On March 17th, Israelis will be called to anticipated legislative elections which outcome still
appears today much uncertain. This vote will decide on the next Prime Minister of the Jewish State,and the coalition of parties that will govern after gathering at least 61 seats of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. During last elections in 2013, the electoral turnout amounted to nearly 68% of voters, a rate that French politics would not even dare to dream of with abstention skyrocketing one election after the other in the country of human rights. Living in Israel after doing Aliyah, french jewish persons will also enter the polling booth. Far from being homogeneous, their votes will reflect the plurality of political opinions of the Israeli society.
« France and Israël are like my mother and father »
Arrived in Israël in 2006, Raphaël*, 26 years old, fully embraced the Israeli life, and just 6 months after his arrival, already spoke fluent Hebrew. After studying in Hertzliya and serving in a combat unit of the Israeli Defense Forces that led him to Gaza and Hebron, the epicentres of the israeo-lpalestinian conflict, he now runs a familial wine trading business between France and Israel, both countries he considers « as his mother and father ». Another proof of his sucessful Aliya : Raphaël is very much versed in Israeli politics. Despite despairing over the superficiality of the campaign, limited to viral videos, lacking in-depth debate and without clear programs from the different sides, Raphaël daily follows the campaign on the internet and radio. This year, he will vote for Moshe Kahlon and his new party Koulanou, the center-right, fighting for the cost of living and real estate. In 2013 he gave his vote to the new comer of Israeli politics, Yair Lapid, also for social and economical considerations, but has been greatly disappointed by the latter who spent the last 2 years as Ministry of Economy. Raphaël now wants to give responsibility to Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud member well known for a previous success in making phone companies’ prices affordable for the majority, hoping these will be duplicated in other sectors of the economy. Raphaël does not really care about the noticeable absence of the israeli-palestinian question in the campaign. On the contrary, he feels that, for the first time in their young history, Israelis are about to vote for something they can actually change. Theoretically, he is in favour of the creation of a State of Palestine. But how, with which borders, and what about the status of the holy city of Jerusalem ? He does not know and according to him, neither do any of the political parties. « Of course, there are rockets, Israelis are worried, but they also have to eat at the end of the month » he reminds us. As no peace is possible with Hamas in Gaza and Abbas as leader of the Palestinian Authority, the future Israeli Governement should focus on social matters.
*Raphaël prefered to stay anonymous, his name has been changed.
March 3, 2015. *Raphaël, 26 years old, in his flat in Tel Aviv. The young man, fully integrated to Israël where he arrived in 2006, will vote for the Koulanou party for the legislatives. Tel Aviv, Israël.
« Netanyahu was speaking jewish »
For Laly, 40 years old, the very absence of debate on the conflict is a critical mistake, and a massive hypocrisy. Whoever wins will anyway have to deal with the conflict just after being endorsed with the responsibility of governing the State of Israel. Of course, Laly’s point of view is also shaped by the fact that she lives in a « Yeshuv », a Jewish settlement in the Palestinian Territories, a choice that came out as ideologically and religiously obvious when she had to choose a home for her family. After leaving Paris at the age of 15 in the early 90s, she married here, is today very much involved in her community, and a very active political journalist. For her, Israël should annex the C area of the Palestinian Territories, and give an autonomous status to the A and B areas. But it’s impossible to create a State of Palestine per se, « unless we decide to commit suicide », she adds. The motherof- 6 will vote for the Likud, and the highly criticized Netanyahou. Not because she approves of all Bibi’s stances, but because according to her, he is the only Israeli politician with the charisma and stature to take diplomatic pressure from both the USA and Europe on the Peace Talks that will inevitably come. And also for his speech in front of the American Congress on the 3rd of March. « To me, he was speaking Jewish, not only as Prime Ministre of Israel, but as a leader of the Jewish community. We need a leader able to explain that we are not here only for security reasons, that this Land was given to us by God, that this is our heritage ».
March 15, 2015. Thousands of people are rallying in Tel Aviv in support of Israel’s right-wing parties. Laly came from Eli where she lives with 2 of her sons to show her support. Tel Aviv, Israel.
« The real bomb is not Iran’s atomic one »
Laly’s speech does not echoe with that of Bernard, however also settled in an implantation in the Palestinian Territories. The 53 year old came to Israel for religious reasons in 1983, to move, as he puts it, « from a theoritical sionism to a practical one ». Bernard fully understands that Israelis are tired of the overwhelming conflict, that they want to focus on themselves for the first time since the creation of the State. After all, if Israelis cannot make a living here, they will leave the country and their departure will cause the downfall of Israel, not Iran, the current theme waved by Benyamin Netanyahou. « The real bomb is not Iran’s atomic one, but the internal social bomb that will go off if such subjects are not properly adressed ». Primarily concerned with the conflict and opposed to the creation of a Palestinian State, Bernard’s ballot will be for Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home, a party usually placed at the extreme right of the Israeli political scene. « Bennett is sometimes described as a fascist, but to me he is a pragmatic, he does not have illusions, comes from the high tech industry, straightforward. » Bennett is also one of the few candidates who clearly expressed their views on the conflict, and his program offers an economical peace to the Palestinians, not only massive territorial concessions but also development, and at least an opportunity to raise their kids in a pacified environment, if not in a State of their own. All in all, what matters for the professional educator is a « fresh face, for a fresh view on things ». Bernard is tired with the mess of Israeli politics, with its mediocrity, with the fact that politicians regularly go from one party to the other to keep their advantages, with Tzipi Livni as the best example. For him, the electoral system as such is to be blamed, «where a small party with 6 seats in the Knesset can make the whole Government explode, as we are witnessing now with a second election after 2 years instead of 4. »
March, 8, 2015. Bernard, 53 years old in a street of Jerusalem. Living in a jewish settlement close to Ramallah, Bernard came in Israäl for religious reasons in 1983. He will vote for Naftali Benett and his party, the jewish home. Jerusalem, Israël.
« The government’s settlement policy is what feeds the the conflict »
Such a system is indeed complicated for Magali to understand. After only 3 years in Israel, where the 30 year-old made Aliyah to be with her husband and not for ideological reasons, the legislative election will be her first vote. For the young woman too, the decisive question is the Palestinian one. After researching and reading, she confirmed her initial feeling before coming to Israël : she is in favor of the creation of a Palestinian State, or a bi-national State where jews and muslims would have the exacts same rights.
« To understand the campaign, you need to have been Israeli for a long time. » There is no electoral platform, almost no debates or precise programms, things she got accustomed to in France, and making it difficult to have a precise idea about each candidate. She is however convinced that Netanyahou’s settlement policy in the West Bank is what feeds the conflict and prevents a durable peace that she praises for both her daughters. She will therefore vote for Meretz, a left-wing party clearly calling for the dismantling of Jewish implantations in the Palestinian Territories, even though not explaining how such a thing could be achieved. In the most recent opinion polls, Isaac Herzog, leader of the Israeli Labor is given a short win for the election he runs in a joint list with Hatnuah, Tzipi Livni’s party. Question however remains on his ability to form a Government of coalition in the twentieth Knesset in the history of the Jewish State.
Answer on Tuesday.
March 10, 2015. Magali, 30, came to Israël 3 years ago to follow her husband who already has a life in the country. She will vote for Meretz, the left wing party which clearly wants the dismantelment of the jewish settlements in the west bank. Natanya, Israël.
A reportage by Constance Decorde and Paul Salvanès.