Netanyahu becomes ‘Abu Yair’ to capture the Arab vote in Israel | International

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Election poster of the Likud party with the legend in Arabic 'We are all with you, Abu Yair', in Nazareth (northern Israel).AMIR COHEN / Reuters

The election posters flanking Israel's northern highway near Um al Fahm are identical to those in the rest of the Likud, but the Arabic text of Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative party propaganda depicts it as Abu Yair (Yair's father). In traditional Arab society, it is a sign of respect to be invoked as a father associated with the firstborn's name. After 12 years of turning its back from the Government to the main minority of the country, which represents 20% of the population, the chief executive, father of Yair Netanyahu, has launched an unusual campaign among the Arabs of Israel – heirs of Israel. the Palestinians who remained on their lands after the birth of the Jewish state in 1948 – to whom he promises to improve their living conditions, and in particular to put an end to the insecurity of citizens that bloods their communities.

Due to its similarity to Nablus, capital of the north of the West Bank, Um al Fahm (56,000 inhabitants) was the chosen setting to shoot the exteriors of Fauda, the series broadcast by Netflix whose syncopated action takes place between shots within the framework of the Israeli occupation. Its motley buildings that collapse down hills and valleys border the concrete wall on the Green Line of separation with the Palestinian territory, 75 kilometers northeast of Tel Aviv. Along with the rest of the Arab populations of Israel, it hides an arsenal of more than 170,000 firearms, many of them stolen from the Army, in the hands of family clans that distribute territorial control and criminal gangs that dispute all kinds of illicit traffic.

"The Likud intends to gather votes among the Arabs, and there are polls that predict that it can obtain up to two additional seats," says analyst Thabet Abu Rass outside Um al Fahm, "but its main objective has been to divide the Lista coalition. Joint Arab, and it has succeeded ”. The split of one of the parties integrated in that alliance, which constitutes the third force of the Knesset (Parliament), threatens to leave the opposition to Netanyahu without options to form a majority blocking his re-election after the legislative elections on Tuesday.

The veteran prime minister, with the electoral machinery perfectly oiled after four general elections in just two years, led to the departure of the Raam Party – religious and conservative wing of the Joint List – after convincing its leader, Mansour Abbas, that it could get better public services for your voters if you had the backing of the new government. "It is not foreseeable that Mansur will enter the Executive, but, in exchange for a break with the rest of the opposition, he can receive the presidency of a key parliamentary commission in the distribution of aid to local communities," says Abu Rass, co-director of the Abraham Initiative, an NGO focused on the social integration of the Arab community. "The question that is being debated in the background is whether we must first solve the real problems of the citizens", concludes this expert, "and stop considering the (Israeli) occupation as the priority issue."

The high crime rate in the Arab districts of the north and south of Israel, largely left to their fate by the central government, has finally outraged the Palestinian population, which suffers from a marked deficit in services, such as housing. and education, which distance him from the average standard of living of the non-ultrareligious Jewish majority. The death of a teenager by a stray bullet in a skirmish between rival gangs earlier this month unleashed an unprecedented mobilization of rejection, culminating in marches attended by tens of thousands of people. So far this year, 26 Arabs and Palestinians have lost their lives – the last one at dawn this Friday in the El Triángulo region, around Um al Fahm – in violent actions registered in Israeli territory. The police are limited to keeping track of crimes, despite the fact that nine out of ten shootings occur in areas inhabited by the country's largest minority.

"The same Netanyahu who has discriminated against the Arab communities of Israel with his policy and who promoted the approval of the Law of the Jewish Nation State, the norm that stopped considering Arabic as an official language, wants to take advantage of the wave at the polls of violence ”, warns deputy Yusef Yabarin, located at the secular and left pole of the Joint List. "Bibi (nickname of the prime minister) only wants to have a majority in the Knesset to govern and enjoy immunity from accusations of corruption," he says, after recalling that in the last three months he has visited 15 Arab cities in campaign, five times more than in the previous 12 years.

Born in Um al Fahm, law professor Yabarin acknowledges that Islamist Abbas's decision to break with the Arab electoral alliance may cause them to lose more than a third of their seats. "The Arab parties will not enter a coalition government with a Zionist Jewish majority," entry ditch. "However, we can block Netanyahu and support an alternative from outside, as we did in 1992 at the investiture of Labor Isaac Rabin with a program for a peace agreement with the Palestinians," he says. He argues that the creation of its own police force for the Arab community may be the compensation demanded by the parliamentary support for the anti-Bibi front: “No one here trusts the Israeli police. To end the insecurity we need agents who do not depend on the Ministry of Public Security (with exclusive police competence in Israel).

"If the Raam party (Hebrew acronym for United Arab List) of Mansur exceeds the 3.25% mark of the national votes, as the latest polls show, and manages to enter the Knesset with a minimum of four seats, it can play the The advantage of collaboration with Likud and promoting the reelection of Netanyahu without having to join the government coalition. Electoral participation will be key to decanting the direction of the Arab vote. When all the united parties are presented in the Joint List it usually exceeds 65% of the census, slightly below the Israeli average. When there is division at the polls, as happened in the September 2019 elections, abstention skyrockets among their traditional voters.

Uniformed in black as a chef from Tel Aviv's finest cuisines, Ahmed Hasgan Daud, 39, prepares a chicken specialty at the Maadab restaurant, which he runs in the center of Um al Fahm. “We fight to defend our presence in this land, and after more than 70 years there has been no integration in Israel. We Palestinians have no influence in the Knesset ”, Daud argues his decision to abstain in Tuesday's legislative elections. “Our society is abandoned by the Israeli government. He does not care about us, "he muses aloud, while blaming the Joint List for his disenchantment with politics," Mansur, at least, acts with pragmatism and does not hide what he is going to do.

The traditional authority of Palestinian clans over their members has been fading as Israel's Arab society has modernized. That void has been filled by organized crime in the absence of the security forces. The gangs also offer many young people an outlet that they cannot find in the job market. “The failure is shared by the Government, which does not invest in this area; the police, who do not prevent crimes, and the society, who do not assume the responsibility of educating their children ”, admits the mayor of Um al Fahm, the independent Shamir Mahamid.

“People feel unsafe in their own home. Violence is experienced on a daily basis, from a simple fight over a parking space to threats from mafia families, "says the councilor, who recalls with skepticism the promises of public facilities and police deployment that Netanyahu made him in a recent visit to the city. “We have to take advantage of it. It's now or never. At least there will be more police stations. But our great problems are education and social services: of the 18,000 students in the municipality, 8,500 belong to unstructured families, without a permanent job and homelessness ”.

The 53-year-old lawyer Taufik Said Yabarin will continue to vote for the Joint List, despite acknowledging that he lives in a situation of inequality, as a second-class citizen. "In these elections, the Palestinians of Israel grapple with the paradox of having to choose between the bad known, the status quo of Netanyahu, and the worst to know, with the presence of other radical leaders of the nationalist right," he reasons before his Um al Fahm's office, where you can see on the wall a map of the historical Palestine of the British mandate before the Jewish State, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which many Arabs in Israel still long for. In the legislative elections of 2015, the last that he clearly won, Netanyahu mobilized his supporters on the same election day with the ancient cry of alarm from the Jewish kibbutz: "The Arab hordes (to vote) are coming!" Now he courts them without modesty in pursuit of their suffrage.


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