Citing voter apathy and Gantz’s pull, leftist parties warn of potential wipe-out
Ex-general heckled on stage by activist crying 'leftists'

Citing voter apathy and Gantz’s pull, leftist parties warn of potential wipe-out

Leaders of Democratic Camp and Labor-Gesher say Blue and White’s efforts to take in their voters could cause the centrist alliance to ‘win the battle but lose the war’

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at the Democratic Camp electoral alliance's campaign launch in Tel Aviv on August 12, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at the Democratic Camp electoral alliance's campaign launch in Tel Aviv on August 12, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

With their parties languishing near the bottom of polls and perilously close to the electoral threshold ahead of Tuesday’s election, two left-wing parties on Saturday warned they were in danger of being erased from the Knesset and lashed out at the centrist Blue and White party for a strategy they said would destroy any chance of unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In recent days Blue and White has been urging voters in the center-left bloc to focus on strengthening its hand in the national vote, rather than supporting smaller parties Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Camp.

The latter has been polling at around six-seven seats in recent days while Labor has dropped to five in recent polls — only one seat above the minimum required to enter the legislature.

Democratic Camp chief Nitzan Horowitz, during a political event in the Drom HaSharon Regional Council, warned that “the secular public is apathetic, and if it doesn’t go out and vote, the left will be erased, the secular vote will be erased and Israel will turn into Turkey.”

Later, in an interview on Israel’s Channel 12, Horowitz charged that the refusal of Labor leader Amir Peretz to run on a joint list with the Democratic Camp was a “historic error.”

Democratic Union leader Nitzan Horowitz, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, August 12, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

And former prime minister Ehud Barak, also one of the leaders of the Democratic Camp, said at a Beersheba event: “If people vote for Blue and White and the Democratic Camp isn’t in the Knesset, Netanyahu will be prime minister.”

Senior Labor-Gesher MK Itzik Shmuli said on Twitter: “Labor is definitely in danger. Our voters must come back home so that the party of [Yitzhak] Rabin, [Shimon] Peres and [David] Ben-Gurion is not wiped out.

Shmuli added that without his party, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz will lose crucial support in the 120-member Knesset while Netanyahu will “easily reach” the 61 seats he needs to form a government.

Gantz “will win the battle and lose the war,” he said.

Labor-Gesher candidate Omer Bar-Lev warned “Blue and White’s delusions of grandeur are destroying the chance for change.”

Labor MK Itzik Shmuli speaks during a special plenary session at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, July 15, 2019. (Noam Rivkin Fentonl/Flash90)

Netanyahu called Tuesday’s election after failing to secure the support of 61 Knesset members following April’s national vote. Recent polls have projected that he will still fall short of that goal after the next vote, though low turnout or a left-wing party’s fall below the threshold of 3.25-percent of the vote could drastically alter the parliamentary map.

Barak also attacked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, accusing him of weakness in the investigations into Netanyahu. Mandelblit has announced his intention to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases, as well as bribery in one of them. Lawyers for the premier, who denies any wrongdoing, are set to attend a pre-indictment hearing with Mandelblit on October 2-3, just weeks after the election.

“He understands the law better than I do, but unlike me he is spineless and has no backbone,” Barak said. “When I was prime minister, I never had private meetings with the attorney general. Rabin didn’t either. Netanyahu has met with Mandelblit more than a hundred times.”

Mandelblit has continued to meet with Netanyahu despite the investigations he is overseeing against the prime minister, saying he does not see cause to exclude himself so long as their professional discussions do not touch upon the criminal probes.

“When the submarine affair came up for the first time — a case that is the most severe in the history of the State of Israel — the attorney general declared that there was nothing criminal,” Barak said.

“He stated before the investigation [had taken place] that Netanyahu was not involved in the matter. Piles of evidence have since accumulated and not been investigated to this day. When the attorney general in charge of the investigation into Netanyahu meets with him privately on hundreds of occasions, with no record or documentation, it’s at the very least improper,” Barak said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and then-cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, in Jerusalem on February 2, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The high-profile Case 3000 investigation, or submarine affair, has ensnared several close associates of Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, on suspicion that they received illicit funds as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. Some have called it the largest suspected graft scandal in the country’s history.

Also on Saturday, at an event in the coastal city of Netanya, an audience member broke onto the stage where Democratic Camp candidate Yair Golan was speaking, and shouted that the former general had “compared our soldiers to Nazis.”

He also cried out repeatedly against “leftists” and said they “will soon disappear.”

He later identified himself on Facebook as Tzahi Eliyahu and said he vowed “in the name of all IDF soldiers to hound him until he disappears from our lives.”

Golan ignited a firestorm of criticism after telling an audience during the 2016 state Holocaust memorial ceremony that he saw trends in Israel today similar to those in Europe prior to the Holocaust, warning against growing callousness and indifference toward those outside society’s mainstream. Golan, amid the subsequent outcry, quickly clarified his comments, saying he had not intended to compare Israel to Nazi Germany.

Eliyahu was removed from the stage and Golan continued speaking. He later said: “My friends and I are uncowed but even more determined to bring about a change in Israel’s leadership.”


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