Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
There’s plenty of personal invective and general mudslinging going on in the final days of the Israeli election campaign. With 30-plus parties in the race and a good dozen of them in with a reasonable chance of parliamentary seats, everyone is fighting everyone else in a political version of a bar-room free-for-all.
While the main contenders slug it out over who is best placed to keep Israelis safe from attacks by Palestinians or a potentially nuclear-armed Iran, some of the most heated sparring is between smaller parties whose radically different constituencies highlight the diversity of Israeli society. Take Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu for example. Between them, they could get about a quarter of the vote on Tuesday and they’re slugging it out in some colourful language.
Here is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the 88-year-old spiritual leader of the Union of Sephardic Torah Observers, or Shas for short, describing Avigdor Lieberman’s Russian-dominated Yisrael Beiteinu, or Our Home is Israel: ”These are people who do not have Torah, people who want civil marriages, shops that sell pork, and the army enlistment of yeshiva students,” Rabbi Yosef was reported as saying by Yedioth Ahronoth daily. “My heart is heavy. Heaven forbid people support them. This is completely forbidden. Whoever does so commits an intolerable sin. Whoever does so supports Satan and the evil inclination.”
The Iraqi-born rabbi pictured in the posters here is apparently anxious that some of his ultra-Orthodox constituency, long opposed to concessions to the Palestinians, especially on sharing Jerusalem, may be drawn into the big surge seen in polls for Lieberman, an immigrant from ex-Soviet Moldova who is eyeing a possible third-placed finish on a diet of anti-Arab rhetoric. Lieberman is clearly drawing in more than just Russian speakers. Haaretz newspaper today declared there was now a “Kulturkampf” – culture wars – between Shas and Lieberman.