Avigdor Liberman pulls surprising support from Druze community

Liberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party, scored high among the Druze for several reasons. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In an election surprise, a party that not long ago was known mainly for its hardline views against the Palestinians garnered strong support from the Druze community, Hebrew website N12 reported Tuesday.

With vote counting at 95%, the Israel Beiteinu party has dropped one seat from the last election, to six Knesset seats.

However, Israel Beiteinu’s share of the vote in many Druze towns jumped hundreds of percentage points in Tuesday’s election. In some cases, it led all parties even when, in the last several elections, the towns voted far more for centrist parties like Blue and White.

For example, in Beit Jann in northern Israel, it garnered a whopping 34% – more than double its nearest rivals, Meretz and Yesh Atid. The highest an Arab party scored there was 4.4%, for the Joint List. But even in Asfiya near Haifa, where the Joint List placed second, it was soundly beaten by none other than former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s faction, receiving nearly 32% of the vote to the Joint List’s 18.2%.

In Daliyat al-Karmel, where Israeli Beiteinu edged out Yesh Atid to win the town, local council chief Rafik Halabi told N12, “Liberman is the star of the election. He had a very active campaign and Hamed Amar is the only [Druze] candidate in the field.”

Halabi also provided a more current reason for supporting Liberman, since Amar, now No. 6, has been an Israel Beiteinu MK since 2009, only losing his seat between the second and third election rounds in 2019 when his party received five mandates.

“The explanation is simple: there is no right and left in Israel anymore, 85% are in the center,” he said.  “Liberman clearly stated that he would do everything to change the Nation-State Law and promised to work to repeal the Kaminitz Law.”

The Nation-State Law, a quasi-constitutional Basic Law passed in 2018 to anchor Israel’s identity as the nation state of the Jewish people, offended the Druze sector. As loyal citizens who serve in the IDF, they perceived the law as undermining their rights as equal citizens, even though other Basic Laws codify all Israelis’ individual rights. They also did not like that the law removed Arabic as an official language of the state, seeing it as another slap in the face.

Liberman, who had backed the Nation-State Law, said in his campaign that he saw it was a mistake in that it did not strengthen the Jewish State and harmed the Druze public.

The promise to junk the 2017 Kaminitz Law is even more of an about-face for Liberman, as he was the one who proposed it in the first place. The law, which is really an amendment to Israel’s Planning and Building Code, aims to rein in illegal construction by slapping high fines on offenders and giving the government more power to demolish such structures.

Such illicit building is especially rampant in the Negev and Galilee, where Arab Israelis and Druze are the majority, and they claimed that it targets their communities disproportionately. Last November, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced that major parts of the law would not be enforced for the next two years.