Professor Zeev Hanin, a political science lecturer at Ariel University and Bar-Ilan University and an expert in Russian-speaking Jewry in Israel and the Diaspora, comments on the significance of the so-called "Russian vote" in the upcoming election and reflects on the political preferences of the Russian speaking community in Israel.
Sputnik: Does the "Russian vote" still exist and how much influence does it have?
Zeev Hanin: No doubt about that. It’s about between 12 -15 per cent of the Israeli electorate, which corresponds to 15-16 Knesset seats. So that’s fairly concerning the fact that majority of electorate voters are almost equally divided left and right camps. So that’s actually the Russian speaking vote which overwhelming majority is concentrated in the medium, centre-right part of the Israeli political spectrum will decide the destiny of this elections or especially who will be the prime minister.
Sputnik: Many parties in both the Right and Left camps seem to give up on putting immigrants from the former Soviet Union into realistic places on their lists, with a preference for smaller immigrant groups. Why is it that?
Zeev Hanin: We do not call them immigrants – we call them returnees to their historical homeland. So it’s not 1.5 million- it’s much less, but it’s still an influential group. So about 40 per cent, according to my estimation, they prefer to vote for a political party which represents the interests of the Russian speaking community, not only returnees from Russia but from the former Soviet republics. So, about 40 per cent prefer this sort of political parties. Another 40 per cent supports nationwide parties which also have sort of a "Russian" branch. The rest 20 per cent is spread among the whole political spectrum between the left and right political parties in which they do not specifically address the interests of the Russian speaking community. So concerning the first group, the leading among them is Yisrael Beytenu, Avigdor Lieberman. The second group is mostly Likud and maybe some other parties that are interested to be part of this niche of the political spectrum. The rest are other political parties in Israel. So answering your question, I would say that it’s only the small political parties, but it’s those who on the one hand have some circuits on the Russian speaking interests, on the other hand, present the nationwide political agenda.
Sputnik: You’ve mentioned Avigdor Lieberman – in your view, could he become a kingmaker for the next government?
Zeev Hanin: That’s true.
Sputnik: Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Putin prior to the Israeli elections, how significant is this visit? What impact can it have on Netanyahu’s poll results?
Zeev Hanin: There’s a discussion here whether it was so-called an electoral visit - what it mostly wanted to show is place in the upper league of the world political leaders like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi of India, like European leaders or its mostly related to certain questions and issues which are urgent on the track between Jerusalem and Moscow. So I would say that it’s rather the second than the first option, but I’m not familiar with any politician who would not use any circumstances or any occasion in order to use it for his electoral prospectives as well.
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