Residents of southern Israel say 'we want change!' ahead of elections

One Sderot resident told the 'Post' it “is up to us residents” of southern Israel to make sure that whoever is elected pays attentions to the citizens of the Gaza vicinity.

April 9, 2019 01:39
A general view shows Israeli soldiers voting at a mobile voting booth

A general view shows Israeli soldiers voting at a mobile voting booth, two days before polling stations open in the rest of Israel, at a military post outside the northern Gaza Strip, in southern Israel April 7, 2019. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Citizens of southern Israel are tired of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and are ready for a change, that’s the feeling one gets from speaking to residents in communities bordering the Gaza Strip.

“The situation here in the south really has a impact on who I’m voting for,” Ofri from Bror Hayil told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “Netanyahu’s agenda shows that he has no solution. He knows when to make noise and when to leave the status quo.”

Ofri spoke to the Post over some hummus in Sderot, a college-town that has been struck by countless rockets over the past 18 years, dozens of them in 2018 alone. Down the street from the restaurant is a police station with the remnants of missiles fired towards the town, which despite the violence has grown tremendously over the past decade.

“It’s not been a simple year here in the south at all. At all. There was something everyday. Choppers without a stop...explosions all the time. There’s never quiet. And it shows that Bibi doesn’t care, that it doesn’t matter to him. He wants to be prime minister,” she continued.

And while she is unsure who she will vote for, she was adamant that she will not vote for Likud, or any party who might join a coalition with him.

“For me, I can’t stand this situation any longer. It’s need to change here. The people in Tel Aviv have no idea. While they care in their hearts, it’s hard to understand something if they don’t live it. If Bibi lived here it would be different, because he would feel it. It would bother him.”

RACHELI STEIN from Yad Mordechai was also unsure who she would be voting for. A long-time Labor supporter, she told the Post that she will likely decide once she reaches the ballot box.

“I’m usually very optimistic but this time, and I’m sure there are many like me, I don’t know who to vote for. The politicians talk but they don’t do anything,” she said. “Everyday there is violence, we hear the booms, the sirens. It’s even worse during the weekend. Which politician actually cares for us and will do something?”

Stein, who’s lived in southern Israel for the past 45 years, told the Post that while she is unsure who she will vote for, she hopes Gantz will be different than Bibi.

“Whoever becomes prime minister will have to do something different. We need something different. And I’m sure that the people in Gaza want the same thing. We need leaders who will not only act in a political fashion but diplomatically as well.”

Asaf Naamat from Sderot wouldn’t tell the Post who he was voting for, but was clear that the security situation will have an impact on who he will choose on Tuesday.

“For me these choices are not about the quality of my life, but about my life. The reality in which I grew up and where I still live is undoubtedly my main motive for the elections – only afterward is society and the economy,” he said.

It will be Naamat’s first elections, and he’s “very excited” about it.

WHEN ASKED about the voting trends in the Gaza vicinity, Naamat – who is active in Darkenu, a non profit organization which has been campaigning for voters to choose parties that are not extremist and that unite Israelis – explained that while the votes are varied there is a large percentage of citizens who vote for Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“The votes in the Gaza vicinity are very diverse. There are quite a number of people who will vote for the Likud headed by Netanyahu, and although he is the prime minister and responsible for this situation, they will still choose to vote for him,” he said.

Naamat told the Post that it “is up to us residents” of southern Israel to make sure that whoever is elected pays attentions to the citizens of the Gaza vicinity.

“If we bend our heads and hope someone takes care of us, it will not happen. But if we demand that the government and the elected officials deal with the Gazan problem, there is no doubt that the 21st Knesset and the elected government will take care of us. This is very important – it depends on us and the demands we make!”

Another man who spoke to the Post was clear on who he, along with his friends at the table, would be voting for.

“Only Bibi. He’s the only one who can deal with this situation. Only Bibi. How long has he been elected by the people? As long as the country wants him, he will lead us.”

When asked if Gantz might be a good choice as Prime Minister, he laughed.

“There’s no chance Gantz will win. He’s not a politician. He needs some experience first. And rotating with Lapid is weak. Oy Va’avoy for the country If he wins. Lapid is also weak, even as a journalist. And you want him to be prime minister? Ha!

“Only Bibi, only Bibi.”

Another man who spoke to the Post and requested to remain anonymous said that he would vote for Netanyahu “until I die.”

The man, who grew up in the south and has raised his children in the area, denied that the security situation was caused by Netanyahu and told the Post that Gantz would not make any difference in the violence along the border fence.

“Gantz doesn’t understand the situation down here. Only Bibi understands us.”

SOME 72 hours before the polls opened for the rest of the country, troops from the IDF’s Yahalom combat engineering unit were the first to vote on Saturday evening.

IDF troops will be able to vote around the country at a total of 640 polling stations for 72 hours. Soldiers will be in seven commands and branches: the regional commands, Home Front Command, the ground forces, navy and air force.

The commands have divided into 55 additional areas in which officers were appointed to oversee the voting procedures in regional and unit bases.

According to Col. Shai Stadler, the IDF’s election officer, in order to enable all IDF soldiers to exercise their right to vote in the elections approximately 130 mobile polling stations will be deployed in outposts and remote units.

“It’s the IDF’s mission to make sure that every soldier will be able to exercise their right to vote. To give them the chance wherever they are,” he said, explaining that the majority of soldiers are voting for the first time in their lives.

“We in the army are prepared for the election like any other operation. There are thousands of soldiers and we need to prepare for that,” he continued, adding that some 2,500 soldiers will serve as members of polling stations in all units.

The Israeli military also announced Sunday that it will shut all crossings into Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday for national elections. The closure began Monday at midnight and will last until Tuesday at midnight.

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