ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Soccer radio whiz Bahloul likely to run for Labor seat

Israeli Arab sports commentator to vie for party’s 17th slot; economist Manuel Trajtenberg announces entry into politics

Sportscaster and potential political candidate Zouheir Bahloul (photo credit: Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
Sportscaster and potential political candidate Zouheir Bahloul (photo credit: Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)

Arab Israeli soccer commentator and media personality Zouheir Bahloul is expected to vie for a spot on the Labor party’s list for the upcoming elections. Bahloul arrived at the party’s headquarters on Wednesday morning to pick up registration forms, only a day before the final deadline for submitting candidacy applications. If he runs in the primary Bahloul will probably compete for the 17th slot, which is reserved for Druze or Arab candidates.

Bahloul told the Israeli news website Ynet that he still needed “to tie up a few loose ends that I am thinking about, but I think I will submit the forms tomorrow morning.”

Bahloul said two weeks ago that he intends to enter politics and run for a seat in the 20th Knesset. The veteran soccer commentator examined several options, including Meretz, where he had a chance of winning a slot with a realistic chance of becoming an MK.

Bahloul, whose voice on the radio is recognized by most Israelis and certainly by soccer lovers, also considered joining one of the Arab parties but, he said, they had not yet finalized their platforms nor reached a possible agreement on running on a joint ticket. He said he intends to promote dialogue between Jews and Arabs and to help rebuild the devastation left by the summer’s war in Gaza.

“I want to rehabilitate relations between Jews and Arabs and establish true equality for all Israeli citizens,” he told The Times of Israel in an interview last week.

According to Bahloul, who refers to himself as a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, Israel’s attempts at Arab-Jewish coexistence failed long ago. But the situation was never as bad as it was in the summer, with what Bahloul says was intentional incitement against Israeli Arabs by Israel’s political leaders.

“They see us as enemies, and that message got amplified through the racist rhetoric that got circulated on social media,” he said.

Should Bahloul win a seat in the Knesset, his first order of business would be to try to change the national education system to foster more diversity and tolerance, he said.

“Currently, our schools teach, but don’t educate. There is no education for shared values. Everything is geared toward the Jewish perspective,” he said.

Polls from recent days put Labor, following its union with Hatnua led by former justice minister Tzipi Livni, at around 22 seats, which would grant Bahloul a seat in the Knesset.

Manuel Trajtenberg joins Knesset race

Meanwhile, Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, a renowned economist and head of planning and finances in the Council for Higher Education, announced his resignation from the council Wednesday in order to enter politics.

Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Professor Manuel Trajtenberg after the prime minister persuaded his cabinet to back the Trajtenberg Commission recommendations in 2012. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Professor Manuel Trajtenberg after the prime minister persuaded his cabinet to back the Trajtenberg Commission recommendations in 2012. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is acting temporarily as education minister following MK Shai Piron’s departure, Trajtenberg said he decided to resign in order to “open the possibility of taking part in the coming elections.”

“I believe I will be able to further advance economic prosperity, while also shaping a more just society,” he wrote in the letter.

Trajtenberg is expected to join the newly unified Labor-Hatnua list, though neither he nor the party heads have issued an official statement.

If he joins the list, Trajtenberg may fill one of the spots held for Hatnua party members, or have a new spot created for him, to be agreed upon by both party leaders, the daily Haaretz reported.

In 2011, following the massive summertime social justice protests, Trajtenberg was selected by Netanyahu to head a committee charged with negotiating with protesters and recommending government measures to solve the crisis.

Renee Ghert-Zand contributed to this report.

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