The new date of local elections is stirring up unrest in the coalition. In a letter whose contents are published here for the first time, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich demands that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant intervene in the matter and cause the date to be postponed.
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"Last night I appealed to the interior minister to retract his decision to hold the local elections at the end of January," Smotrich wrote. "I believe that holding elections in wartime could harm both the combat efforts and the candidates, whose activists and voters are in reserve."
According to Smotrich, 62% of the officials on the lists running on behalf of Religious Zionism throughout the country are in the reserves. In the letter, the Minister of Finance also details their names and positions.
War or campaign?
According to Smotrich, "I am aware that not all lists of candidates for all parties have rates of recruitment to reserve duty as high as those of Religious Zionism. However, even if these percentages are smaller, it is still a serious injury. Do we want these fighters and commanders to leave their positions in the war to run an election campaign? Is it legitimate to demand that they remain in the reserves and give up their candidacy or lose it because of it?"
"Aware of the weighty considerations." Bezalzel Smotrich, Photo: Oren Ben Hakon
"Hundreds of thousands of reservists will not be able to exercise their right to vote. In them, too, religious Zionism has much higher rates than its relative share of the population. It is important to note that unlike general elections, local elections involve many more lists and ballots, and it is unlikely that the IDF will be able to prepare logistically to allow all combatants to vote, each combatant according to the lists running in his place of residence."
Smotrich added: "I am aware of the weighty considerations in favor of holding elections as soon as possible. There is also a price for further postponement of the elections. However, in times of war, security considerations and those relating to reservists prevail. There is a price for postponing the academic year, yet it was postponed so as not to harm the reservists. In general, there are great costs to the economy due to the existence of the war, and we bear them wholeheartedly, with the understanding that the considerations of war are prevailing at the moment. The same should be true when it comes to local elections."
Minister of the Interior Moshe Arbel (archive), photo: Oren Ben Hakon
Those close to Interior Minister Moshe Arbel (Shas) say in response that he has no intention of retracting his decision. "He asked the NSC to formulate a position on the matter. He told them he would support any decision they made. They said the elections could be held on 30.1.
"There will be polling stations at the bases and also inside Gaza, everyone will be able to vote. As for the candidates who serve, the minister asked the head of the ACA to release them from the reserves, and the head of the ACA agreed. The minister accepted the position of the professional echelon."
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