If politicians want settler votes, must guarantee sovereignty - analysis

“I am sure that in the next term [of the government], we will also be able to apply Israeli sovereignty,” Liberman said.

September 9, 2019 04:21
3 minute read.
If politicians want settler votes, must guarantee sovereignty - analysis

YISRAEL BEYTENU leader Avigdor Liberman speaks in Ma’aleh Adumim on Sunday, a week before the elections. . (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman appears to know that speaking of sovereignty is a must when it comes to stumping for the settler vote.

Once upon a time, a politician who sought votes in the third-largest West Bank settlement – the mixed secular and religious city of Ma’aleh Adumim – pledged to build, particularly in the E-1 area of the settlement.

In 2019, such promises are already passé, in a city of 38,000 people that already believes it is spiritually part of sovereign Israel.

Past sovereignty campaigns have targeted this city, strategically located outside of Jerusalem, as potentially the first place in Judea and Samaria that should be annexed to sovereign Israel.

Two years ago, Liberman spoke of the danger of getting ahead of the Trump administration by unilaterally annexing some or all of the West Bank.

On Sunday he dropped the sovereignty word, albeit vaguely, during a campaign stop in Ma’aleh Adumim.

“I am sure that in the next term [of the government], we will also be able to apply Israeli sovereignty,” Liberman said.

Liberman supports the inclusion of settlement blocs such as Ma’aleh Adumim within Israel’s final borders, but believes it should be done within the context of a regional peace plan.

This would include territorial swaps, which would place high population areas with Israeli-Arabs outside of Israel’s sovereign borders and include places such as Ma’aleh Adumim within those borders.

It is unusual for Liberman, therefore, to talk about sovereignty, but he did so on Sunday morning during a visit designed to grab centrist pro-settler votes from both Likud, which received 50% of the city’s vote, and the Blue and White Party, which garnered 10%.

Yisrael Beytenu received only four mandates in the last election, compared with the 35 mandates each that Likud and Blue and White garnered.

It was enough to place the party in the Knesset, but barely.

Liberman lives in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, but among the places in which he fell flat in the last election was Judea and Samaria, where he received only 3,498 votes.

From a real number perspective in Judea and Samaria, Liberman fared best in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, where he received 1,425 votes in a city with a heavy Russian population. He fared second-best in Ma’aleh Adumim with 961 votes.

This time around, he is hoping for 11 to 12 mandates.

If he is going to up his game, Ma’aleh Adumim is one of the key places where he can drum up support, taking votes primarily from Likud and Blue and White.

Last week, Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel boycotted a meeting with Likud head Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over transportation issues.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Liberman, who has an acute sense of political vulnerability, arrived in Ma’aleh Adumim on Sunday.

In the morning, Liberman stood in front of city hall speaking of sovereignty and in support of secular Zionism.

As expected during a campaign season, he did not meet with Kashriel, who is a strong Likud supporter. But he gave the appearance that the two were aligned by stating that he supported Kashriel’s decision last month not to approve the establishment of an ultra-Orthodox Talmud Torah school.

Elementary-age Talmud Torah pupils held a small demonstration just a few feet away, singing so loudly that it was hard to hear Liberman speak.

He could easily have moved into city hall, a venue that would have allowed his words to be heard. Instead, he chose a stand-off, a backdrop that illustrates his determination to stand firm in all situations.

For the die-hard sovereignty supporters, Liberman would have to go a lot farther to the Right politically before they would consider giving him a vote.

In an election season, where weary voters feel they are choosing between the lesser of evils, Liberman is hoping that the die-hard secularist in Ma’aleh Adumim might be willing to throw their support his way.

In less than 10 days, the country will see if he can swing it.

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