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Israeli election: the left that dare not speak its name

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Israeli election: the left that dare not speak its name

Israeli election: the left that dare not speak its name

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to undermine his strongest election challenger, he pins a label on him that many Israelis see as an insult: "leftist." Megan Revell reports.

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Israeli election: the left that dare not speak its name

Despite being a nation founded by the left, in Israel today many see the term as an insult.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) LABOUR PARTY LAWMAKER, MEIRAV MICHAELI, SAYING: "Certainly the word 'left' has become like a curse." With its negative connotations, the label is being increasingly used by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undermine his rivals as Tuesday's (April 9) election nears.

(SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, AT EVENT LAUNCHING HIS LIKUD PARTY CAMPAIGN FOR APRIL 2019 ELECTION, SAYING: "Either a strong right-wing government under my leadership, or a weak left-wing government headed by Lapid and Gantz and supported by the Arab parties." All of this despite the fact Israel was founded by the left, which dominated politics for decades.

In 1992 it captured half the seats in the Knesset but is forecast to make up a mere fifth next week.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER EHUD BARAK, SAYING: "Now there is a loss of steam on the left in the last two decades and the right-wing has their own vision which is, in a way, dark, ultra-nationalist, I think somewhat racist and messianic.

But it's a burning vision so it motivates them." Research shows only 12 percent of Jewish Israelis identify as being left-wing.

With Netanyahu set to become Israel's longest-serving leader if re-elected, the right is on the ascendant, as the left is sidelined.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) LABOUR PARTY LAWMAKER, MEIRAV MICHAELI, SAYING: "The word 'left' is actually a tool to delegitimize everyone or anyone who's against Netanyahu and what is good for him.

It's very easy to see how he calls 'left' everyone who is against him, even if they're settlers, (even) if they are people who he personally appointed, even if they're very specific right-wing people." Enter Benny Gantz: the only credible challenge to Netanyahu's tenure.

Despite running on a centrist platform he's been cast by Netanyahu as a weak leftist who will endanger Israel's security.

Seeking to win over right-leaning voters, the former general has hyped up his military legacy.

This TV election ad highlights the Palestinian militants killed on Gantz' watch.

Most polls show Gantz' Blue and White party leading in a straight race, but they also show a Netanyahu-led alliance of right-wing parties are more likely to secure a majority in parliament.

All predictions, though, show the left being left out in the cold.




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