The Strange Bedfellows of Israeli Politics

Orthodox Bloc Courts Arab Voters

Israel’s Channel 2 sent a reporter to the Haifa rally for the surging Yisrael Beiteinu party of Avigdor Lieberman. The reporter, Forat Nassar, was turned away. The reason: because he’s an Arab, and they’re persona non-grata for a party whose sky-rocketing popularity has come largely on the back of the anti-Arab sentiments of its secular voters in the wake of the Gaza war.

With both Likud and Kadima attempting to court the right-wing party for potential coalitions, the party of young voters marching in the streets chanting “death to the Arabs,” has found its views increasingly tolerated or, at the very least, no longer publicly condemned by broad swaths of Israel’s polity. Even the leftist Labor Party, with high ranking Arab members of its own, has refused to rule out joining a coalition with Yisrael Beiteinu.

But while the mainstream courts Lieberman, United Torah Judaism, one of the ultra-orthodox parties that usually make up the right of Israel’s political spectrum, is openly courting Arab voters, countering Lieberman’s “no loyalty no citizenship” mantra with the promise of “Haredim for equality.”

The Ultra-orthodox seem generally unhappy with the secularist Lieberman, who wants to eliminate their exemptions from conscription. If Benjamin Netanyahu gets close to his goal of a unity government, he may have a fascinating political landscape to contend with: a secularist left-right-center coalition facing an opposition of the far left, Arab parties, and the religious right.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.