Elections in Israel

election1  In Israel, I see election banners everywhere, draped on fences and buildings. In America, people used to post campaign signs along the streets. Most European countries would not allow their towns to be littered that way.

I wonder about the purpose of the ridiculous number of election signs lining the highways and byways? In Jerusalem, huge pictures of candidates were draped on buildings. Does anyone vote for a person just because they see his or her picture on a poster?

Yesterday, on our way to the store, we passed several voting booths here in Kiryat Shmona. They were open until 10 pm. Every possible party had a candidate for the mayor’s position, each one of them promising to do wonders for the town.

In Jerusalem 4 interesting candidates ran for the seat of the mayor:

 

1.    Meir Porush, an ultra-orthodox, haredi rabbi from the United Torah Judaism party.

 

2.    Nir Barkat, his opponent, a secular businessman and hi-tech millionaire.

 

3.    Arkady Gaydamak, a Russian-born businessman and owner of Jerusalem’s Beitar football team, who is being tried in absentia by a Paris court for selling arms to Angolan rebels during the 1990s. He tried to get the votes of the Arabs.

 

4.    Dan Byron, a former director of public television turned bar owner, ran on behalf of the Green Leaf party and called for legislation of cannabis.

Oh my!  Dozens of haredi religious Jerusalem activists tried to prevent voters from reaching polling stations. In doing so they battled policemen in what TIME magazine called a “bizarre election.” This took place in the Beit Israel neighborhood of Jerusalem and involved rival religious groups. It was the only reported incident of violence in Jerusalem. Police broke up a demonstration by extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not recognize Israel. Police said they were trying to prevent people from voting. At least one policeman suffered head wounds from stone throwers, one of whom was arrested.

Nevertheless, the voter turnout was extremely low – I think less than 30%? East Jerusalem’s Arab residents didn’t vote because Islam forbids Arabs to vote for Israeli leaders – and not because Israel didn’t allow it. That didn’t help Gaydamak, who split the remaining few % of votes with Byron who got even less votes. Thank goodness, now we know that not too many people in Jerusalem smoke pot!

According to the final results released by Israel’s interior ministry, Israeli secular politician Nir Barkat defeated the ultra-orthodox rabbi to become the new mayor of Jerusalem. Barkat won outright with 52% of the vote while Meir Porush received 43%. Mr. Barkat opposes dividing Jerusalem as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians and has promised to build extensively in what the rest of the world regards as occupied East Jerusalem.

 

Now –after the election – the banners are still there. Will they keep hanging there until the next election?

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