Israeli Election Watch: Who’s afraid of Avigdor Lieberman, the Obama factor

  • As Israel’s election campaign nears the home stretch, much of the attention is focused on Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman rand his rhetoric about Israeli Arabs. Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu told his close associates Wednesday evening that he will aim to bring both Lieberman and Ehud Barak’s Labor Party into his government should he win the upcoming elections, Ynet  reports. The story, especially the Lieberman angle, is being picked up by newspapers around the world.
  • The Jerusalem Post reports that Likud is battling Ysrael Beiteinu for votes. And Netanyahu reached out to potential Yisrael Beiteinu voters at a massive rally at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds in which his speech was translated into Russian, reassuring them that a vote for the Likud would guarantee Lieberman a senior ministry. At the same time, Likud is warning rightist voters that if they chose to vote for Lieberman, then Kadima’s Tzipi Livni could be tapped to form the next government. The national director of Likud Anglos tells undecided voters reading the Jerusalem Post why they should vote for Netanyahu’s Likud and not a smaller party.
  • Lieberman and his party are a "clear and present danger," says Hebrew University psychology professor Leon Deouell in a piece published on Ynet: "Yisrael Beiteinu openly calls for undermining the most basic rights in a democratic society, including the right to express and promote one’s views. Without these rights, there is no democracy. This is a clear and present danger that no voter must ignore." Along similar lines, Ha’aretz published an editorial Wednesday titled "Reject Lieberman," arguing that "the slogan ‘Without loyalty there is no citizenship’ is not illegal, but has its roots in a dark conceptual world and is contrary to the lifeblood of democracy, which never makes civil rights contingent on performing duties."
  • Don’t like the idea of a strong LIeberman showing, then blame the main parties, says Ha’aretz columnist Israel Harel: "Those responsible will be the main casualties of his success — the large parties, which ignored the distress and fears of the people who vote for him," says.
  • Lieberman’s campaign "is a Russian thing," according to a colorful feature on the candidate and his party in the British newspaper The Guardian. "The first thing I notice is the nails. I’m in the campaign office of Yisrael Beiteinu, the ultranationalist party of Avigdor Lieberman, in the Mediterranean city of Ashdod. Most of the volunteers are women of a ‘certain age’. And I’m fixated on their nails. There are nails in two colors. Built-up false nails. And long, pampered nails that curve to dull points like the unsheathed claws of cats. They tick-tick-tick on keyboards of the office’s computers. Pick at stickers on the campaign board. Punch at keys on mobile phones. The nails are paired with big hairstyles: bleached blonde and permed, or tinted in two shades. The ‘hair-nail thing’, a friend explains, is a Russian thing. Not that there is any question about this being a Russian thing in every sense."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s peace efforts have put Kadima Party head Tzipi Livni in a tight spot.
  • Israel’s politicians are looking to cash in on some of Barack Obama’s magic, says a contributor to Ha’aretz Op-Ed reports "Barack Hussein Obama may have been the 44th President of the U.S. for just two weeks, but for months now Israel’s politicians have been on a quest to grab a dash of Obama in-a-bottle to enthrall the millions with a spirit of hope and change, even in an election where two of the front-runners are former prime ministers."
  • The Washington Post also reports on the reverberations of the Obama campaign being felt in Israel this week.
  • Netanyahu will have to decide between security and settlements, former defense ministry adviser Clinton Bailey tells him in an open letter printed in the Jerusalem Post.
  • Another Jerusalem Post op-ed analyzes the reasons why fewer Israeli Arabs are going to the polls. "If, as surveys predict, the participation rate of Arabs in the elections does indeed continue to drop, representation of Arabs in the Knesset will also shrink, and the public debate on alternatives to parliamentary politics can be expected to focus intensely on three potential levels: developing the concept of an all-Arab parliament, reinforcing civil society organizations and increasing support for the Islamist stream that advocates the establishment of independent institutions."
  • The BBC reports that Israeli Arabs are taking their anger to the ballot box.
  • And don’t forget that there are Israeli Jews who vote for Arab parties.
  • Kadima, Yisraeli Beiteinu and the National Union are the biggest election litterers, the Jerusalem Post reports, citing the Council for a Beautiful Israel.
  • Livni visits a nightclub and boogies in order to appeal to young voters. The Jerusalem Post reports on the trendy scene and wonders how many of the youth were underage.
  • Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy gives the left-wing view on the silver lining of a Netanyahu win: "Netanyahu’s election will free Israel from the burden of deception: If he can establish a right-wing government, the veil will be lifted and the nation’s true face revealed to its citizens and the rest of the world, including Arab countries. Together with the world, we will see which direction we are facing and who we really are. The masquerade that has gone on for several years will finally come to an end." Meanwhile, the newspaper’s editor say that left-wingers have no reason to vote for The New Movement — Meretz, since it "suffered a total and resounding failure with its automatic support for the decision to go to war in Gaza."
  • Ha’aretz reports that the left-wing New Movement – Meretz Party is losing undecided women’s votes — about 8 seats worth according to an internal poll — to Livni, whose campaign is aggressively courting women.

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