Israel Municipal Elections 2018

- by Green Olive Staff

12th Nov., 2018 - Last week, all over Israel residents voted in municipal elections.

Tel Aviv re-elected Ron Huldai for his fifth consecutive term. Critics call him stale and say he just is a mayor for the rich, while others point to the city’s world-famous Pride parade and his promise to compensate any cultural institution out of pocket because of Israel’s new ‘cultural loyalty’ law.
Haifa elected its first female mayor, with Dr. Einat Kalisch-Rotem overturning an early ban on her candidacy and winning the support of both her own left-wing Labour party and the Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews).

But things in Jerusalem are not so clear. With no candidate winning more than 40% of the vote outright, the top two candidates move on to a second round. Jerusalemites will vote again later this month – at least, Jewish Jerusalemites will.

Although Arabs living in occupied East Jerusalem – that is, territory Israel conquered in the 1967 war and later annexed to the city – are mostly not Israeli citizens so cannot vote in national elections, however they are allowed to voite in Jerusalem’s municipal elections. This year, an Arab was even nominated as a candidate for the city’s mayoralty.

But no more than a handful of votes were cast by Arabs in Jerusalem and after facing extreme pressure from all sides, the eventual candidates were all Jewish Israelis. After he announced his intention to run, Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah was threatened by the Israeli government with residency permit revocation, while he also faced pressure from within Palestinian circles to withdraw. For decades, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, or PLO, urged residents to boycott the elections and this mantra still reigns supreme today. Many feel voting would be tantamount to accepting Israeli control of Jerusalem, and that you cannot hope to win a game when the opposition are making the rules.

Although Aziz says he received an outpouring of support, and quoted a study claiming 60% of Palestinians support participation in local elections, it seems the vast majority of Palestinians in Jerusalem let their absence from the ballot boxes do the talking. Nearly 330,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem and this number is more votes than any of the Jewish candidates could hope to win. But for now at least, don’t count on many of them to enter the polling booths on November 13.

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