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Israeli elections and exchanged accusations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

Israeli public opinion polls suggest that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to win about 30 seats in the next Knesset elections in April. Netanyahu does not feel reassured about this, and he recently allied with two far-right parties, the Jewish Home and Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit), if they ally in the elections.

Netanyahu promised to give the Jewish Home two seats in his government if he wins the next elections. Jewish Power party consists of extremists who inherited Meir Kahane’s party after being banned from the Knesset elections.

The same polls that suggest Netanyahu would be on top in the upcoming elections also suggested that the Jewish Home and Jewish Power parties would not win any seats in the elections. However.

Netanyahu is up against a popular opponent in Israel, former chief of staff Benny Gantz of the Israel Resilience Party. He accused Netanyahu of fleeing to the United States from Israel to live in luxury and comfort.

Likud supporters on social media sites accused Gantz of allying with Arab parties, i.e. the Palestinian parties and indigenous people. They also accused him of supporting the nuclear deal with Iran and negotiating with President Barack Obama behind Netanyahu’s back regarding withdrawal from the West Bank.

READ: Brazil’s far-right leader to visit Israel in potential boost for Netanyahu

Gantz responded by calling the accusations “lies” over a dozen times.

Gantz also addressed Netanyahu, saying, “I know your abilities very closely. I appreciate your contribution to the State of Israel. But I also know your weaknesses well.” He also compared his military record as a military man to Netanyahu’s premiership, saying “When I lay in the muddy trenches with my soldiers on frozen winter nights, you, Benjamin Netanyahu, left Israel to learn English and practice it at luxurious cocktail parties. On the days when I commanded the Shaldag unit in life-threatening operations in enemy states, you, Benjamin Netanyahu, worked your way bravely and determinedly between makeup stations in television studios.”

Netanyahu similarly responded to Gantz, and the Israeli press said that the prime minister was lying in his talk about his electoral opponent.

More importantly is the issue regarding the cancellation of a summit that would have brought together leaders of Israel, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia in Jerusalem after Poland accused Netanyahu of lying while speaking about its role in the Holocaust during the Second World War.

Israeli Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz claimed, quoting a former Israeli prime minister, “Every Pole suckles anti-Semitism with his mother’s milk.”

READ: Israeli minister refuses to apologise to Poland for Nazi comment

Last year, Poland passed a law sentencing anyone who accuses Poland of being anti-Semitic or playing a role in the Holocaust to three years in prison.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying that anti-Semitism is twice as common among Muslims as Christians, and is more prevalent in the Middle East than in North America and South America.

I will conclude by mentioning the demonstration in France against anti-Semitism, which had another side to it. Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known French right-wing writer, walked by a Yellow Vests protest, and some of them shouted that he was a fascist. They then chanted “Palestine” and told him to return to Israel or Tel Aviv.

The demonstration was also against the enemies of Muslims and minorities, and President Emmanuel Macron attacked supporters of anti-Semitism, however, supporters of Israel said his remarks were inadequate.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Hayat on 28 February 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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