The long-awaited Israeli elections, which began today, has got off to a rough start when police closed a voting station in the Arab town of Umm Al-Fahm this morning.
The town, the hometown of outspoken Palestinian political activist Sheikh Raed Salah, had its voting station shut down at 11:30 local time this morning due to a ballot secretary allegedly filming voters inside. The act of filming and the use of cameras within polling stations during election time was forbidden by Israel in late August, providing a blow to the ruling Likud party which planned to send over a thousand activists with recording devices to Palestinian communities within Israel in an effort to intimidate them and reduce voter turnout. The polling station was re-opened a short time afterward.
Today’s election is set to determine the 22nd Knesset or parliament, with Haaretz reporting that “the voting rate in Israel is 26.8 percent, two percent higher than it was in the April election, according to the Central Election Committee.” Voters numbers this morning were the highest since 1984.
It is also the second general election within the space of five months, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a snap election when he failed to form a governing coalition following April’s ballot. In this election, he has made ever more desperate appeals to his right-wing base, vowing to annex the occupied Jordan Valley and further establish Israeli sovereignty in the occupied West Bank, as well as warning that Israel will likely go to war against Gaza.
#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019
Throughout his campaign, however, it is not just international law and the Palestine-Israel peace process that Netanyahu has taken aim at, but he has also been accused of violating Israeli election laws by publishing poll results on the day before the election. According to Israeli laws, no such information can be released within three days of the election.
While many in the Palestinian camp as well as the centrist and left-wing Israelis would prefer to see Netanyahu voted out of office, there has been expressed little hope that it would make a significant difference to the peace process or the establishment of a Palestinian state.