For Netanyahu, trouble on the southern front

Voters in south TA talk about how these elections are different; "we can't vote Bibi, he wants country only for the rich,” says single mom.

Citizens in Hatikvah park in south Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Citizens in Hatikvah park in south Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
They were halfway through a liter bottle of Finlandia Vodka when the “Center-Left” bloc of south Tel Aviv’s Hatikva Park – a half-dozen single moms barbecuing on Election Day – started talking about how Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had lost their votes, and how they were all going to vote for Labor’s Shelly Yacimovich, maybe even Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, if the vodka and Red Bulls didn’t slow them down too much.
The moms railed about Netanyahu – in language not fit for a family newspaper – with 30-year-old Eti Harazi saying, “Once, all of us were Likud, Likud was in our blood, but today? We can’t vote for Bibi, he wants a country only for the rich.”
In a refrain repeated by several other women at the barbecue, Harazi said that while Netanyahu was strong on security, “he doesn’t care about social issues.”
In addition to their dismay with the Likud and Netanyahu, they also expressed a general malaise with Israeli leaders. One woman’s husband shared that sentiment, saying on the phone from Ayalon Prison in Ramle, where he’s doing a fouryear bid, that “all of the guys here are either voting a blank ballot or Shas. They don’t have any faith in the leadership or think that anyone cares about prisoners” – a statement echoed by a fellow inmate on his cell block who took the line.
Not far away from the girls’ day out, at an adjacent family barbecue at Hatikva Park, Aharon Yehezkel – a 46-year-old resident of the Yad Eliyahu neighborhood – said that while he was voting Shas on his rabbi’s orders, he was “hearing from tons of people who said, okay, the Likud will win anyway, why not vote for Naftali Bennett or Shas, to push Bibi right or get more social issues on there?” He added, “I think Bibi’s really going to eat it in the end.”
Speaking to residents of the Hatikva neighborhood, a classic workingclass Sephardi Likud stronghold, it was hard to ignore the fact that very few people said they planned to vote for the Likud. Virtually everyone asked said they were going for either Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party or Shas, with a surprising number expressing support for Yesh Atid and Labor. Though the man-onthe- street interviews weren’t scientific, if they are any indication of the final results tonight, Netanyahu and the Likud-Beytenu list could be facing some stiff odds.
That feeling was clear in conversations with two Likud-Beytenu volunteers outside the Tiferet Yosef elementary school on the Hatikva neighborhood’s Hahagana Street.
The two volunteers, who asked not to be named, said that what they observed on the ground Tuesday indicated that many people who had supported Likud for generations were voting Bennett, Shas or Yesh Atid, and that the Likud was in real trouble.
“It’s the single mothers, people like them,” one volunteer said.
“People who were always Likudniks will never forgive Bibi for cutting benefits to the poor; 30 years from now they’ll still be cursing him.”
The Shapira neighborhood of south Tel Aviv – also heavily working- class, traditional and Sephardi, was also enemy territory of sorts for Likud, with only Bayit Yehudi and Shas banners on display. The security guard said he hadn’t seen anyone from the Likud all day, and that a carload of Labor supporters had come by for five minutes before leaving.
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One of those in the Shas-heavy crowd was Haim Mula, the 20- year-old Shapira resident who signed a plea bargain for throwing Molotov cocktails at African migrants’ houses one night in May. Asked for whom he was voting, he said, “Shas, all of us,” with a shrug before walking his grandparents out of the polling station.
Not far from Shapira, along the Neveh Sha’anan promenade in the heart of the African migrant community, storefront owners expressed a variety of views, showing support for Tzipi Livni, Lapid, and Shas – with the Likud by no means scoring a majority.
Shoe store owner Efram Yakobi, 80, who has worked at the store for 47 years and seen the neighborhood “become a landfill after the [African] infiltrators moved in,” said he was considering voting for Livni, though in the past he had voted for Likud and the Alignment, an earlier incarnation of the Labor Party.
When asked if the anti-migrant stance of Shas, Strong Israel or Likud Beytenu would influence his vote, he said, “I support that stance, I think it’s a good thing, but it’s not what will decide my vote” – a statement that several other store owners repeated.
Another shoe store owner, Avi Behar, said he would vote Shas like always, adding that while he supported the anti-migrant protests and “south Tel Aviv has become south Sudan,” the real reason he was voting Shas was that “they’ll keep our country Jewish. It’s important we keep our Jewish character.”
Around the corner from Neveh Sha’anan, on Fein Street – long a center of the city’s sex and drug trade – a man standing outside the Eroscenter sex store expressed his desire for Bayit Yehudi to do well in Tuesday’s election.
“I hope they’ll be able to influence the Supreme Court and the Knesset, where we hear the leftists too much, and not enough Jewish values,” he said with no hint of irony.
A sex worker on Fein Street, who asked not to be named, expressed frustration with the Likud Party, and from the entrance to a brothel, said, “Last time I voted Likud, but I no longer trust Bibi. He doesn’t care about the people, the pensioners, the poor. Maybe I’ll vote Lapid.”
Further down the street, outside a second Eroscenter branch, which also has “private viewing rooms,” a transgender sex worker and a friend stood outside waiting for punters as three YASSAM patrol officers in a police cruiser stopped cars and asked drivers what they were looking for in the underbelly of Tel Aviv.
The two were undecided, and probably not going to vote, they said, but one thing was certain: Netanyahu wouldn’t get their vote.
The transgendered one, “Jennifer,” said she would vote for Haim Amsalem’s Am Shalem party, because he would, in her words, “stick it to the haredim,” while her friend, Or-ani, had a message for all the candidates in the 2013 elections, Netanyahu included: “I won’t vote for any of them; they’re all bigger whores than we are.”