TEL AVIV – Remarkable developments abound as people prepare to go to the polls Jan. 28 to elect a new government and Prime Minister. Incumbent Prime Minister and warhawk Ariel Sharon continues to face major challenges from his and his families’ corruption activities. Besides the massive involvement of organized crime bosses with the inner Likud Party elections of its candidates for Knesset seats, Sharon and his sons, Gideon and Omri, are embroiled in millions of dollars bribe and fund-raising scandal during 1999 election campaign against party rival Benjamin Netanyahu for premiership.

The daily Ha’aretz published documents that the Israeli police criminal investigation department had sent to South Africa, requesting assistance in their secret investigations of Sharon and his dealings with a wealthy Capetown businessman.

On Jan. 9, Sharon held a press conference broadcast on TV to tell his version of the accusations against him and his sons. But, Sharon began his speech with an ugly pre-election tirade against the Labor Party and its main candidate Amram Mitzna. Within minutes the TV screens turned dark and the broadcast of the speech had ended. News anchors announced that on an urgent order of the chairman of the Central Election Board, Supreme Judge Mishael Cheshin, the broadcast was blacked out. Sharon had violated election laws, which prohibit TV and radio electioneering except for special broadcasts.

The other remarkable development concerning eve-of-election Israel, was the Supreme Court ruling to overturn the former decision of the Central Election Board (CEB) to ban two Arab-Palestinian politicians, and one Arab Party from participation at the polls. Full election rights of the outgoing Knesset members, Azmi Bishara and his leftist-nationalist Arab Democratic Balad party, and Ahmad Tibi, chair of the Ta’al Arab party, who was running on the left-Communist Hadash Front list, were restored by the Supreme Court. This decision came on the heels of much criticism and protests, which demanded an overturn of the anti-democratic and racist CEB decision.

The protests reached its climax with a tremendous mass rally in front of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem, Jan. 7. 40 parties and movements active in the struggles for peace and democracy called the rally.

At this extra-ordinary vigil, much attention was given to the participation of the last, still living signatory to Israel’s Independence Proclamation Charter, former Knesset deputy and former General Secretary of the Communist Party of Israel, Meir Vilner. The World asked Vilner about his feelings during this protest rally.

Vilner explained why the Communist Party agreed to co-sign the Proclamation. It contained two passages, he said, one promised that Israel would cooperate with the United Nations in implementing its resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the establishment of two independent states in former British Mandated Palestine, a Jewish and an Arab-Palestinian one respectively.

“The other passage promised full social and political freedom to all Israeli citizens, without distinction of religion, race, or sex, and that Israel will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture, etc. for all citizens,” he said.

“What had become of these two promises is well known,” Vilner said. “Not complying with precisely these two promises from the first moment on until at present, almost 55 years later, particularly the thwarting of both these promises by brutal military means, are at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the failure to end the sanguinary vicious circle, so many Palestinians and Israelis are still victims of.

“The decision of the Central Election Board to nix the participation of Arab politicians at the forthcoming elections is an outrage, contradicting the state’s Independence Charter,” Vilner said.

The author can be reached at