Leftist parties get election campaigns back on track

Labor, Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz and Yisrael Hazaka wait untill IDF completes its withdrawal from Gaza.

elections voting cards 248.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
elections voting cards 248.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The three left-wing Zionist parties - Labor, Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz and Yisrael Hazaka - restarted their election campaigns on Wednesday, a day after the IDF withdrew all its forces from the Gaza Strip. The Labor Party, whose chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gained popularity during the military operation in Gaza, launched a new campaign under the slogan, "At the Moment of Truth - Barak." A poster displays Barak looking the voter straight in the eyes, while the two other major party leaders, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, look elsewhere. The slogan plays on the Hebrew word for truth - emet - whose letters, alef, mem, taf, are Labor's ballot letters. "Labor's campaign puts Barak up against the other two candidates for prime minister, Livni and Netanyahu, and determines that Barak is the candidate who deserves to be the next prime minister," members of Barak's campaign team explained. "This sort of comparison has never been done without manipulations and tricks; we are creating the debate the public was so interested in," the campaign members said, referring to Livni's and Netanyahu's refusal to debate Barak. Simultaneously, Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz, whose fortunes seem to have faded during Operation Cast Lead, convened a press conference in Tel Aviv, at which the party's chairman, MK Haim Oron, said that any vote for Labor or Kadima was a vote that would strengthen the right-wing bloc. "Jumes," (Oron's nickname, which appears in the party's ads), condemned the "wave of Kahanism we have all witnessed led by [Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman and his party against the Arab sector. "This is not a marginal phenomenon and we can't exaggerate the seriousness of it. Launching a campaign that is saturated with hatred against the Arab citizens of Israel - a fifth of the population in Israel - arouses terror and worry," Oron said. "I am calling on Livni and Barak to say now whether they will be willing to sit in the government with someone who runs such a racist campaign against the Arab public in Israel. This threat must be addressed and we plan to lead [this battle]," he said. Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz's new ads bear the slogan; "Jumes - you thought they don't make people like him anymore," next to Oron's portrait. According to his campaigners, Oron's photograph was not digitally enhanced, as they claim the other candidates' faces were for their campaign posters. Hatnua Hahadasha-Meretz is also highlighting environmental issues in its campaign, a project led by former Channel 10 journalist Nitzan Horowitz, No. 3 on its Knesset candidates list. "We will promote green issues not as luxuries, but as a matter of concern for all of us," Horowitz said. He said the party would promote inexpensive, sophisticated public transportation that would connect the periphery to the center of the country; green energy; and the efficient use of water; as well as battle industrial pollution. "People who want to be sure that green issues are promoted seriously, along with social and political issues, shouldn't vote for the three other green parties, which most likely won't pass the [2 percent] threshold, which means tens of thousands of votes would go down the drain. "Meretz is the only party that has a broad agenda of issues it promotes, together with the green issues," Horowitz said. The party also launched an interactive Internet channel to reach voters. Also on Wednesday, former Labor MK Ephraim Sneh of Yisrael Hazaka convened a press conference in Tel Aviv, at which he presented his plans to sponsor legislation that will help some 300,000 Russian-speaking immigrants whose Jewish status is not clear and who can't get married here. "I have consolidated a simple and practical plan that would solve this problem and would turn these people into citizens with equal rights," he said. Sneh is proposing a law that would provide a civil alternative to conversion if the candidate meets one of three requirements; he or she successfully finished high school in Israel, served a full course of compulsory military service or lived in Israel for at least seven years. Eligible candidates would be granted Israeli citizenship, and the state would be obligated to establish procedures for them to be married, divorced and buried. "I have no theological pretensions or plans, other than to find an answer to the problem of so many people who live in Israel," he said. "Earlier initiatives to promote such solutions didn't go well because their initiators had pretensions to also influence the religious issue, and I don't," he said. Sneh also promised to get tough on crime, particularly attacks against public servants, and to battle the terrorizing of the public by organized crime families.