The Israeli elections for the 20th Knesset appear to be a tight contest between the incumbent Likud party and the Zionist Union. Rabbi Micheol Rose from Cardiff United Synagogue says Israelis worry about more things than the people of Cardiff can imagine.
“People are being deliberately run over by cars” he said, referring to a form of terror it has proved difficult for Israeli security forces to put a stop to. Settlers might worry if the government is going to take back their houses. Then there is the rockets that might strike anywhere, fired from the Gaza strip.
Rabbi Rose’s synagogue is a place of worship, but also a meeting place of rest and calm for the less observant Jews. This, in itself, is very different from Israel where Jews of no religious observation simply wouldn’t come if they were not ardent believers. Here, people stick together. It is a small community where everyone knows each other.
Even in Cardiff the sense of threat to this community feels real. The area around Cardiff United Synagogue, which is home to many Jewish families, is fenced in and heavily policed. At least every half hour, police cars patrol the area.
Rabbi Rose said that while security has increased in Israel in recent years, so has the gap between ordinary citizens and the wealthy. Rose and congregation member Jonathan Bell, separately spoke of security and rising inequality between the ultra-wealthy and average citizens as two important issues facing voters in Israel. Out of security concerns Mr. Bell asked not to be photographed from the front.
Asked who Mr. Bell thought was most likely to form a government, he said: “My heart says Zionist Union but then my head says Likud”. He didn’t rule out the possibility that they could form a goverment and rule together, although power sharing could prove very complicated.
Rabbi Rose and Mr. Bell both agreed that crucial reforms are needed. The peace process could according to Mr. Bell in some ways be easier to implement with Likud in power since Israelis might be more comfortable to see Netanyahu negotiate with the Palestinian authorities. According to ynetnews.com, Netanyahu is campaigning on a platform which essentially says: I won’t budge an inch. He recently told a crowd that he will keep all of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. There will be no concessions.
But the last couple of weeks popular demonstrations broke out in protest of the incumbent Prime Minister. This could suggest that his star is fading. “The parties seem to be campaigning on ‘anybody but Bibi'” says Mr. Bell.
Since no party has ever obtained an absolute majority in the Knesset, several constellations could emerge from tomorrows election. How Bibi fits into this picture, we will have to wait and see. “I’ll be watching the election closely on TV” says Mr. Bell.