In most Druze towns, support for right dips in first vote since nation-state law

In 8 out of 11 Druze-majority villages in north, backing for Likud slips, but strong showing in hometown of new MK swells minority’s overall support for Netanyahu’s party

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel's nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, Saturday, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israelis from the Druze community participate in a rally against Israel's nation-state law, in Tel Aviv, Saturday, August 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outgoing right-wing governing coalition received a significantly smaller percentage of the votes in Tuesday’s national elections from most Druze-majority villages in northern Israel than in the 2015 elections, according to results posted on the Central Elections Committee’s website, accounting for 97 percent of the vote.

Turnout in the 11 Druze-majority villages in the Galilee, where some 118,000 reside, also slightly increased compared to 2015: 56.4% of eligible voters in the villages cast ballots four years ago, whereas 56.7% of them voted on Tuesday.

Likud received a smaller percentage of the votes in eight of the Druze-majority villages than it did in 2015, with the exceptions of Kisrei-Sumei, Yarka — where it earned the highest number of votes — and Peki’in.

Likud won an exceptionally high number of votes in Yarka: 2,481. Patin Mula, the number 31 candidate on Likud’s electoral slate, is a resident of the village.

With the high number of votes in Yarka, where approximately 17,000 live, Likud obtained a larger percentage of the overall vote in Druze-majority villages on Tuesday than it did in the last elections. It received 6.6% of the vote in 2015 compared to 10.7% on Tuesday.

Support for Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu was down in every Druze-majority village in relation to the last elections. In Hurfeish, for instance, only 1.91% of voters cast ballots for Kulanu, compared to 25.13% in 2015.

Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and other parties also received fewer ballots in these areas, after receiving thousands of votes from the communities in the previous elections.

By contrast, Blue and White received the highest number of votes in six of the Druze-majority villages, Meretz did in two of them and Labor in one. Ghadir Murih of Daliyat al-Karmel, number 25 on Blue and White’s slate; Ali Salalah of Beit Jan, number 5 on Meretz’s slate; and Saleh Saad, number 17 on Labor’s, are Druze.

In 2015, the center-left Zionist Union won a substantial portion of the vote in Druze-majority villages, whereas Meretz only received a small percentage.

The Druze town of Hurfeish

Saleem Brik, an expert on Israel’s Druze, who follow a 1,000-year-old offshoot of Shiite Islam, said the results primarily reflect the Druze community’s frustration with the quasi-constitutional nation-state law.

“The Druze are very angry with this law,” he said in a phone call. “So many of them decided not to vote for parties whose members supported it.”

The law, which the Knesset passed in a 62-55 vote on July 19, enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” recognized Jewish holidays and days of remembrance, and declared Hebrew the state’s sole national language.

The legislation included no reference to the equality of all Israeli citizens, akin to the one made in Israel’s Declaration of Independence — which pledged that the nascent state would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Almost all members of the coalition voted for it.

Shortly after the law’s passage, thousands of Druze, including many who have served in the Israel Defense Forces and other security services, participated in a series of protests against it. Netanyahu has continued to defend the law. 

Brik also argued that the results represent the Druze community’s discontent that the right-wing has not found a solution to the land shortages in their villages.

“Druze still struggle to find space to build,” he said. “Many of them have started to say that the government does not treat them any differently than the Arabs on this issue.”

The Druze and Arabs have suffered from property shortages, and no new Druze or Arab village has been established since the founding of Israel.

Butt the first new Druze town in Israel’s history is slated to be established in the Lower Galilee in the coming years.

Brik also noted that an extraordinarily high percentage of voters in Yarka voted for Likud because a resident of the village was running on its slate.

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