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Pnina Tamano-Shata.(Photo by: PR)
Blue and White begins campaign for Ethiopian vote
Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata said that the Likud has now “lost” the Ethiopian-Israeli community and sought representation which would seriously advocate for its needs.
Against a background of frustration and anger amid the 140,000-strong Ethiopian-Israeli community toward the government, the Blue and White Party has launched a campaign to capture its vote.

Ethiopian-Israelis have traditionally voted in large numbers for the Likud Party, but Blue and White is now hopeful it can attract large numbers of the community to vote for it.

Blue and White is currently the only party with Ethiopian-Israeli MKs, while the recent protests against police violence toward members of the community have generated anti-government sentiment in the sector.

Additionally, at the end of 2018 the government approved a decision to bring another 1,000 members of the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia to Israel, but only 600 have arrived since the criteria established by the government in that decision have excluded almost everyone else.

Although the Ethiopian-Israeli community is divided on whether to bring the rest of the approximately 8,000 Falash Mura to Israel, the failure by Likud to fulfil its 2018 commitment to bring just 1,000 could be another bone of contention for the community.

Former party MK Avraham Neguise said he had not heard of any efforts to bring the remaining 400 immigrants allotted under the 2018 decision.

“At the moment, we’re not seeing any indication that the government will continue with this aliyah,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “It is very sad. It harms the trust of the [Ethiopian-Israeli] community in the government, and I hope the prime minister will find a way to continue with this aliyah that is already budgeted for.”

Blue and White MK Pnina Tamano-Shata said that the Likud has now “lost” the Ethiopian-Israeli community, and sought representation that would seriously advocate for its needs.

She said that a specially designated team had been established by the party to head the campaign that would be given substantial funds for elections rallies, conferences and campaigning in Ethiopian-Israeli neighborhoods.

“The community wants serious representation by those who have internalized the problems of the community on the frontlines, so Blue and White is the right place [for the Ethi
opian-Israeli] community,” party MK Pnina Tamano-Shata told the Post.

She said that there has been a failure by the police to tackle racism and profiling against Ethiopian-Israelis, and that this had to be seen as a failure of the current government since “it happened on their watch.”

She also lambasted politicians on the right who accused left-wing organizations, in particular the New Israel Fund, of being behind the protests that followed the June 30 killing of Solomon Tekah in Haifa by an off-duty police officer.

The prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu tweeted that the protests at the beginning of July had been “ignited” by the New Israel Fund and one of its grantees, while some Likud MKs made similar comments.

“Netanyahu’s son should be ashamed of himself,” said Tamano-Shata. “It is very unfortunate that his father did not tell him to remove this incitement against the community. It was an attempt to delegitimize our protests and to make them political, when it was never at all political. They came from the guts, and from the pain of the community. The community has contempt for people like him, and this time the community will have its say – the Likud has lost the [Ethiopian-Israeli] community.”

Tamano-Shata also strongly criticized the government for dithering on the fate of the Falash Mura, saying it needed to make a decision and “end the suffering” of those waiting.

The MK declined to say whether Blue and White would commit to bringing all remaining members of the Falash Mura community to Israel, but did say that the party “would not escape from making decisions.”

Tamano-Shata has previously stated that all applications of the approximately 8,000 remaining members of the community in Ethiopia should be swiftly reviewed, and a decision made one way or the other to bring the saga to an end.

Neguise was ousted before the election in April from the slot on the Likud list reserved for new immigrants, but is nevertheless still campaigning for the party, and to preserve its hold on the Ethiopian-Israeli vote.

He says that in 2015, some 60,000 members of the community voted for Likud, worth approximately two Knesset seats.

Neguise claimed that the government’s failure to bring all 1,000 immigrants from Ethiopia as promised had caused anger in the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

“It’s outrageous,” he told the Post. “It’s irresponsible and it hurts the families who are waiting for their close relatives to be allowed to immigrate. There is a decision to bring all 1,000, there is a budget for it. It isn’t complicated.”

He also slammed the decision to prevent him running for the immigrant slot on the Likud list.

“It’s a disgrace that there is no representative of the community in the Likud,” Neguise said. “They took the mandate away from me, which says that the party is not interested in the vote of the community.”

Neguise said that he believed there is a danger Ethiopian-Israeli votes would swing toward Blue and White, but that it was not too late if the Likud leadership “wakes up” and begins to seriously campaign for this electorate.

“This time they could lose these votes,” said Neguise. “We need to fix this and prevent such a crisis. I call on the Likud to do everything to keep the vote of community with the Likud.”
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