Caveat voter
Hebrew media review

Caveat voter

The region turns from trading rockets to planning, and regretting, elections

A Likud member arrives to vote in the party's primary elections at a Jerusalem polling station on Nov 25 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
A Likud member arrives to vote in the party's primary elections at a Jerusalem polling station on Nov 25 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

“A battle for every vote,” shouts the main headline of Yedioth Ahronoth, and while awfully drama queen-esque, the sentiment correctly reflects the zeitgeist of the region, where bombs and rockets have been replaced by vote-casting, fights to stop votes and regrets over votes past.

The vote dominating Israeli front pages today is the Likud party primaries, which will determine who among the party’s 97 candidates will be given a high enough spot on the slate to put them into the Knesset. Yedioth surmises that 25 seats, or possibly less, will go to the ruling party (which is expected to remain in power) making this round of musical chairs especially fierce.

The paper spells out the main battles, including internal rifts between party members, the rightward push being spearheaded by Haim Katz and Moshe Feiglin and the return of several candidates who previously jumped ship to join Kadima and now seek to return to the fold.

Outposken economist Shlomo Maoz, who recently joined the party, is shocked at the way the political game is played and, in an article in Yedioth, accuses politicians of paying for votes.

“Vote merchants came to me and said explicitly: I will bring you votes, I will bring you support, and you will pay money,” he told the paper. ‘People are paying thousands of shekels to be chosen. That’s not democracy.”

Maariv, which also covers the race extensively, notes that the party fears rain will keep away a large number of the 123,000-odd party members eligible to vote.

The paper’s Shalom Yerushalmi writes that because of the way the primary works, with different camps publishing their own recommended slates and “hit lists” that are widely followed, low turnout could end up helping the party’s right flank and hurting Netanyahu’s more centrist bloc. Presumably the more passionately right-wing the voter, the more likely he is to go and vote.

“The prime minister himself is a sought after [endorsement] for every candidate. Netanyahu supported four to five candidates pretty much publicly: Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, Tzachi Hanegbi and Shlomo Maoz. It’s said that he also wants Avi Dichter, who came from Kadima. In the Likud primary market, an endorsement from the prime minister is worth about 10,000 votes. Yesterday the prime minister called Likud leaders and pleaded with them to go out and vote. His candidates will only be in the Knesset if there is a high turnout, or if one of the large blocs chooses them.”

Let my people go (to court)

Israel will soon vote, but in Egypt, where the people already went to the polls, Saturday saw masses come out to show unhappiness at the man they chose, Mohammed Morsi, who enshrined himself with wide-reaching powers a day after winning international kudos for helping broker the Israel-Hamas ceasefire. Front pages in Israel are chock full of pictures of Egyptians rallying against Morsi.

“We traded one pharaoh for another,” reads the headline in Israel Hayom, on top of pictures of angry Egyptian Muslims and Copts protesting in crowds. The article, which details that the country’s judges have called a protest strike, also asks whether the military will stand to the side while Morsi makes himself above the law, and notes that the military did in fact issue an announcement against his move.

In Yedioth, former Israeli ambassador to Cairo Yitzhak Levanon writes that the protests seem to have a Tahrir-like vibe. While Egyptians have come out to protest Morsi in the past, this time it’s different, he says.

“This time Morsi has neutralized the judicial system, which many Egyptians saw as the last bastion of a proper government. The idea that the three powers — executive, judicial and legislative – are in the hands of Morsi awakened fear in political and judicial bodies in Egypt. The US and Europe already voiced their worries about it, but the public knows that only it is able to cancel the president’s decision, and thus returned to Tahrir.”

A Hamasnik in Fatah clothing

Another vote, at the backs of Israelis’ minds today but likely to be front and center later in the week, is the United Nations show of hands to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember state. Israel has been fighting the move and Israel Hayom quotes Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz saying that the PA’s diplomatic push is more dangerous for Israel than rockets from Gaza. Environmental Minister Gilad Erdan is also quoted saying that he knows a terrorist when he sees one: “ [Abbas] is a Hamasnik in costume. Arafat before him would at least wear a uniform, and not dress up in a business suit. Whoever praises Hamas for shooting rockets at civilians, encourages unrest in the Palestinian Authority and enacts a unilateral diplomatic process – he is a dressed-up Hamasnik.”

In Haaretz, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff note that with Gaza now so placid, attention will turn to the West Bank, where a confluence of Yasser Arafat’s grave being dug up and the statehood bid could cause some unrest.

“There will be demonstrations of support for Abbas, which are being organized by none other than Jibril Rajoub, the former head of the PA’s Preventive Security Service,” they write. “Rajoub already organized such a demonstration of 5,000 people in Jericho, but it ended up being held on the day that Israel assassinated Hamas’s military chief Ahmed Jabari in Gaza. One can assume, though, that in the coming days Rajoub will succeed in getting more than a few thousand Palestinians out into the streets.”

Talking Turkey

In Maariv’s op-ed page, Rubik Rosenthal writes that television coverage of Operation Pillar of Defense changed the way the world viewed the sides and gave the paradoxical idea of a “victory shot” which Hamas tried hard to present and in some cases did.

“The Gazans are David, their rockets the slingshot; Israel Goliath, armed with planes, tanks and Iron Dome. And the world loves David,” he writes, parroting a comparison that has been made a million times before.

Haaretz, which reported Sunday that Israel and Turkey are now engaged in talks to repair their relationship, in the wake of contacts made in connection to Gaza ceasefire talks, devotes its editorial to calling for that process to be pushed along.

“It would be absurd if Israel, which was prepared to negotiate with Hamas about a ceasefire, was unable to find the right words to apologize to the Turkish people for the Marmara raid, just as it would be ridiculous if Turkey, which is now prepared to negotiate with Kurdish terrorists, rejected Israeli overtures. It’s about time the two countries became friends once again.”

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