In Nazareth long time mayor Ramiz Jaraisi (Hadash, Christian) finally (for the first election in autumn see here) lost his position to his former deputy 'Ali Salam (formerly with Hadash, Muslim) after a recall election had been ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court. While some might simply argue, that after 20 years in office voters are just tired of Jaraisi, others believe the loss of the mayoralty in the so called "red city" indicates a downfall of the Communist dominated Hadash, once Israel's most important Arab party:
Nazareth election beginning of end for Israel's Communist Party
by Daoud Kuttab, Al-Monitor
Even more than during the first campaign in autumn, the campaign for the recall election had sectarian undertones. One might remember, that the city witnessed Muslim-Christian tensions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
by Daniel Ben Simon, Al-Monitor
Until recently, Jaraisi and Salam had been good friends. They tied their fate together and symbolized Muslim-Christian fraternity in the Arab sector’s largest city. Of the city’s 80,000 residents, 65% are Muslim and 35% Christian. Similar percentages were registered in 1948, but in reverse; then, the Christians held the large majority. The political alliance between the two friends greatly shaped the sociopolitical texture of the two populations and engendered stability that served the city well. Today, on the heels of the electoral controversy, the two friends do not talk to one another. Suddenly, swords have been unsheathed and battle cries sounded that threaten to shatter the city’s tranquility.
“The situation in the city is very tense,” Fadoul Mazawi, owner of a large advertising agency in Nazareth, told Al-Monitor. “The city is paralyzed, and I am afraid of the radical statements we hear from both sides. This situation is very inflammable and likely to blow up after the final results are made public.” National Arab politics also waits tensely on the sidelines. If Jaraisi loses, his defeat will be viewed as symbol of the Arab Israeli Hadash Party’s weakening on the national level. Hadash has ruled in Nazareth for 30 years without exception. “Defeat in the city will be perceived as a great blow in the Arab sector,” added Mazawi. “As far as they are concerned, this is a battle of a survival.”
Like others in the city, Mazawi, a Christian, is concerned that the political struggle could ignite ethnic fires. “If the court renders its final decision in favor of Jaraisi, it will be problematic because it will light a fire between Muslims and Christians. The Muslims will argue that the elections were stolen from them.”
It is an open secret that the mysterious envelope in which Jaraisi received his additional votes contained the ballots cast by the city’s soldiers. Over many years, Jaraisi preached high and low against enlistment of Arabs into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Thus, Jaraisi’s antagonists feel it hypocritical that the man who preached against Arab enlistment, should earn his fifth term by virtue of Christian soldiers' ballots. “There are 30 ballots cast by soldiers from Nazareth, ballots that have not been counted and can tip the scales,” argued Jaraisi in his appeal to the court.
“Let’s recall a few long-forgotten events,” writes Shai Friedman in his blog on Nazareth. “There is a war in Nazareth against youths who enlist in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. Nazareth’s mayor was a key player in this war. He participated, together with fellow party members from the Knesset, against ‘enlistment in the Zionist army.’ A Druze youth who received a call-up order tore it up to the sound of the cheering crowd. Jaraisi and the members of his party clapped their hands.”
Within this uncompromising battle between two people who had once been good friends stands the city of Nazareth, hostage to ignoble political storm winds that refuse to die down.
Since one could argue that the Israeli government has tried to weaken Hadash before (e.g. in Nazareth during the Crisis around the year 2000), the question about the involvement of the government and state institutions in the recall election arises.
by Oudeh Basharat, Haaretz
With no connection to the election results in Nazareth, which Ali Salam won by a decisive majority in the second round, the disturbing question is: Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, through the head of the Shin Bet security service and the attorney general, try to influence the outcome of that election? That is what Yael Gvirtz’s article in Yedioth Ahronoth on March 10 would indicate.
Gvirtz writes that Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and their partners had an interest in Salam winning the election and that “to prepare the election, the head of the Shin Bet and the attorney general were mobilized as well ... [The latter] sent, at the request of those who employed him, an urgent letter to the Supreme Court demanding a repeat hearing ‘due to allegations of forgeries’ − even though claims of forgery never came up in court during the appeal of the election results, nor was a complaint lodged with the police.”
If this had happened in Tel Aviv there would have been an uproar of inestimable force, and it is possible that everyone involved, including the prime minister, would have been thrown out of office. But the Arabs are a different story. Nobody gets excited over the long romance that has been going on between them and the Shin Bet.
by Leena Dallasheh, MERIP