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Israel bans Gaza Christians from going to Jerusalem, Bethlehem for Easter

Israeli occupation authorities refused to issue travel permits for hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Gaza who planned to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during Passover, Safa news agency reported yesterday.

Reporting Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Safa said that Israel allowed only 200 Christians from Gaza, who are over 55 years old, to travel to Jordan only and did not issue permits for those wishing to visit the Church of Nativity in occupied Bethlehem or what is called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli rights group Gisha reported complaints against the Israeli occupation regarding the restrictions imposed on people who want to travel during the Jewish Passover holiday which coincides with Easter.

“This is a flagrant violation of the freedom of movement, freedom of worship and freedom of enjoying family life for the Christians in Gaza,” Gisha said, noting that Gaza is an example of a “wider Israeli racist policy”.

According to Haaretz, Gisha said that this measure aims to deepen the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Source: MEMO
Feature Image : Faiz Abu Rmeleh – Anadolu Agency

Mufti AK Hoosen denies “blessing political party’s campaign”

According to messages doing the rounds on social media, a politician has allegedly claimed that his party was endorsed by scholar and radio personality, Mufti Abdul Kader Hoosen.

Mufti AK, ameer at Markaz Sahaba Online Radio, says he was contacted by an individual in Cape Town who alleges that Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam has claimed that his campaign was blessed by himself.

“I never even heard of him, I don’t know the person,” says Mufti AK Hoosen.

Mufti AK called the move “factually incorrect and cheap politicking”.

“I told them, this is my stance for the past twenty five years, since we are allowed to vote since 1994… we tell people whoever wants to vote, you make istikharah and [if] you don’t vote, there is no sin upon you Islamically.”

“I don’t belong to any party, I don’t endorse any party and I’m actually critical of most politicians because we know what is happening in South Africa,” he clarified.

The revered scholar distanced himself from Mr Munzoor and whoever else is in support with him, saying “I have nothing to do with him, nothing to do with his party”.

Markaz Sahaba Online Staff Reporter.
Feature Image: telegraph.co.uk

Muslim woman wearing headscarf attacked in Berlin

A suspected far-right extremist verbally and physically assaulted a Muslim woman at a Berlin metro station, police said on Monday.

The incident was the latest in a string of xenophobic attacks in the German capital in recent months targeting people of foreign appearance, including Muslim women with headscarf or Jews wearing a kippah.

The 33-year old Muslim woman told police on Sunday that a man uttered racial slurs and later assaulted her at the Greifswalder metro station.

The suspected far-right extremist showed the illegal Nazi salute before running away from the scene, she said.

The woman received medical treatment for her injuries, according to the police.

Germany has witnessed growing violence by far-right extremists in recent years, fuelled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the Islamophobic AfD party.

Every day, at least three people become a victim of far-right, racist or xenophobic acts of violence in Germany, according to the VBRG, an umbrella group of counseling centers for victims of right-wing violence.

Source : Muslim News

Palestinians tackle blaze at mosque in Al-Aqsa at the same time the Notre Dame Cathedral burned

A fire broke out at Al-Marwani Prayer Room in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound yesterday, at the same time as the world watched Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames.

Smoke could be seen rising from the Al-Marwani prayer rooms in Al-Aqsa Mosque, with firefighters tackling the blaze. Parts of the 2,000-year-old site are said to now be in danger as a result.

Palestine news agency, Wafa, cited a guard as saying that “the fire broke out in the guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room, and the fire brigade of Jerusalem Islamic Waqf handled the matter successfully.”

Al-Marwani prayer room is located underneath the south-eastern corner of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound (Haram Al Sharif).

Investigations are now underway to discover what started the fire, which some have said may have been caused by children who were playing in the area.

France’s famous Notre Dame Cathedral was devastated yesterday after a fire engulfed the 850-year-old building, leading to its roof caving in. President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the UNESCO World Heritage site with help from the international community.

Source : MEMO

 

Cyclone Idai’s death toll over 1,000, hundreds of thousands displaced

Hundreds of thousands of people are still in need of aid after Cyclone Idai battered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in March.

More than 1,000 people have been reported killed by the storm, the flooding it caused and heavy rains before it hit. The World Bank estimates the affected countries will need over $2 billion to recover.

Following is an outline of the disaster, according to government and UN officials.

MOZAMBIQUE

Cyclone Idai made landfall on the night of 14 March, near the port city of Beira, bringing heavy winds and rains. Two major rivers, the Buzi and the Pungue, burst their banks, submerging villages and leaving bodies floating in the water.

People killed: 602

People injured: 1,641

Houses damaged or destroyed: 239,682

Crops damaged: 715,378 hectares

People affected: 1.85 million

Confirmed cholera cases: 4,979

Confirmed cholera deaths: 8

ZIMBABWE

On 16 March, the storm hit eastern Zimbabwe, where it flattened homes and flooded communities in the Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.

People killed: 344

People injured: 200

People displaced: 16,000 households

People affected: 250,000

MALAWI

Before it arrived, the storm brought heavy rains and flooding to the lower Shire River districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje in Malawi’s south. The rains continued after the storm hit, compounding the misery of tens of thousands of people.

People killed: 60

People injured: 672

People displaced: 19,328 households

People affected: 868,895

 

Source : Reuters
Feature Image: NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using VIIRS data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

What’s Next In Sudan

General resigns a day after overthrowing former President Omar-al Bashir as calls for civilian-led government intensify.
By Elphas Nkosi

 

A day after leading the coup that toppled long-time leader Omar al-Bashir, the head of Sudan’s military council has stepped down amid continuing protests.

General Awad Ibn Auf announced his resignation live on national television, naming Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan as his successor.

The military has said it will oversee a two-year transition period, leading to elections.

But protester leaders say their action will continue until a civilian government is installed.

Senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Allan Ngari joins us to discuss the way ahead for Sudan.

General Awad Ibn Auf announced his resignation live on national television, naming Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Burhan as his successor.

The military has said it will oversee a two-year transition period, leading to elections.

But protester leaders say their action will continue until a civilian government is installed.

The will of the people is once again trumping any decision on the regime that has been in power for the past 30 years, so when this military council installed itself it eviscerated all the work the Sudanese people had been fighting for since the beginning of December last year.

It’s a long road ahead – the military council is still in control… they are going to make way for a civilian authority where you’ll have opposition parties represented as well, but this transition will not be successful if the military continues to hold on to power.

Ngari points out that during 30 years of autocratic rule by Omar al-Bashir, it’s been difficult for the opposition to thrive and do the work of calling government to account.

However, he points out that a history of a strong civil society gives reason for hope.

“We hardly know of opposition parties that have been leading the cause in terms of accountability for government”.

“We know that there is a vibrant civil society, its space has also been closed, but it’s as a result of civil society and civil action that we are where we are today in Sudan”.

“I think there are groups that will be ready to take up the political space that has been created.

Ngari says it’s important for South Africa to continue to play a role in helping Sudan move forward”.

Yesterday the United Nations Security Council discussed Sudan. South Africa is a member state . We are hoping South Africa will be strong in its statements in support of what is going on in Sudan. We do not expect otherwise.

We think the foreign policy of South Africa will be able to support the transition.

 

Julian Assange arrested after Ecuador tears up asylum deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has spent the last six years, after Ecuador’s president Moreno withdrew asylum.

That’s only a day after WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson claimed that an extensive spying operation was conducted against Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. During an explosive media conference Hrafnsson alleged that the operation was designed to get Assange extradited.

Assange’s relationship with Ecuadorian officials appeared increasingly strained since the current president came to power in the Latin American country in 2017. His internet connection was cut off in March of last year, with officials saying the move was to stop Assange from “interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states.”

The whistleblower garnered massive international attention in 2010 when WikiLeaks released classified US military footage, entitled ‘Collateral Murder’, of a US Apache helicopter gunship opening fire on a number of people, killing 12 including two Reuters staff, and injuring two children.

The footage, as well as US war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 200,000 diplomatic cables, were leaked to the site by US Army soldier Chelsea Manning. She was tried by a US tribunal and sentenced to 35 years in jail for disclosing the materials.

Manning was pardoned by outgoing President Barack Obama in 2017 after spending seven years in US custody. She is currently being held again in a US jail for refusing to testify before a secret grand jury in a case apparently related to WikiLeaks.

Assange’s seven-year stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy was motivated by his concern that he may face similarly harsh and arguably unfair prosecution by the US for his role in publishing troves of classified US documents over the years.His legal troubles stem from an accusation by two women in Sweden, with both claiming they had a sexual encounter with Assange that was not fully consensual. The whistleblower said the allegations were false. Nevertheless, they yielded to the Swedish authorities who sought his extradition from the UK on “suspicion of rape, three cases of sexual abuse and unlawful compulsion.”

In December 2010, he was arrested in the UK under a European Arrest Warrant and spent time in Wandsworth Prison before being released on bail and put under house arrest.

During that time, Assange hosted a show on RT known as ‘World Tomorrow or The Julian Assange Show’, in which he interviewed several world influencers in controversial and thought-provoking episodes.

His attempt to fight extradition ultimately failed. In 2012, he skipped bail and fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy, which extended him protection from arrest by the British authorities. Quito gave him political asylum and later Ecuadorian citizenship.

Assange spent the following years stranded at the diplomatic compound, only making sporadic appearances at the embassy window and in interviews conducted inside. His health has reportedly deteriorated over the years, while treatment options are limited due to his inability to leave the Knightsbridge building.

In 2016, a UN expert panel ruled that what was happening to Assange amounted to arbitrary detention by the British authorities. London nevertheless refused to revoke his arrest warrant for skipping bail. Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange in 2017, although Swedish prosecutors indicated it may be resumed if Assange “makes himself available.”

Assange argued that his avoidance of European law enforcement was necessary to protect him from extradition to the US, where then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that arresting him is a “priority.” WikiLeaks was branded a “non-state hostile intelligence service” by then-CIA head Mike Pompeo in 2017.

The US government has been tight-lipped on whether Assange would face indictment over the dissemination of classified material. In November 2018, the existence of a secret indictment targeting Assange was seemingly unintentionally confirmed in a US court filing for an unrelated case.

Last year, a UK tribunal refused to release key details on communications between British and Swedish authorities that could have revealed any dealings between the UK, Sweden, the US, and Ecuador in the long-running Assange debacle. La Repubblica journalist Stefania Maurizi had her appeal to obtain documents held by the Crown Prosecution Service dismissed on December 12.WikiLeaks is responsible for publishing thousands of documents with sensitive information from many countries. Those include the 2003 Standard Operating Procedures manual for Guantanamo Bay, the controversial detention center in Cuba. The agency has also released documents on Scientology, one tranche referred to as “secret bibles” from the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard.

Source: RT

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir steps down from power: Sources

Government sources and a provincial minister have told the Reuters news agency that Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has stepped down from power and consultations are under way to form a transitional council.

Adel Mahjoub Hussein, the minister of production and economic resources in North Darfur,  told Dubai-based al-Hadath TV that “there are consultations to form a military council to take over power after President Bashir stepped down”.

Sudan’s armed forces will make an important announcement soon, state television said on Thursday as troops were deployed in Khartoum after months of protests against the president.

“The armed forces will present an important statement shortly. Be ready for it,” the announcement on state television read, without giving further details.

A Sudanese source also told Middle East Eye that Bashir had resigned.

A source told Reuters that Bashir was under house arrest with a number of aides at the presidential palace.

Earlier, the army and security services deployed troops around the palace, defence ministry and on major roads and bridges in Khartoum as thousands of people flocked to an anti-government protest outside the ministry, a witness said.

Khartoum international airport has also reportedly been shut down.

Protesters outside the defence ministry chanted: “It has fallen, we won.”

Why are Sudanese protesting against their government?

Hundreds of people have been taking to the streets of a series of towns and cities in Sudan since 19 December 2018 to protest a government decision to remove subsidies on wheat and electricity.

Sudan’s economy has been struggling over the past decade with inflation spiking to around 70 percent over the past year alone.

This has caused the price of bread to double, cash shortages and salaries left unpaid. The austerity measures adopted by the government are part of larger economic reforms proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The mobilisation on the ground against the price hikes – organised by a group known as the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) – found almost immediate resonance among opposition leaders, youth and women movements and rapidly turned into a larger show of discontent with 75-year-old President Omar al-Bashir.

Protesters have been reportedly chanting “freedom, peace, justice” and “revolution is the people’s choice” as they march through the streets of the capital, Khartoum.

Sudan’s armed forces have responded to protesters with tear gas and at times, live ammunition, mowing down at least 30 people, according to government figures.

Human Rights Watch, the international rights watchdog, says the death toll is closer to 51.

The protests have energised the Sudanese diaspora culminating in the biggest ever challenge to Bashir’s rule since he took over the country in 1989.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya TV also reported that Bashir had resigned and several officials were arrested, including the defence minister.

State television and radio played patriotic music, reminding older Sudanese of how military takeovers unfolded during previous episodes of civil unrest.

Divisive figure

Bashir, a former paratrooper who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, has been a divisive figure who has managed his way through one internal crisis after another while withstanding attempts by the West to weaken him.

Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993, when the United States added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harbouring Islamist militants.

Washington followed up with sanctions four years later.

Bashir has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003.

The latest crisis has escalated since the weekend, when thousands of demonstrators began camping out outside the Defence Ministry compound in central Khartoum, where Bashir’s residence is located.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday between soldiers trying to protect the protesters and intelligence and security personnel trying to disperse them.

At least 11 people died in the clashes, including six members of the armed forces, the information minister said citing a police report.

Since 19 December, Sudan has been rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government’s attempt to raise the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has led to fuel and cash shortages

Opposition figures have called for the military to help negotiate an end to Bashir’s nearly three decades in power and a transition to democracy.

The demonstrators at the Defence Ministry had said that they wanted to submit a petition for the armed forces to take their side in their attempt to remove Bashir and his administration.

Source : MEE and Agencies
Feature Image : Reuters

IEC makes arrangements for Muslim voters ahead of elections

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will soon be going into overdrive as it prepares for the 8 May polls.

It’s under a month until South Africans cast their ballots and the IEC says “so far, so good”. The commission has had to think of numerous scenarios and eventualities to ensure that all goes off smoothly.

The elections will be held during Ramadan and the IEC has made arrangements for Muslim electoral officials.

The commission’s Courtney Sampson said that Muslim voters can apply for a special vote.

“Muslim voters must decide when they want to vote; either on 8 May or they can apply for a special vote and vote on 6 or 7 May.”

 

Source : EWN

Broad support for South Africa’s downgrade of relations with Israel

Cosatu has accused the Jewish Board of Deputies of attempting to divide the ruling party and the South African government in its decision to downgrade relations with Israel by trying to isolate Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
“This is the decision of the ANC and we do not believe there have been any contradictions between the President and the Minister in this regard; we condemn this attempt to confuse everyone. South Africa is not a confused state,” Cosatu has said.
 
Following Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu’s announcement last week that South Africa would not be replacing its ambassador in Tel Aviv, and that the South African mission would remain at the level of a liaison office with no political, trade, or development mandate, the SAJBD accused Sisulu of contradicting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statements on the matter. 
The ANC has hit back at the SAJBD’s statement saying, “The ANC lauds the decision by the Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel. The ANC resolved to downgrade its embassy, and these conference resolutions are binding on all of its members including those deployed to Cabinet. Both the President and Minister are ANC deployees who are bound by the decisions of its highest organ which is the conference.” 
 
The Chair of the ANC’s NEC Sub-committee on International Relations Lindiwe Zulu has welcomed the implementation of the resolution to downgrade South Africa’s diplomatic presence, on behalf of the entire ANC NEC. 
 
Special Advisor to the Minister for International Relations Zane Dangor has responded to the SAJBD allegations saying, “The SAJBD statement erroneously seeks to suggest that there are different approaches within government to downgrading South Africa’s diplomatic relations with the state of Israel. Both President Ramaphosa and Minister Sisulu are committed to implementing a resolution pertaining to this issue that was passed unanimously by the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC).” 
 
Dangor has referred to the President’s response to a question posed to him in the National Assembly on March 7th on progress in implementing the ANC resolution to downgrade relations with Israel.
 
“Government is in the process of giving effect to a resolution of the governing party that South Africa should downgrade its embassy in Israel. Our approach is informed by our concern at the ongoing violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the refusal of the government of Israel to enter into meaningful negotiations to find a just and peaceful resolution to this conflict,” Ramaphosa said, “The South African government remains seized with the modalities of downgrading the South African Embassy in Israel.” 
 
Dangor maintains that the essence of the ANC’s resolution was that South Africa was to downgrade diplomatic relations with the Government of Israel until it complies with international law.  
 
“Since the passing of the resolution in December 2017, instead of seeking to comply with international law, the Government of Israel has continued to act contrary to international human rights law and various UN Resolutions including UN Security Council resolutions. This includes disregarding international injunctions against increased settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, contravening the responsibilities of an occupying power in relation to humanitarian services in the territories under its occupation, and illegal use of force in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Dangor has said. 
 
The ANC’s alliance partners and numerous civil society formations have voiced their support for the actions to downgrade South Africa’s diplomatic presence in Israel. On Monday the SACP issued a statement saying, “The SACP Salutes the South African Government for downgrading the status of the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office. The decision was officially communicated during #IsraelApartheidWeek. Although the decision was long overdue, we appreciate the message sent by our ANC-led government to the rest of the world that South Africa cannot have normal relations with an apartheid state.” 
 
The SACP went further saying it strongly condemns the statement of intent made a few days ago by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if re-elected he will annex the whole of the West Bank and never recognise the state of Palestine. 
 
The SAJBD has responded robustly to the recent developments calling on the South African Government to “reject politically biased and discriminatory calls to break off ties with Israel and instead find ways to re-engage in the region through maintaining open channels of communication with all parties.”
 
“The SAJBD remains strongly of the view that an embassy downgrade would not achieve anything in terms of advancing Middle East peace prospects, but would run counter to South Africa’s own objective interests, particularly in terms of stimulating Foreign Investment,” the SAJBD has said.
 
Cosatu has shot back saying, “We cannot be held at ransom in the name of investment and trade, this is a matter of principle, and South Africa must no longer be complacent on the matter.”
 
While there has been no official Israeli reaction, following Sisulu’s statement that plans to downgrade the South African embassy had already started, according to the Middle East Monitor Israeli radio reported that Israel is planning to withdraw its ambassador to South Africa. Israeli radio also allegedly reported that the Israeli embassy in South Africa will be downgraded to a representative office which would deal with consulate issues.
 
Civil society has upped the pressure on Israel to adhere to international law with over 700 British artists from the worlds of literature, film, stage and music, having pledged to boycott Israel “as long as the state continues to deny basic Palestinian rights.” Former British PEN President and writer Gillian Slovo have said, “As a South African I witnessed the way the cultural boycott of South Africa helped apply pressure on the apartheid government and its supporters. This Artists Pledge for Palestine has drawn lessons from that boycott to produce an even more nuanced, non-violent way for us to call for change and justice for all.”
 
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has welcomed the downgrading of relations with Tel Aviv. “We applaud this significant move to break relations with Israel, an arrogant and racist colonial state that denies equal rights to all citizens through apartheid laws. The measures announced by Minister Sisulu demonstrate that our government can take practical actions in line with political and moral imperatives that will put us on the right side of history.” 
 
The PSC has also pointed to a UN Human Rights Commission report published last month which found that Israel’s use of lethal force against protesters warrants criminal investigation and prosecution and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Source : IOL
Feature Image : Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Mom of three ‘bashes’ alleged rapist to death

Hundreds of community members turned up at the local magistrate’s court in Mount Fletcher, Eastern Cape, on Monday in support of a woman charged with murdering a suspected intruder.

DispatchLIVE reports the 46-year-old man was killed, allegedly by a 33-year-old mother of three, at her home on Sunday.

On Monday, Legal Aid attorney Hlanga Mondliwa said in an affidavit the woman would plead not guilty to murder. She had no previous convictions and worked as a cashier at a national chain store.

Prosecutor Tshepo Sekhosana said the state would not oppose bail and that the accused was co-operating. The court granted her R1,000 bail and postponed the matter to May 7 for further investigation.

In a press statement, Saps Capt Raphael Motloung said it was alleged the woman had been asleep when a man entered her house at about midnight. There had been a knock and the door was opened by force.

“Someone came into the house and it was dark inside. It is alleged the woman jumped out of bed and went straight to the door and pushed the figure/person outside.

“She took a stone/facebrick and hit him hard in the face with it in self-defence.

“At the same time, the [intruder] tried to assault her as well and later [the intruder] fell down and became unconscious in front of the house, where he had fallen.”

The man was rushed in a private vehicle to a hospital, where he died, said Motloung.

Men and women, many in ANC regalia, travelled from all areas of Joe Gqabi district to court for the woman’s appearance. Placards held aloft read: “Free Bail”, “You are a women’s hero”, and “[She] is the victim”.

Joe Gqabi ANC Women’s League district chairperson Nomvuyo Mphoselwa and regional Sanco co-ordinator Lubabalo Mantame led the march to the court.

The pair said while they did not support taking the law into your own hands, victims had “split seconds to decide either to succumb to the demands of the attacker or wage an attack in self-defence”.

They said: ”What would you do if someone came into your home at night, and demanded that you take off your clothes, and you have young children around too? If you have the strength, you use everything at your disposal to defend yourself.

“She (the accused) is a woman of prayer; we thank God for having given her the strength to fight off her assailant, but it is unfortunate that [the alleged intruder] died. We come here to give her support,” the alliance representatives said.

NPA spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said police would have to ascertain whether the killing was intentional, provoked or in self-defence, and the circumstances around it.

“Even if there are allegations of self-defence and attempted rape we cannot simply act on rumours and decline to prosecute without facts,” said Tyali.

Source : DispatchLIVE, TimesLive

Israeli elections: Netanyahu faces challenge from Gantz at polls

Israelis are voting on Tuesday to choose the next party to lead the 21st Knesset in an election that pits incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against Benny Gantz, former army chief of staff, with 37 other parties in the running.

Polls are open from 7am (04:00 GMT) to 10pm (19:00 GMT) at 10,720 polling stations.

Israeli citizens aged 18 and over, including those living in illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank are eligible to vote. Israeli law excludes expats currently abroad from voting.

The 4.8 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza do not have voting rights.

According to the polls, Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party and Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party are running in a close race for prime minister. The position is chosen by the Israeli president, on the recommendations of Knesset Members (MK).

The final poll published by Israel’s Channel 13 before the election showed the Likud and Blue and White in a dead heat with each gaining 28 seats.

The poll also predicted that Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc would win 66 Knesset seats with Israel’s centre-left parties winning 54, as reported by Israeli Haaretz.

On Thursday Israel’s Channel 12 released a poll in which respondents were asked who they would prefer to see as prime minister: 37 percent answered Netanyahu and 35 percent said Gantz.

Last minute plea

Asked who they believe would form a governing coalition, 58 percent of respondents answered Netanyahu.

However, Netanyahu has been urging voters to head to the polls in a last-minute plea, warning that Likud was trailing behind the Blue and White party, according to Hebrew media.

“People think that we’re going to win, so they’re not coming to vote,” Netanyahu reportedly said at a meeting late Monday night with MKs and Likud members.

“Wake them up everywhere and tell them to bring their family and friends and get out and vote. Our mission is to quickly close the gap as much as possible,” Netanyahu said, according to the Times of Israel.

Sixty-one of the 120-seat Knesset seats are needed to form the government. As no single party has ever won a majority of 61 seats on its own, coalition governments are the norm.

After the final votes are counted, President Reuven Rivlin decides which party leader has the best chance of forming a coalition government relying on recommendations from MKs.

Netanyahu told settler leaders in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, that he did not think his Likud party be able to put together a bloc to have the 61 recommendations that would prompt the president to choose him to form a government.

That’s in part because the Zehut party, led by Moshe Feiglin, said it would ally with whichever party won the most seats.

“In a situation in which there is no bloc, then [Blue and White party heads Yair] Lapid and Gantz are the biggest parties. That is according to the polls in the media and that is according to our polling,” Netanyahu reportedly said according to Israel Hayom.

Undecided voters

Israeli newspaper Maariv reported a day before the election that half a million Israelis amounting to nine Knesset seats remain undecided as to who to vote for between the two frontrunners.

The election is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu who is mired in corruption charges.

Israel’s attorney general announced in February 2019 that he intends to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases.

Gantz formed the Blue and White party in February to unseat Netanyahu.

Akiva Eldar, a senior columnist for Al-Monitor told Al Jazeera that Gantz provides an appealing alternative for those who don’t want to vote for Netanyahu, but are not excited for voting for the left-wing Labor party either.

“This was a way to vote in between the two of them for something new, for something that may succeed,” Eldar said.

“They don’t believe that Labor has the power to get rid of Netanyahu and win the elections, while people believe Gantz can.

“Gantz is not corrupt. He’s managed to put together a nice group of people from different parties and it seems that he is a good manager to form [a party] in less than two months [from elections], to be able to bring together three former chiefs of staff and to convince Lapid to give up his ambition,” Eldar said.

Source : Al Jazeera
Feature Image : Baz Ratner/Reuters

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