turnout or an unexpected run on the polls at just the right polling stations, Netanyahu still is unlikely to be able to form a majority coalition with only right-wing and ḥaredi parties, and Avigdor Liberman [of the right-wing, secularist Yisrael Beytenu party] is less likely to join his coalition today than before. The two men have a long and mostly unpleasant shared history, and Liberman knows that his party’s recent political growth comes from voters who prefer Blue and White to a Likud government.

That reality has shaped Monday’s race. It is no longer about all-out victory. Assuming neither faction suddenly implodes, . . . the fight has shifted to defining the post-vote narrative. If victory no longer comes in a single ballot-box sweep, it must be sought in slow, grinding attrition of one’s opponents.

It should surprise no one, then, that both parties and both campaigns have already begun preparing for round four.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2020, Israeli politics

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem