Jewish Settlers Flock to Vote for Right-Wing Parties With AM-Israel Bjt
BEIT EL, Occupied West Bank (AP) _ Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip voted by the thousands Tuesday for people who will reaffirm Israel’s claim to lands captured when many of them were children.
″People don’t want to see their homes given back to the Arabs,″ said Ari Holtz, an engineering student who was born in New York and has spent four years in this West Bank settlement a mile north of Ramallah. ″People here are very right-wing. They’re voting no further left than Likud.″
Holtz, 22, said his vote went to the nationalist Tehiya Party, which advocates annexing the occupied territories.
The 70,000 Jewish settlers in 133 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are among the staunchest supporters of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud bloc and its right-wing allies.
About 26,600 settlers were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s parliamentary election, roughly equivalent to one set in the Knesset under the Israeli system of proportional representation.
Votes of settlers are more powerful than the numbers indicate, however, because their views have considerable impact on conservative politics.
Shamir, who vows never to return any territory Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war, has courted the settler vote by pledging to support the building of new settlements.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of the rival Labor Party has said he will exchange parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip for peace with neighboring Arab countries.
On Tuesday, settlers crowded two polling stations in Beit El, dropping their votes into blue plastic boxes. Outside, youngsters wearing blue-and- white Likud hats handed out party flags and stickers.
″By noon today, more than half the voters registered at my polling station had cast their ballots,″ said a Beit El election official who would not give her name.
Israel radio reported 65.5 percent of settlers eligible to vote had done so by 5 p.m., five hours before closing time.
Settler turnout was the highest of any voter group. About 52.5 percent of the total electorate had cast ballots by 5 p.m., the radio said.
Aryeh Bachrach, 40, wore a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the clenched fist of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s anti-Arab Kach Party, which was banned from the election on grounds of racism.
″I would have voted for Kach if the party were allowed to run,″ Bachrach, a chemist, said after voting. ″As it is, I’m voting for Moledet. They advocate what I think is right: the Arabs should leave.″
Moledet, which means Homeland in Hebrew, calls for the voluntary transfer of the 1.5 million Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to neighboring Arab countries.
″The Palestinians can take the place of all the Jews who were persecuted and emigrated to Israel from the Arab countries,″ said Nili Kapah, a 19-year- old biology student. ″There’s lots of room for them there.″