Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Israeli Elections - Some Bedouin Commentary

More and more people seem to be saying that Kadima might not win the Israeli elections after all. There does seem to be a downward trend, even in the polls. Olmert himself is said to be concerned that many potential Kadima voters are complacent and won't go to the polls on the election day on Tuesday, March 28. I think it's even expected to rain, so that certainly won't help in getting people voting. Likud voters, on the other hand, are said to be more ideological, more hard core, so that they'll vote no matter what. I think the same might be true for Labour in these elections... Let's hope so.

The reason that I decided to raise the issue of the elections today, aside from the fact that they are coming up, is an interesting little bit of political analysis that I got from my cab driver today. I was on my way back to Beer Sheva from my part-time job as an English teacher in the Bedouin village of Kseife and was waiting near Tsomet Shoqet to catch the bus back home, when I saw the familiar sight of a חפר (pronounced "khapper"; Hebrew slang for an illegit. Taxi - basically, in the Negev, we're usually talking about a Bedouin dude with a Mercedes or an old GM Transit van who doesn't have any official permission to be offering public transit, takes cash and usually caters to Bedouin who want to get from their village to Beer Sheva or back). Cabbies, khapperim or not are of course known for their tendency to volunteer political commentary, so I wasn't surprised to hear him say "mark my words, write this down, these elections are going to be a big surprise." This guy was confident that the next government would be formed by Amir Peretz and Netanyahu (!) who he said would each serve a two-year rotation as Prime Ministers (rotations are really popular in the Bedouin sector: in the Bedouin town of Rahat, there's never just one mayor, they always agree on a rotation in the end). According to Mr. Cab Driver, Kadima is going down, mainly because poor people are going to vote Labour and ideological right-wingers will go vote Netanyahu, no matter what.

In Israel, you can ask people what they're voting. It's not the least bit sensitive, although Arabs voting Balad or whatever might sometimes be reluctant to volunteer that information. I was going to ask the driver, but he pre-empted me by saying that he doesn't care about politics (Israeli Arab code for: I don't care about the Palestinian issue) and just wants someone in power who will improve the economy and general living conditions. I've been hearing that line quite frequently in Kseife (although many Bedouin just say that they aren't going to vote for anyone because the government doesn't "care about us"), so I figured this was another Bedouin Kadima or Labour voter. But curiousity got the better of me and I finally pressed the question: "So who are you voting for?"

It turns out that Bedouins also vote SHAS. Yup, that's right. My Bedouin cab driver was voting SHAS "because they care about poor people and because they'll raise the family allowances for large families." It's not the first time I've heard about Arabs voting Shas (Abu Ghosh apparently also supports them), but I didn't know this extended all the way to the Negev.

You learn something new every day.


Amos said...

This cab driver is just a talker! Kadima will win and form a left-of-center coalition.

Namer said...

Never mind, Amos - the sole existence of such "unorthodox" utterances is interesting and perhaps revealing. Makes a nice story for any newspaper - only it will be too late.

Carmia said...

That was interesting! Thanks for sharing the story.