Tag: Bennet

ISRAELI POLITICS: LAPID AND SECULARS VS. HAREDIM, LIKUD RIGHT PRO-MORE SETTLEMENTS, PAL. JOURNALISTS SHUN ISRAELIS —SNAFU (“SITUATION NORMAL, ALL FOULED UP”)

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Lapid and the Haredim: Susan Hattis Rolef, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013—On Monday, April 22, Finance Minister Yair Lapid delivered his maiden speech in the Knesset plenum, answering three of the six motions of no-confidence in the government presented by the Opposition. The speech turned into a direct confrontation between himself and the Ashkenazi haredi MKs – in particular MKs Meir Porush, Moshe Gafni and Yisrael Eichler.

 

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Wants to Accelerate Settlements: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, April 28, 2013—Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is busy these days dealing with the problem of the cemetery in Ariel settlement in Judea and Samaria. There are only four remaining burial plots and he is trying to expand the cemetery.

 

Palestinian Journalists Declare War on Israeli Colleagues: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, April 26, 2013—How can anyone talk about resuming the peace process when Palestinians are being told by their leaders, on a daily basis, how bad and evil Israel is? If Israel is so bad and evil, then how can any leader go to his people and say that he is negotiating with them?

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Haredim See Lapid as a Force Majeur: Avishai Ben Haim, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013

Netanyahu, Liberman Spar Over Peace-Deal Referendum: Aaron Kalman, Times of Israel, Apr. 29, 2013

Israel: The Olmert-Lapid Reckoning: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, Apr. 26, 2013

For Israel, Tranquil Days: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, April 28, 2013

Jew Hatred at UN Schools: Dan Calic, Ynet News, Apr. 26, 2013

 

 

 

LAPID AND THE HAREDIM

Susan Hattis Rolef

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013

 

On Monday, April 22, Finance Minister Yair Lapid delivered his maiden speech in the Knesset plenum, answering three of the six motions of no-confidence in the government presented by the Opposition. The speech turned into a direct confrontation between himself and the Ashkenazi haredi MKs – in particular MKs Meir Porush, Moshe Gafni and Yisrael Eichler.

 

I must admit that I was impressed by Lapid’s speech. First, there was the fact that Lapid, who is used to speaking with a teleprompter, had to do without this technological gadget, and did very well, speaking clearly and coherently, without letting the haredi MKs, who were constantly heckling him, budge him from his narrative. Furthermore, even though what he said was extremely provocative (from a haredi point of view), his language remained polite, and his tone calm and non-tempestuous, though every once in a while his intonation was surprisingly similar to that of his father, Tommy Lapid, who as we may recall was frequently impolite and tempestuous.

 

Secondly, Lapid expressed in the clearest and most direct form several basic principles most secular Israelis firmly believe in but only rarely express for fear of upsetting the haredim. The first is the principle that every person is responsible for providing for the children he brings to the world – or at least should do his best to provide for them, and not expect the state to do so. The issue came up when MK Meir Porush accused Lapid of “starving children” due to his proposal to drastically cut social security child support.

 

I was raised on the principle that it is the duty of parents to provide for their children. Where I came from, turning into a financial burden on the state was considered something to be ashamed of, and to be avoided at any cost. Inter alia, this means one should do one’s utmost not to bring more children into the world than one can provide for both in material and educational terms.

 

In the haredi world (at least in Israel) this principle is scorned. The number of children is a function of the fertility of their parents, and avoiding gainful employment for the purpose of religious studies (with or without a wink), is the bon ton. I remember feeling truly sorry for a haredi colleague in the Knesset Research and Information Center, who told me that none of his neighbors knew what he was doing for a living, because if they found out he would have difficulties finding decent matches for his children.

 

Another principle that Lapid reiterated (in response to an interruption by MK Gafni) was that it was none of the haredi MKs’ business to tell him whether it is OK to write Facebook posts on Saturday. There is no earthly reason why a secular Jew in Israel, including a finance minister, should have to apologize for not preserving the Sabbath, any more than a religious Jew should have to apologize for preserving the Sabbath.

 

Israel is not a state governed by halacha, Jewish law, it is a Jewish state in that it is the state of all the Jews who wish to live in it, and the only restriction on how they live is the law of the land, as legislated by the Knesset – not halacha. Nevertheless, no one stops people from living according to halacha, as long as this is not in breach of the law of the land – something that unfortunately many haredim in Israel have difficulty accepting.

 

Most observers agreed that in the Knesset debate on April 22 Lapid won a knockout victory over the Ashkenazi haredim, who should have known better than to get involved in this superfluous verbal battle (which also caused Lapid to decide henceforth to deliver important economic speeches outside the Knesset, without constant interruptions by the haredi MKs).

 

However, the main problem was the haredi reaction. During the debate MK Meir Porush accused Lapid of hating the haredim, while part of the haredi media accused him of anti-Semitism. MK Eli Yishai went so far as to say that if a politician in Europe dared to say about the Jews what the leaders of Yesh Atid say about the haredim, Israel would be up in arms to protest against the abominable manifestation of anti-Semitism.

 

This is pure demagoguery. If the Jewish citizens in any European country dared act the way the haredim act in Israel – i.e. refuse on principle, and en masse, to uphold obligations shared by every citizen or to go out and work, and at the same time demand full social security benefits – the politicians in that country would be perfectly justified to use harsh language to describe the phenomenon. But the Jewish citizens of other states do not act in this manner – not even the haredim.

 

The problem really is that even though most of the haredim participate in Israel’s democracy, they do not really accept the basic principles on which it is based. Back in the mid 1980s, MK Menachem Porush – father of Meir Porush – fought against the introduction of provisions into Israeli law that prevent lists that reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state running in the elections, because he feared that the fact that the haredi parties openly advocate Israel turning into a halachic state would be interpreted to mean that they reject Israel as a democratic state.

 

The provision nevertheless became law, and the lenient approach of the High Court of Justice on the issue has enabled the haredi parties (and the Arab parties, for that matter) to get away with some of their ideological positions, as long as they do not take concrete action to realize them.

 

Nevertheless, the situation we confront today is a direct consequence of this anomaly, which for too many years has been swept under the carpet. The problem is not hatred of the haredim, but the unwillingness of the public Yair Lapid represents to continue to let them make a mockery of some of the basic obligations of citizens toward the state of which they are citizens. Put in other words, the social contract between the democratic state and its citizens is not something that any major population group can pooh-pooh.

 

The writer is a retired Knesset employee..

 

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ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE
MINISTER WANTS TO ACCELERATE SETTLEMENTS

Mazal Mualem

Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, April 28, 2013

 

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon in an interview with Mazal Mualem.

 

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon is busy these days dealing with the problem of the cemetery in Ariel settlement in Judea and Samaria. There are only four remaining burial plots and he is trying to expand the cemetery.

 

At his office at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Danon is still getting used to his new job. Nonetheless, one thing has been clear to him since his first day in office: he intends to help the settlements in Judea and Samaria, those he feels were harassed by former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

 

Defense ministers are in charge of approving construction in the settlements and Danon hopes the Ariel cemetery problem will soon be solved given that unlike Barak, his successor Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon is committed to the settlement enterprise. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Danon promises to advance the approval of all the building plans which he claims were held up by Barak.

 

Danon, 42, came in fifth in the Likud primaries held last year (Nov. 26, 2012), ahead of senior government ministers, among them Ya’alon himself, his boss at the defense ministry who came in 7th. This achievement is the result of his activism in the political and media arenas and his support for the far right-wing Likud membership in Judea and Samaria. This is what landed him is current job. But anyone who knows Danon knows, too, that he is not there simply to warm his chair at the defense ministry.

 

Danon belongs to the group of young Likud Knesset members, along with others like Deputy Minister of Transportation Tzipi Hotovely and Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, who form the hard core of the right wing. Like him, they, too, were elected to top slots in the Likud primaries and were upgraded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to positions of deputy ministers. As previously mentioned here, Netanyahu gave them cushy jobs to buy himself peace and quiet on the diplomatic front from this strong group that during his previous term caused him many headaches from within the Likud.

 

For now, Netanyahu’s political conduct appears to be sound. President Barack Obama's visit came and went quietly, as did the visits of Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

 

As a Knesset member for the Likud you fought against previous Defense Minister Ehud Barak throughout his term. You claimed he was harming the settlement enterprise for ideological reasons. Now that you’re at the defense ministry, have you found proof of this?

 

“Certainly. Barak delayed construction. The main problem is that all those involved in the settlement enterprise have gotten used to operating according to the winds blowing from the top. The new challenge is to convey the message that there are new winds blowing at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, both from the direction of Defense Minister Ya’alon and from mine. I regard the settlers as a boon, not a burden. We need to do as much as possible to strengthen the settlements — all by the book, of course.”

What exactly did he delay?

 

“At every settlement I visit people come up to me and tell of plans that were approved but were held up by Barak. This was the case with the Ariel College, as it was called at the time. Barak was forced to give his approval to the college becoming a university only under heavy pressure. And there are other such cases. I was amazed to discover that, as of the end of the week, there are only four remaining burial plots at the cemetery in Ariel. It’s a big place and some of the population is not young, and it’s really a distressing problem. Expansion of the cemetery was approved a long time ago, but Barak refused to sign the building plans. You have to understand — we’re not talking about illegal construction, but about providing basic civic services in the main settlement blocs. There’s also a neighborhood in the settlement of Elkana that has been approved but delayed by Barak, and many additional plans.

 

Construction in the West Bank could create tensions with the US just as the relationship has started to improve.

 

“I don’t think so. We’re talking about places that are not considered diplomatically sensitive. We respect the democracy in the United States and they have to respect our democracy and our commitment to our citizens. The Likud, as well as the HaBayit HaYehudi party, and even Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who launched his election campaign in Ariel, support the continued existence of the settlement blocks. The new government is a more national one, and the reason is that Barak is not a member of it.”

 

How will you react if it turns out that Netanyahu is leading a diplomatic move?

 

“I don’t see it happening right now. If it’s going on, it’s probably happening underground. Right now everyone is busy with Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. My assessment is that as far as the ruling coalition is concerned, there will be differences between words and deeds vis-à-vis a diplomatic move. In other words, as long as Netanyahu conducts negotiations, he won’t have a domestic problem, but if he decides on another settlement freeze, that’s already a different story. That will be a problem for HaBayit HaYehudi, as well. But for now we haven’t seen additional American pressure or any activity on the part of the prime minister.”

 

On another front, in recent days Danon has been leading a move within the Likud-Beiteinu Knesset faction to legislate compulsory national service for the Israeli-Arab citizens. The law would complement a proposed bill to draft the country’s ultra-Orthodox Jews, scheduled to come up for Knesset approval at the beginning of May. Danon, who will present his demand at the weekly Likud-Beiteinu meeting on Monday (April 29), is trying to enlist the support of additional Knesset members for the move, which is likely to stir a heated political and public debate. This is a loaded, explosive issue. Danon claims that the Likud, as a national democratic movement, cannot condone such an asymmetrical situation.

 

The demand to draft Israeli-Arabs into the army, along with drafting the ultra-Orthodox, was raised in the past by former Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. That’s the reason his representatives torpedoed the deliberations of the Plesner Committee, established in May 2012 to formulate recommendations on the draft issue.

 

The Plesner Committee determined that one could not deal with the draft of the ultra-Orthodox with the same level of seriousness as that of the Arabs, that each requires totally different preparations.

 

“It’s possible, and how. I think it’s wrong to focus only on the ultra-Orthodox. We have a government that is changing the order of things, heading for big moves. It is not earth-shattering if we deal with this issue, too.” And Danon adds: “I don’t like the language and the style being used toward the ultra-Orthodox, while ignoring the fact that some 20% of Israel’s population, that do not contribute, are Arabs. This serves an agenda. I’m not saying the Arabs should be forced to join the Golani Brigade or the border police, but they should definitely do national service in hospitals, senior homes and public institutions.”

 

Whose agenda does this serve?

 

“Certainly not the Likud’s. We’re coming at this issue with an approach of real equality and not hatred of the religious. The minute you sever the link between the two things and threaten the ultra-Orthodox with imprisonment if they don’t enlist, and at the same time ‘display sensitivity’ toward the Arabs – that’s a problem. I’d like for the left-wingers who have become active in Yesh Atid party to display the same kind of ambition they display toward drafting the ultra-Orthodox also toward drafting the Arabs.”

 

Mazal Mualem started her journalistic career during her military service, where she was assigned to the Bamachane army weekly newspaper.

 

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PALESTINIAN JOURNALISTS DECLARE
WAR ON ISRAELI COLLEAGUES

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, April 26, 2013

 

Palestinian journalists have declared an intifada against their Israeli colleagues. In recent weeks, Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs have been facing increased threats from Palestinian reporters. On a number of occasions, the threats included acts of violence against the Israeli journalists, particularly in Ramallah.

 

Human rights organizations and groups claiming to defend freedom of media have failed to condemn the campaign of intimidation waged by Palestinian journalists against their Israeli fellow-journaists. It is one thing when governments and dictators go after journalists, but a completely different thing when journalists start targeting their counterparts.

 

An Israeli journalist had his microphone damaged during an assault, while another was thrown out of a press conference. Behind the two incidents were Palestinian journalists, angered by the presence of Israelis in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities. The threats and harassment came as more than 200 Palestinian journalists signed a petition, for the first time ever, calling on the Palestinian Authority to ban Israeli correspondents from operating in its territories "without permission."

 

The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has complied, issuing instructions requiring Israeli journalists to obtain permission from its Ministry of Information before entering Palestinian cities. Palestinian Authority officials and journalists later explained that the ban does not apply to some journalists working for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz and who report on "Palestinian suffering."

 

The Palestinian journalists campaigning against their Israeli colleagues have justified their action by saying that Israeli authorities do not allow them to work freely inside Israel. They also accuse the Israeli authorities of refusing to issue them with [Israeli] government press cards.

 

If anything, these claims represent a hypocritical approach. In recent years, Palestinian journalists have strongly opposed to "normalization" with Israelis, including meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who violated the ban and met with Israeli counterparts were denounced as traitors and expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

 

So while Palestinian journalists are opposed to "normalization" with Israel, they are at the same time demanding that Israeli authorities grant them permission to work inside Israel. Even more, the Palestinian journalists are demanding that Israel provide them with press cards issued by none other than the Israeli government.

 

Won't the Palestinian journalists be violating their own rules and ideology once they accept press cards issued by the Israeli government? And if they enter Israel and meet with Israelis, won't they also be acting against their own boycott campaign? What is disturbing is that foreign journalists based in Israel have not come out against the campaign of intimidation against their Israeli colleagues. Could it be because these foreign journalists have also been facing threats and want to stay on good terms with Palestinian reporters, and will also agree to report only on "Palestinian suffering"?

 

Gone are the days when Israeli and Palestinian journalists used to work together and exchange information on a daily basis, in the days before the peace process started. Today, there is a new generation of Palestinian journalists who have evidently been radicalized to a point where any meeting with an Israeli is being viewed as a "crime." This is the result of anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, especially over the past two decades.

 

Aware of the growing radicalism of Palestinian journalists, the Palestinian Authority, together with the American security detail, banned a large number of Palestinian journalists from covering the visit of US President Barack Obama to Ramallah last month. The biggest fear was that a Palestinian journalist would either throw a shoe at Obama or engage in a rhetorical attack against him and US policies.

 

If Palestinian journalists have been so radicalized that some are even willing to resort to threats and violence against colleagues, what must one say about the rest of the Palestinians who, for the past two decades, have also been exposed to messages of hate by their leaders? How can anyone talk about resuming the peace process when Palestinians are being told by their leaders, on a daily basis, how bad and evil Israel is? If Israel is so bad and evil, then how can any leader go to his people and say that he is negotiating with them?

 

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BOSTON TERROR SUSPECT TAKEN TO ‘ISRAEL’
Paula R. Stern

A Soldier’s Mother Blog, April 23, 2013

Well, not Israel, exactly – but to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where an Israeli doctor and the director of the hospital, Dr. Ilan Tabb and his staff are responsible for doing all they can to save the life of a man accused of murdering four and injuring close to 200.
 

Unfortunately, I have had a lot of experience with these types of injuries after years of treating people injured in terror attacks in Israel. We have a few Israeli doctors in the emergency room, and the director of the ER is also Israeli. But most of the physicians at the hospital are not Israeli, and they functioned exceptionally well. It was very similar to what I was used to in Israel in that we had to admit many injured people in a short period of time," Professor Tabb said. "The fact that we are treating both the victims and the suspected terrorist also reminds me of similar situations in Israel. In Israel we had an injured soldier and a terrorist lying on adjacent beds. When an injured person is admitted to the ER, the doctor or nurse treats him without asking questions.
 

 Having met many Israeli doctors, I can tell you that I understand their training. I know that they are asked and expected to treat everyone evenly. I know that many doctors have been challenged with saving the life of someone who has maliciously taken the lives of others. More times than you can imagine, the terrorist is evacuated with the wounded – and in some cases, given priority in treatment because the doctors treat based on severity of wounds, not on nationality. All efforts will be made to disarm the terrorist – any and all force is acceptable…until the terrorist is disarmed, and then, in the eyes of the doctor, even the most horrible of human beings becomes a responsibility, an obligation.

There have been several really dumb comparisons made – especially one by John Kerry related to the Boston bombers. When I was reading about the Israeli doctors treating the terrorist, I remembered a passage I had once read about the Eichmann trial.  I wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would say about his doctors being Israelis. I doubt he could possibly understand the humanity behind the actions of the Israeli doctors. Tsarnaev won't understand – as Eichmann did not. I found the passage I remembered…it was spoken during a discussion between then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the Director of the Mossad Isser Harel. The conversation was recorded and classified, and only recently released.

In the discussion, people are asking Harel about the time right after Eichmann was captured. Eichmann came from a culture that believed in death, as apparently Tsarnaev did. Neither would expect decency from their enemies, from those they had perceived as weak. I find it fitting that Eichmann was fairly tried in Israel, convicted, and punished according to the law. If ind it fitting and just that Tsarnaev will live his life, knowing that it was Jews that saved his life.

Harel told Ben Gurion and others…

 

He doesn’t understand our behavior, he thought that we would beat him and treat him cruelly. We are treating him in keeping with the laws of the State of Israel, from the day the arrest order for him was issued and given to the Justice Ministry he is being treated according to the law.

 

When the anger burns within you, it is easier to lose sight of the law, of what is just and what is right. There is justice in Eichmann not being executed in Argentina; of his being brought back to Israel to see what we have built here and to know that it is by our law, by our justice that he was sentenced to death. For the record, Israel has only executed one person in all of its 65 years of independence. One man.

There will be justice for  Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because, like Israel, America will rise above the anger to do what is right, what is just. It is in the anger we overcome that we prove our humanity. There are those who will wish Tsarnaev had died rather than been captured but death is glory to the Islam that Tsarnaev says he and his brother were defending. The glory comes from becoming a martyr and as he survived, that martyrdom will be denied to this brother at least.  He will rot in jail – no glory, no honor. That is justice, the ultimate and true punishment. 

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Haredim See Lapid as a Force Majeur: Avishai Ben Haim, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013—Finance Minister Yair Lapid's "we've finished taking orders from the haredim" speech in the Knesset will go down in the annals of Israel's relationship with its haredi population. Something like this had never happened before, and it is simply impossible to downplay its importance.

 

Netanyahu, Liberman Spar Over Peace-Deal Referendum: Aaron Kalman, Times of Israel, Apr. 29, 2013—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended the idea of a national referendum on any peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, fending off challenges from within his faction.

 

Israel: The Olmert-Lapid Reckoning: Mazal Mualem, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, Apr. 26, 2013—The announcement by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he plans to run for office in the next elections should be taken seriously. This is an opening strategic move designed to position himself, as early as the next few months, as an alternative leadership candidate before the Israeli public and the world.

 

For Israel, Tranquil Days: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, April 28, 2013—It's a measure of the relatively quiet time for Israel these days that the sharpest argument at a big national security conference here was between an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who wanted "autonomy" for his fellow believers and secular Israelis in the audience who shouted out denunciations of what one called his "apartheid" plan.

 

Jew Hatred at UN Schools: Dan Calic, Ynet News, Apr. 26, 2013—Created in 1949 specifically to deal with the "Palestinian refugees," UNRWA spends roughly $500 million each year on schools. It utilizes text books produced by the Palestinian Authority. The UN itself does not finance UNRWA. Primary financial support comes from US and European taxpayers. 

 

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ISRAEL POLITICS: AS MAR.16 DEADLINE NEARS, NETANYAHU JUGGLES CENTER-LEFT/RIGHT COALITIONS; HAREDIM : IN OR OUT?

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Coalition Talks Enter Overtime: Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Allon & Yehuda Shlezinger, Israel Hayom, Feb. 28, 2013The deadline for forming a government expires this week, but Netanyahu may get an additional 22 days • Prime Minister's Office denies report of a planned two-phased government that would have the ultra-Orthodox join only after votes on military draft and state budget.

 

Israeli Politics: On the Edge of the Precipice: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Wed. Feb 27, 2013There is madness in the air. Israel faces extraordinary challenges whilst virtually all our leaders uninhibitedly continue their intrigues and machinations in pursuit of power. They regard their responsibility to the national interest as a distant mirage uttering occasional hypocritical rhetoric. 

 

Bennett-Lapid: Genius Tactic or Gross Irresponsibility?: Gil Ronen, Arutz 7, February 25, 2013The big story currently driving the political system in Israel to distraction is the completely unexpected and unprecedented post-election pact between Bayit Yehudi, under MK Naftali Bennett, and Yesh Atid, under MK Yair Lapid.

 

On Topic Links

 

Hagel Proves Politicians Have No Shame: Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2013

Hagel’s $160 Billion 'West Bank' US Troops Deathtrap: Mark Langfan, Arutz Sheva, February 23, 2013

Sleepy Chuck Hagel Has Some Bigger Questions to Answer: Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg, Jan 31, 2013

Kerry, Hagel & ’Nam: The Dog That Didn’t Bark: Seth Lipsky, New York Post, Feb. 22, 2013

 

 

COALITION TALKS ENTER OVERTIME

Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Allon & Yehuda Shlezinger

Israel Hayom, Feb. 28, 2013

 

After almost four weeks of official coalition talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to arrive at President Shimon Peres' residence on Saturday to receive a 14-day extension to form a government. While the president has legal authority to issue a two-week extension, in practice, due to the Knesset's procedural rules, this would give Netanyahu an additional 22 days to present his coalition to the Knesset. If granted the extension, he would have to conclude talks by March 16 and then inform Acting Knesset Speaker MK Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer that his government is ready to be sworn in. Ben-Eliezer would then set in motion a process that would culminate with the Knesset plenum convening several days later to vote on the new government.

 

Article 13b of the Basic Law: Government stipulates that this session must take place within seven days of the Knesset speaker being informed on the new government. Thus, Netanyahu would have until March 24. With Passover Eve falling on March 25, the Knesset may decide to postpone the vote by another week.

 

Meanwhile, talks between Likud-Yisrael Beytenu and the other parties have entered crunch time. The talks are primarily focused on whether Yesh Atid and the haredi parties can coexist in the coalition. Another lingering question is whether the alliance between Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi can withstand the various and intensive efforts to break it.

 

People in Netanyahu's inner circle say he is currently trying to forge a coalition that would include the haredim, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi. Talks with Habayit Hayehudi have intensified over the past several days, with a special emphasis placed on a new national service mechanism and the state budget. The Likud-Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi held two additional meetings on Wednesday.

 

Yesh Atid and Likud-Beytenu negotiators were expected to meet Thursday. Likud-Beytenu officials reported significant progress on Wednesday after holding talks with Habayit Hayehudi, saying the two sides had bridged some of the gaps on a military draft bill that would be acceptable to both Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi. Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid have reportedly agreed on a joint stance on the matter.

 

Habayit Hayehudi officials say that the alliance with Yesh Atid will remain intact and that the former will enter the government only if the latter enters as well. However, they stressed that the alliance will expire once the parties join the government and that after the parties' ministers are sworn in, the factions would go their separate ways and neither would be bound by the other.

 

Likud-Beytenu officials say that it would not be possible to convince Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to sit with the haredim as he would like to see them left out of the government for political reasons, even if there is agreement on the new military draft bill.

 

The ruling party has mulled the possibility of signing a coalition agreement with the haredim if no progress is made in the coming days. Officials in the party believe that if this happens, Habayit Hayehudi would pressure Yesh Atid to join the government. Alternatively, Habayit Hayehudi might become convinced it should discard the alliance with Lapid and enter the government without Yesh Atid.

 

On Wednesday [Feb. 27], Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu associates had informed haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism that they might have to stay out of the government until a new national service bill and the 2013 state budget is passed. Sources at the Prime Minister's Office and the Likud negotiating team denied the report. Haredi lawmakers rejected such a two-phased approach outright on Wednesday. One top Shas official said the party would "serve as a true opposition and would not enter the government in a future date or in any later phase."

 

"A haredi-free government would not survive and we would have no interest in entering such a government, we would simply wait for it to topple," he said. Some politicians believe, however, that the haredim may indeed be left out of the coalition for several months. They say that the haredim would be promised several portfolios which would remain vacant until they officially joined the coalition, after the budget was passed and the new draft mechanism was enacted.

 

Interior Minister Eli Yishai from Shas attacked Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi on Thursday [Feb. 28] and stressed that his party could serve Israel well from the opposition benches. "I don't know what the future has in store. The various reports suggest that Lapid and Bennett's efforts to have Shas out of the government are bearing fruit for now," he wrote on his Facebook page….

 

"Saying you are going to be part of the opposition, if that becomes necessary, should not be considered foul language. Those who have come to serve the public and consider it their over-arching concern should do so regardless of their location. It is unfortunate that some have been rallying against the world of the Torah and its representatives in politics. It is unfortunate that some politicians are not ripe and fail to realize that change must be effected with respect, understanding and handshaking, not through alienation, radicalization and the ruling out of others. It is unfortunate that they have failed to realize that their actions may transform a society that has divisions into a society that is divided."

 

Yishai further stressed that being in the opposition was as plausible as entering the government. "Shas will strive to be part of the next government, and to continue where it has left off when it comes to housing, internal affairs, the defense of the state's Jewish character, the return of the infiltrators back to their home countries and so forth," he said.

 

"But it will not engage in a sell-out of its values, its convictions and its principles for sake of sitting in the same government as those whose only common denominator is their shared desire to hurt the world of the Torah, which has protected us and served as our identity over the years. Shas may take part in the government, but it will not hesitate, if the need arises, to serve as a worthy and determined alternative, until the government serves out its term."

 

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ISRAELI POLITICS: ON THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Wed. Feb 27, 2013

                                     

There is madness in the air. Israel faces extraordinary challenges whilst virtually all our leaders uninhibitedly continue their intrigues and machinations in pursuit of power. They regard their responsibility to the national interest as a distant mirage uttering occasional hypocritical rhetoric. Our friends and allies rub their eyes in disbelief and the barbarians at our gates rejoice as they observe such irresponsible posturing. Enough is enough. We must convey the message that if our politicians fail to behave responsibly and get their act together, we will send them home at the next elections.

 

I appeal to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Let the nation know that you are willing to accommodate and reach an agreement on the central issue which purportedly represents a barrier to the formation of a government. Make it clear that you accept, with possible minor modifications, the demand from Yesh Atid that gradually, over a five-year period, haredim will be obliged to serve in the IDF or a form of National Service; that reforms will be implemented to enable ultra-Orthodox Jews to earn a livelihood rather than rely on state welfare; that any haredi school receiving state subsidies will be obliged to teach a core curriculum; that state religious instrumentalities will be staffed by religious Zionist rabbis; and that the government will endorse Rabbi David Stav, the head of the Tzohar rabbinical movement, as their candidate to assume the role of Chief Rabbi.

 

Such intervention in religious and state issues is highly overdue and would clearly reflect the will of the people. This is an historic opportunity to bring about these reforms. Any attempt to maintain the old regime by merely introducing cosmetic changes will enrage the nation. Besides, in view of the dramatic demographic growth of the haredi sector, failure to act now could undermine the social fabric of Israeli society and, in a few short years, result in an economic crisis as a consequence of an ever-growing number of able bodied Israelis becoming dependent on state welfare. Once agreement is achieved around these parameters there should be absolutely no excuse for not forming the widest possible national government.

 

In terms of the peace process, other than Bayit Yehudi which seeks to annex Judea and Samaria, the divergence between Netanyahu and other parties over external policies are minimal. Yesh Atid calls for greater efforts to negotiate with the Palestinians but is clearly not promoting additional unilateral concessions and supports an undivided Jerusalem and the retention of Ariel. Even if Tzipi Livni retains her absurd fig leaf role of “heading the peace process”, her activities are unlikely to eventuate because Mahmoud Abbas and the PA are neither willing to compromise nor in a position to exercise any reciprocity. Indeed, their preconditions would probably preclude Livni from engaging in any discussions with them.

 

Ministerial portfolios at such a critical time should not be regarded as sacred cows and should be allocated to the most appropriate candidate rather than extorted on a purely party political level. Aside from the position of Prime Minister, even allowing for political representation and senior ministerial roles being affected by numbers, positions such as Foreign Minister should be filled by the person best equipped to promote the case for Israel. In all probability, had Netanyahu not so stubbornly protected the vested interests of the haredim, a new government would already have been formed.

 

But this is water under the bridge. If Netanyahu now accedes to the reforms relating to religion and state, both Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi – who publicly proclaim that, like the majority of the nation, they also support him as Prime Minister – should speedily overcome any remaining minor obstacles and join the government. Yet, regrettably there are signs that both of these parties, somewhat giddy about their electoral triumphs, are making additional unreasonable demands.

 

I personally have little sympathy for Shas and believe that throughout their existence they have concentrated on exploiting successive governments and extorting exclusive privileges for their own sector rather than being concerned with the national interest. Furthermore, they contributed to the degradation and corruption of state religious instrumentalities and played a major role in creating the tensions and prejudice against religion. They have also behaved abominably towards the religious Zionist sector of the community.

 

Nevertheless Shas is a democratically elected party and if it (unlike United Torah Judaism) accommodates the will of the people in terms of religious reforms, it would be discriminatory if they were excluded from participating in a broad national government.

 

There are unconfirmed rumors that Yair Lapid (backed by Naftali Bennett) is now refusing under any circumstances to join a government in which Shas is also a component. If this is true, it is scandalous. Both Lapid and Bennett are political newcomers and they should not lose sight of the fact that voters supported them despite the absence of any track record. The bulk of their support was generated because Israelis were fed up with the machinations of the establishment political parties.

 

If Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi are now calling for a boycott or exclusion of any political party willing to accept the will of the people, they are contradicting all the rhetoric of unity which they were promoting during the course of the elections. Lapid and Bennett should display a little humility, at least initially, until they learn the ropes. If, after Likud meets their demands to reform the religion and state issues, they make additional unreasonable demands, obliging the nation to face another costly election, they would be opposing the will of the nation and betraying their voters who supported them to overcome petty politics and unite the nation.

 

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BENNETT-LAPID: GENIUS TACTIC OR GROSS IRRESPONSIBILITY?

Gil Ronen

Israel National News, Feb. 25, 2013

 

The big story currently driving the political system in Israel to distraction is the completely unexpected and unprecedented post-election pact between Bayit Yehudi, under MK Naftali Bennett, and Yesh Atid, under MK Yair Lapid. The heads of the two parties have agreed between them that neither will enter the coalition without the other. The chances that Labor (15 seats), which is extremely leftist on economic matters and suspiciously coy about diplomatic and security matters, will join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, are extremely slim.

 

Given the election results, therefore, Netanyahu (with 31 seats) cannot establish a coalition if both Yesh Atid (19 seats) and Bayit Yehudi (12 seats) refuse to join it. The pact between the two parties is one of three things, or a combination thereof. It could be a brilliant, cynical tactical move by Bennett to force Netanyahu to give him powerful portfolios in his new government. It could be a revolutionary ideological-political pact signalling a seismic change in Israeli society and government, which will drive non-Zionist forces to the sidelines. It could also be an act of irresponsible and amateurish brinkmanship that might bring down Likud and the entire nationalist camp from its leadership position. It cannot be all three.

 

Bayit Yehudi is the current incarnation of the National Religious Party, or Mafdal, which has been a part of Israeli politics in one form or another since the state's establishment, and which in turn represented the movement known in the early decades of modern Zionism as the Mizrachi movement.

 

Yesh Atid is a new party. It belongs to the centrist variety of parties, which Israel has seen in numerous elections over the years. Centrist parties in Israel usually stand for very little other then the fact that they are neither too leftist nor too nationalistic, and they tend to disappear from the scene after a few years in the Knesset.

 

A favorite centrist issue, however, is the objection to what is perceived by many Zionist Israelis as an unfair hareidi privilege: the exemption of men from compulsory military service. The main plank in Yesh Atid's platform is a plan to force most hareidi men to enlist into the military or national service, and to limit the exemptions for Torah students to 400 annually. The fact that the hareidi world is largely perceived as un-Zionist and even anti-Zionist feeds a general anti-hareidi sentiment which bolsters support for the anti-exemption initiative. This sentiment is particularly strong in secular and leftist circles. The further left one goes, the more likely one is to see hareidim demonized, alongside right wing "settlers."

 

Over the years, Israel's religious parties, including the hareidi ones, have come to be seen as part of the "right wing bloc." They are perceived, rightly or not, as "natural allies" of Likud. Although hareidi parties, and Mafdal as well, have been accused of betraying nationalist causes on different occasions, it is undeniable that by definition, the religious parties tend to be less leftist and more traditionalist than non-religious parties. By siding forcefully with Lapid on hareidi enlistment, Bennett is thus adopting an issue that is generally perceived as one that unites the Israeli center and left wing, while splitting the religious-nationalist camp….

 

Another factor working in his favour is that besides angering secular Israelis, hareidi leaders have succeeded in alienating many religious Zionist leaders as well. Pre-election statements slamming Bayit Yehudi as "the home of gentiles" and accusing it of "uprooting the Torah" deeply insulted the religious Zionist sector, and the apologies delivered thus far have been partial in nature. Religious Zionists are also upset over what they see as their deliberate distancing, over the years, from seats of influence in the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbinical Courts, Religions Ministry and other official positions, by the hareidi parties.

 

Likud warns that the Bennett-Lapid pact is forcing it into taking in Lapid as a primary partner, which will be able to topple the coalition at any point it desires. Lapid has declared that he sees himself replacing Netanyahu as prime minister, and recent polls suggest that this is a realistic possibility. Lapid's list of MKs includes some radical left wingers, and should new elections be held and Lapid elected as prime minister, it is highly likely that he would embrace leftist parties like Meretz and Labor as his partners. Reckless and disastrous acts of surrender like the 2005 Disengagement would probably follow.

However, Bennett thinks Netanyahu is being disingenuous when he accuses him of helping the Left. He says that it is Netanyahu who wants to establish a leftist government with Yesh Atid, Tzipi Livni, and the hareidim, who usually do not object too strenuously to leftist policies as long as they receive the portfolios they desire….

 

Bennett appears to believe that by giving Lapid what he wants, regarding hareidi enlistment, he is actually helping to forge a Zionist coalition that redraws Israeli politics. Hareidi parties would be sidelined, at least for a while, and the government would be established on solid Zionist foundations. Hareidi men would have to start pulling their weight in modern Israel, which depends on its young men – and to a lesser degree, on its young women – to defend it on the field of battle in the daily struggle for existence. Israeli Jewishness itself would be redefined, as the chasm between some parts of the Torah world and the rest of Israeli society would begin to be bridged….

 

Land surrenders are not on the table anyway, as Bennett sees it, and Lapid, while a prime representative of the smooth-talking and pampered chattering class, is not an ideological leftist. It is true that he wrote an infamous column in which he said that the Disengagement was meant primarily to teach the settlers a lesson, and that another column disgustingly attacked a religious soldier who refused to shake hands with the IDF Chief of Staff because of the Disengagement. But Lapid has also made some nationalist-pleasing declarations about the pointlessness of negotiating with the Palestinian Authority. He has refused to form a bloc with "the Zoabis," and he chose to deliver his maiden political speech at Ariel in Samaria….

 

Bennett and Lapid have found a common denominator in the masculine ethos, as well: Lapid is an amateur boxer and a has been a writer for Blazer, a glossy men's magazine. In Tel Aviv's "metrosexual" culture, he is a figure that still stands for the more old-fashioned kind of masculinity, even if his military service as a reporter for the IDF's Bamachaneh magazine was less than heroic. Bennett is an officer in the IDF's most vaunted elite commando unit. The two neophyte parliamentarians appear to have formed excellent chemistry and trust in a very short time…..

 

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Netanyahu Said Ready to Cut Deal With Yesh Atid, Jewish Home: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Feb. 27, 2013 Realizing that he cannot break an alliance between Yesh Atid and Jewish Home, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ready to build a coalition with these two parties and exclude the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism, sources close to the coalition negotiations said on Wednesday night.
 

Tzipi Livni's Misguided Sense of Accomplishments: Eli Hertz, Israel National News, Feb. 24, 2013Tzipi Livni was recently offered the position of Minister of Justice in Netanyahu's government. At first, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni advocated honesty and accountability, but when it came to the Second Lebanese War in 2006, those principles seemed to have left the room.

 

The Party Faithful: David Remnick, The New Yorker, Jan 21, 2013—Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, who are running for the Knesset in the Jewish Home Party. Bennett says, “There will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians.”
 

Lieberman: 'Good Chance' Hareidi Parties Will Join Gov’t: David Lev, Arutz 7, Feb. 28, 2013Avigdor Lieberman, the number two MK in the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu, said hareidi parties might still be included in the coalition. Avigdor Lieberman, the number two MK in the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu, said Thursday that contrary to reports, Binyamin Netanyahu had not given up on the idea of a government including hareidi parties. “There is a good chance the hareidi parties will be able to join,” Lieberman said of Shas and United Torah Jewry.
 

Two-State Solution is a Deadly Illusion: David Kirshenbaum, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 27, 2013Only the dangerously foolish would believe that the Arabs would long forgo a fundamental attribute of sovereignty and agree to remain demilitarized.

 

 

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DOMESTIC ISSUES—HAREDI DRAFT, HOUSING, COST OF LIVING—AT STAKE IN COMPLEX ISRAELI COALITION BUILDING; “PEACE PROCESS” LOW ON THE AGENDA


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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

End the Haredi Chokehold: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 5, 2013The haredi draft issue is proving to be the sticking point in the current coalition negotiations. Rightfully so, because focusing on this matter is the key to ending the chokehold that ultra-Orthodox parties have had on Israeli politics and matters of religion and state for the past 20 years.

Lapid: Don’t Threaten Us With Civil War: Moran Azulay, Ynet News, Feb. 11, 2013Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid made his first Knesset speech on Sunday and said he sees his allegiance to the state as a life's mission. "We must not ignore the issue of equal share of the burden," he warned. "There will be no civil war. Ten percent of the population cannot threaten the remaining 90% with a civil war."


Benjamin Netanyahu vs Yair Lapid, the Psychology of Israeli Decision-making: Asaf Romirowsky, Forbes, Feb. 8, 2013—It is the makeup of Israeli political leaders that needs to be understood, especially the psychology behind their decisionmaking. This process compounds the Zionist roots that led to the creation of the modern State of Israel in addition to identifying the streams of Zionism that impact Israel's leaders today.

Understanding Israel's Politics and 2013 Election: Barry Rubin, Ottawa Citizen, January 24, 2013It was clear before the balloting in Israel that the claims that the population was moving to the right, that radical extremists were about to take over (an argument curiously absent when the Muslim Brotherhood actually does gain power), and that democracy in Israel was imperilled, were flatly wrong. But the results amply demonstrated that fact.

 

On Topic Links
 

 

The Bitter Taste Of Victory: Andrew Friedman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 2013

How the Likud Can Win: Daniel Tauber, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2013
Lapid Eyeing Foreign Ministry Post Despite Liberman’s Dibs: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, Feb. 10, 2013

 

 

 

END THE HAREDI CHOKEHOLD
David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Feb. 5, 2013

The haredi draft issue is proving to be the sticking point in the current coalition negotiations. Rightfully so, because focusing on this matter is the key to ending the chokehold that ultra-Orthodox parties have had on Israeli politics and matters of religion and state for the past 20 years.

It’s not that I believe that a new enlistment law will truly change the situation and facilitate the mass conscription of haredi yeshiva boys and kollel men into the IDF. It won’t. Whatever new legislation is drafted will be a compromise measure that changes things only at the margins, and will, at best, accelerate pre-existing and hopeful trends already underway geared toward greater workforce participation and national service among haredim. In fact, the thing that could be far more influential than any enlistment law would be to change our national budget in a way that cuts stipends and discounts to the non-working haredi yeshiva society, in housing, taxes, health insurance, social benefits, education and so on — but that is another discussion.

The point is that by focusing on the draft issue — which makes it almost impossible for Shas and United Torah Judaism to join the coalition — Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi are attempting to strip the haredim of the inordinate political power they have held in Israeli politics for far too long. This explains the venom expressed in the press over the past two days by Shas toward Lapid and even more so toward Bennett. It also explains attempts by haredi rabbis to pressure Bennett into backing down by going over his head and appealing to a series of national-religious rabbis who straddle the haredi-religious Zionist divide, to the right of Bennett.

But these attempts to weaken Bennett and "save" the haredi community from facing reality mustn’t be allowed to work.  To begin with, the current appeal of haredi leaders to religious Zionist leaders to "save them" from the clutches of Yair Lapid is overwhelmingly hypocritical and worthy of complete rejection. These are the same haredi leaders, especially the ugly rabble-rousers of Shas, who just last month called the Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party the "house of goyim," and who have worked assiduously for two decades to weed out any remaining, moderate influence of religious Zionist rabbis and politicians in national affairs.

Now, Shas is cynically demanding that Bennett come to their aid. Remember that according to Shas, religious Zionist rabbis and politicians are the rabbis of "Kochavit Giyur" ("Dial-a-Conversion") reform-minded, weak-kneed, liberal destroyers of Torah tradition who are bastardizing conversion standards and letting thousands of Russian non-Jews into Israel's Jewish community.

Now, Shas has the chutzpah to demand that the National Religious community save it. More substantially, Bennett must not give in to the pressure to back off the haredi draft effort or his alliance with Lapid because rolling back haredi influence on matters of religion and state is critical to the health and unity of this country. It's time, once again, for the face of Torah and Jewish religion in public life to be one that is not ambivalent toward the Zionist enterprise, that does not scorn the rule of law and democratic institutions, that does not evince utter rejection of modernity, and that does not disparage and denigrate the secular public.

Let’s remember that since the political Left in Israel unfortunately handed the keys to Israel's Jewish character over to the ultra-Orthodox in the 1990s (to purchase haredi support for Oslo I and II, the disengagement from Gaza and more), ultra-Orthodox parties and their rabbis have conducted a slow but inexorable conquest of the rabbinate and religious courts, conversion courts, municipal religious councils, kashrut agencies, and more.

The deleterious results are clear: City rabbis who demand extreme gender separation requirements at municipal public events and in public spaces, burial societies that institute strictures in funeral proceedings (especially in regard to women), courts that apply stringencies in matters of marriage and divorce and especially conversion, and haredi politicians (some also claiming the title rabbi) sounding off with xenophobic, anti-Zionist, anti-modern and anti-nationalist statements on public matters several times per week.

In addition, Shas leaders have created a rapidly growing network of party-affiliated schools that entrenches and glorifies ethnic resentments, teaches absolute religious condescension toward all others and disdain for the modern world, and which prepares its graduates to do nothing in the working world. In short, a retrogressive Torah education, not a wholesome, productive and broad religious education.

I also refuse to forgive and forget haredi leaders and rabbis who have described religious Zionists as "fools who believe anything," leftist politicians as "Amalek," and Supreme Court justices as "niddah rapists" (breakers of the laws of ritual purity). Former Shas MK Rabbi Moshe Maya even called Supreme Court justice Dr. Elyakim Rubinstein, who is a religious Zionist, "an anti-God blasphemer who should be excommunicated."

And let's not forget all those week-kneed, too-liberal religious Zionist rabbis who are bastardizing conversion standards, dial-a-conversion-style. The same rabbis to whom Shas is now appealing to in efforts to save the haredim from Bennett. The insufferable overflow of self-righteousness, and the hostility toward broader Israeli society, evident in haredi political behavior needs to be curbed. The haredi political juggernaut needs to be rolled back. Instead, it is time for moderate religious Zionism to reassert its place in matters of religion and state and public policy. Bennett should not back down.
 

 

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UNDERSTANDING ISRAEL'S POLITICS AND 2013 ELECTION

Barry Rubin

Ottawa Citizen, January 24, 2013
 

Once in an Irish pub I spotted a pair of drawings on the wall. One, labeled “the Irishman,” depicted a sturdy peasant. The other, entitled, “the Irishman seen by others [or perhaps, by the British]” showed a drunken, loutish fool. Watching Western coverage of the Israeli election reminds me of those sketches.
 

It was clear before the balloting in Israel that the claims that the population was moving to the right, that radical extremists were about to take over (an argument curiously absent when the Muslim Brotherhood actually does gain power), and that democracy in Israel was imperilled, were flatly wrong. But the results amply demonstrated that fact.

 

To be generous, at best the external view of Israeli politics is two decades out of date. Elections are not between left and right ideological blocs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a hardliner or right-winger, and the “peace process”—which most Israelis believe no longer actually exists—is not the prime issue at all.

 

Roughly, as the 2013 election results confirm, the Israeli electorate does include three blocs which each gain about 10 percent of the vote: the Arab-controlled parties (Communists, Arab nationalists, and Islamist) which never cooperate; Jewish religious parties (“European-origin” and “Middle Eastern” origin, to put it simply) which represent two distinct constituencies; and far right, whose vote count remains roughly the same over many years. Another five percent comprise a left-wing Zionist party.

 

The remaining two-thirds of the electorate votes roughly in a spectrum that coincides with that of Canada, and it is their choices that provide the main governing parties. They constitute five parties ranging from the center-right Likud of Netanyahu, through three center-center parties, to the moderate left Labour party.

 

All of these voters are skeptical about Palestinian intentions. They support a two-state solution but doubt that either the Palestinian Authority which rules the West Bank and now says that Palestine is an independent state that doesn’t need to negotiate with Israel or, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and openly calls for genocide of the Jews, is likely to provide a stable, reliable peace.

 

Given this consensus, the lessons of Palestinian rejectionism in the 1990s’ peace process, and the lack of current opportunity, the election simply did not focus on these issues. It revolved mainly about domestic issues. In economic terms, Israel has done well in recent years, especially compared to Europe and the United States. Now, however, the budget has gotten too big in relations to income, while high prices—especially for housing–have stirred lots of complaints.   

 

The three center-center parties—Yesh Atid (There’s a Future) of Yair Lapid; Hatnua (The Movement) of former foreign minister Tsipi Livni; and Kadima (Forward) of former army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz—all appeal to those looking for moderation, attention to domestic issues, and promised good government. These three parties received about one-quarter of the seats.

 

Lapid did the best. A well-liked television personality who turned to politics, he followed in the footsteps of his father who did precisely the same thing. His success was due to being a fresh face and assembling an impressive team of people from the public sphere none of whom had ever been in parliament before.  

 

Netanyahu gained another one-quarter of the vote, slightly disappointing for him but enough to win. One reason for the slump is that many voted for Lapid with the intention that the two men form a coalition in which Lapid could press Netanyahu on economic reforms and more social spending, among other issues. 

Aside from those specific issues, the policies of the next government are likely to be pretty much the same as during Netanyahu’s previous term….

 

There was no turn to the right. Indeed, the two leftist Jewish parties received double the vote of the far right party, which united that portion of the spectrum and had a dynamic new leader but got the usual portion of the vote for that standpoint. Nor is there any enhanced hardline stance. Netanyahu accepted a two-state solution in 1996 and is dealing with a situation in which the Palestinian Authority refused to hold serious talks throughout his entire term, despite favorable concessions and encouragement offered to it by President Barack Obama….
 

Netanyahu, whose personal relations with the right-wing leader Naftali Bennett are quite strained, though it is possible he would join the government in a position of weakness. Netanyahu would prefer, however, to make a deal with Lapid and the small Kadima Party, which would bring him to 52 of the 61, bridging that gap with a religious party. Both Labour and Livni refuse to join a coalition with him. The process of assembling a coalition is going to be messy and full of rumours. The bottom line, though, is that Israel has just held a thoroughly democratic election with remarkably little rancor, extremism, or ideology in the midst of the world’s longest conflict and in the world’s most turbulent region. That is the kind of signal achievement the world should be accurately understanding and appreciating.

 

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LAPID: DON’T THREATEN US WITH CIVIL WAR

 

Moran Azulay

Ynet News, Feb. 11, 2013

 

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid made his first Knesset speech on Sunday and said he sees his allegiance to the state as a life's mission. "We must not ignore the issue of equal share of the burden," he warned. "There will be no civil war. Ten percent of the population cannot threaten the remaining 90% with a civil war." The Yesh Atid leader warned that Israel is in the midst of a crisis, adding "the sooner we recognize it, the sooner we can fix it." He said that the crisis is not just economic or social, "it's to do with the state's ability to exercise its sovereignty vis-à-vis the groups that make it up."

 

He further added, "We need to carefully guard that which unites us. Such a union cannot exist if one fails to recognize a basic tenet of democracy and that is the state's right to act according to the desire of the majority."

Lapid stated that the public expects its leaders "to rise above fears, to bring real solutions to problems that are tearing at Israeli society. "We have not come here to drive a wedge, but to unite. The rift is already here, we're being torn apart from each other in schools, in the army, in the work force. It's time to admit there's a gaping wound in the heart of Israel's society and now is the time for healing."

 

Lapid further stated that his vision is to restore state sovereignty. "Our job is to jointly imagine what Israel should look like. Would it be too far fetched to imagine a state where every haredi child can speak English and every secular child knows how to read a page of Talmud? "Would it be too far fetched to imagine a state that is a world leader; that remembers it's her job to help orphans and widows and foreigners? Would it be too far fetched to imagine a state not driven by xenophobia but by the love of man? I believe it would not. I believe in the State of Israel and our ability to create a model society we can take pride in."…

 

Earlier on Monday, Lapid commented on the coalition negotiations noting that "99.9% of what you read in the paper has no bearing on reality. "He said he is open to considering the Likud-Beiteinu's draft plan and noted that he "gets along" with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lapid estimated that the negotiations will take another two to three weeks or maybe even longer.
 

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BENJAMIN NETANYAHU VS YAIR LAPID,
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ISRAELI DECISION-MAKING
Asaf Romirowsky

Forbes, February 8, 2013
 

It is the makeup of Israeli political leaders that needs to be understood, especially the psychology behind their decision making. This process compounds the Zionist roots that led to the creation of the modern State of Israel in addition to identifying the streams of Zionism that impact Israel's leaders today. Such historical nuances, between men and ideas, and powerful men and their equally impressive fathers, are critical but poorly understood by outside observers. The relationships between Benjamin Netanyahu and Yair Lapid and their fathers are therefore key to appreciating the latest results of Israel's general elections and understanding Zionism today.

Both fathers, Benzion Netanyahu and Tommy Lapid – were larger than life figures who grew up in a world before there was a State of Israel, and who navigated through the turbulence of its creation and early years. Their sons are now trying to keep the Zionist dream alive and relevant, triangulating their fathers' respective legacies and the realities of the 21st century. The direction they choose will impact the Zionism of 2013.

Benzion Netanyahu who recently passed away at 102, was a renowned expert on the history of the Jews in Spain and a member of Vladimir Jabotinsky's revisionist party. Benjamin Netanyahu in turn, has been a loyal son and prime minister who has followed his father's doctrine, as illustrated by the countless public addresses that reflect his father's worldview. For example, in a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu correctly described the threat posed by Iran as a new Holocaust, comparing those who dislike the analogy to the "Jewish intellectuals" in Warsaw who "ridiculed Jabotinsky." In his address to the annual AIPAC meeting in Washington he equated today's leaders in Iran with the scoundrel of the Book of Esther, "a Persian anti-Semite [who] tried to annihilate the Jewish people." Such views and rhetoric reflect his father's understanding of history as well as his passion.

 

In contrast, Yair Lapid's father, the late Joseph, better known as 'Tommy,' was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who died in 2008. He foreshadowed his son's recent political sensation with the Yesh Atid party when he formed the liberal-secular Shinui party in 2003. Tommy achieved a comparable breakthrough when he won 15 seats in the 2003 elections before entering a coalition with prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Tommy Lapid was the correspondent for the Israeli newspaper, Maariv, in London in the 1960s and later the head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. Yair Lapid captured the essence of his father in his bestselling book, Memories After My Death: The Story Of Joseph "Tommy" Lapid. There he describes his father's professional exploits, including pushing through crowds at a Buckingham Palace diplomatic reception to shake hands with the Queen and attending Winston Churchill's funeral. Lapid was well-known for his confrontational style on television and radio, as well as for his secularist views.

Politically, Netanyahu and Lapid are at odds given the contrast in their Zionist makeup. This will likely impact the direction of Israel's foreign policy with regard to a potential peace process with the Palestinians. Some have argued that Netanyahu's 2009 Bar Ilan University speech, where he spoke of a "demilitarized" Palestinian state, signalled movement away from Benzion's ideology. It was Netanyahu who accepted a two-state solution and then enforced, upon American demands, a 10-month moratorium on settlement building, which was also an attempt to reach out to the center left.

But centrist parties like Shinui and Yesh Atid in Israel have had a longevity problem, something that was also seen with the Kadima experiment that faded after Ariel Sharon. For the moment, Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party, bring unique street credibility to the Knesset. Many Israelis see Lapid as the voice of the recent "Cottage Cheese Revolution" over economic inequality. Lapid's Zionist view, oriented towards fairer domestic economic and social arrangements, is different than that of Netanyahu's 'old school' security-centric approach. But both are required to lead the Israel of today.

While the threats to Israel have only mushroomed as a result of the rise of Islamist regimes, Iran, and the ongoing challenges with the Palestinians, Lapid's surge symbolizes an attempt to find a new balance or "normality" within the Israeli middle class. The challenge is that while the domestic social problems are real, external security threats still challenge Israel's very existence. The nature of these threats, and Israel's responses, are something that most Israelis of the Left, Right or Center all agree upon. It is here where both Netanyahu and Lapid should remember their fathers' messages.

 

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The Bitter Taste Of Victory: Andrew Friedman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 2013Anyone unfamiliar with Israel’s election campaign would have had a hard time believing that the Likud Party gathering at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds on January 22 was the victory celebration of the winning party.

How the Likud Can Win: Daniel Tauber, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2013Though Binyamin Netanyahu will continue as Israel’s prime minister, the recent election results constituted a serious blow to his party, the Likud. It’s not just that Likud did so much more poorly than expected, but that it is now practically a mid-size party, comprising only 20 Knesset seats. It shrunk by seven seats (a little over 25 percent), whereas just a few months ago, polls predicted it would grow.

Lapid Eyeing Foreign Ministry Post Despite Liberman’s Dibs: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, Feb. 10, 2013Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid will reportedly continue to push for the Foreign Ministry post, despite the ruling alliance’s insistence that the coveted ministerial portfolio will remain with Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party.

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

ISRAEL’S ELECTION: DEMOCRACY STRONG AS NETANYAHU WIN IN OFFING — IRAN REMAINS KEY, AS OBAMA, EUROPEAN PRESSURES LOOM

 

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 
 

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(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Making Conservative Choices: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2013—Israelis will elect a conservative government this week because they think it prudent to do so, not because they are “turning inwards” or backwards or developing antidemocratic tendencies. They want Binyamin Netanyahu, not Tzipi Livni (or Shimon Peres, or any other candidate of the Left), to lead the country, because caution – not hollow and unsubstantiated hope – is the prevailing watchword.

 

Weak Netanyahu Finish Suggests Unwieldy Coalition: Joshua Mitnick, Wall Street Journal, Jan 18, 2013—There is little question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party will emerge at the head of a ruling coalition when Israelis vote in nationwide elections on Tuesday. But polls also show his campaign is limping to the finish line amid falling support, which is likely to leave him weakened and heading a coalition more fragile than the current one.

 

Unseating Netanyahu a Tricky Game: Matthew Fisher, Postmedia News, Jan. 20, 2013—Having led every poll taken from the beginning to the end of a national election campaign that has lasted for months, Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to be re-elected as Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday. But in Israel, where any of the 34 parties that are contesting the election get more than two per cent of the vote gets seats in the Knesset, election day is the first part of what is a long, tortuous electoral dance.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

Israeli Electoral Politics – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gil Hoffman, Jeruslaem Post, Jan. 10, 2013

Zionism’s New Boss: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 14, 2013

A Far-Right Israeli Electorate?: Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 16, 2013

Netanyahu Coalition Forming Dilemmas: Joseph Puder, Front Page Magazine, Jan. 21, 2013

PA Hopes Syrian 'Red Herring' Discredits Netanyahu at Polls: Chana Ya'ar, Israel National News, Jan. 21, 2013

The Bennett Threat – and Why the Pols are Scared: Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

MAKING CONSERVATIVE CHOICES

David M. Weinberg

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2013

 

Israelis will elect a conservative government this week because they think it prudent to do so, not because they are “turning inwards” or backwards or developing anti-democratic tendencies. They want Binyamin Netanyahu, not Tzipi Livni (or Shimon Peres, or any other candidate of the Left), to lead the country, because caution – not hollow and unsubstantiated hope – is the prevailing watchword. It’s important to say these things, because in the global punditocracy there is an inaccurate narrative taking root, to wit Netanyahu’s reelection means that Israel being overrun by Right-wing and religious fanatics, and that it is choosing isolationism over opportunities for peace.

 

In fact, clever pundits like David Remnick of The New Yorker and Ari Shavit of Haaretz have tried to portray the current Israeli election campaign as a historic choice between two competing narratives: that of the isolationist-nationalist Israeli Right, and the liberal-democratic-peace-seeking Israeli Left. But these brainy journalists are all-too-slick and only superficially sophisticated. The dichotomous moment they have summoned-forth is false, and their reading of Israeli society and polity is terribly off-base. Very few Israelis see things the way Remnick and Shavit do.

 

Israelis don’t see themselves as standing at a historic juncture. They don’t believe that Middle East circumstances are ripe for peace. Given Oslo’s sorry 20-year record, they are indeed wary of Palestinian statehood. They know that withdrawal from the West Bank at present would be suicide, given the Islamic blitzkrieg across the Mideast, along with Abbas’ weakness and Hamas’ ascendency in the Palestinian arena. They still pine for peace, but given the situation in Sinai, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran (and Ramallah), sadly they expect conflict.

 

And so, the Israeli public overwhelmingly does not buy the well worn argument, advanced obstinately by the Left and the international community, that the peace process is stuck because of settlements or lack of Israeli diplomatic flexibility. They simply feel that caution militates against dramatic diplomatic moves at this time. They are waiting-out the Arab Spring and other storms, taking no irresponsible risks, and voting for steady hands at the helm of state.

 

That is why Tzipi Livni’s “I can bring the peace” messaging never took hold during the current campaign. It is important to reiterate that Israelis are not becoming callously defiant of the world and the Palestinians, nor wildly “annexationist.” They are not making a grand choice this week between good and evil, between peace and war, between liberalism and fascism. They are simply choosing responsible government. And what they assume will emerge from the election is a go-slow Netanyahu government with parties of both the Zionist Right and Left; another complicated coalition government, with built-in checks and balances.

 

One thing is for sure: Israelis don’t buy the doomsday scenarios drawn by Remnick and Shavit, or by some Diaspora Jewish leaders like Eric Yoffie of the Reform movement or Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel Fund, about Israel forfeiting its democracy, becoming a Spartacus state, or losing its global friends.

 

So why the apocalyptic analyses? Unfortunately, I sense that the Israeli and American-Jewish ideological Left has gone stir-crazy with Netanyahu hatred. They can’t accept the fact that the political Left’s 20-year-long crusade for Palestinian statehood has been proven bankrupt; they can’t stand the fact Netanyahu is going to be reelected; and they are setting a trap in which to bring him crashing down.

 

By positing that Israel is at an apocalyptic crossroads, and that Israel is pig-headedly making wrong and dangerous choices, the stage is set for “wiser” actors to intervene “to save Israel in spite of itself.” This is the upshot of Jeffrey Goldberg’s celebrated Bloomberg News column, in which he describes the lack of trust and frustration in the White House concerning Netanyahu. Netanyahu just “doesn’t understand what Israel’s best interests are,” Goldberg has Obama saying, and “his conduct will drive Israel into grave international isolation.”

 

With such isolation, even from the United States, Israel won’t survive, Goldberg (or Obama) opines. “Israel’s own behaviour poses a long-term threat to its existence.” Therefore, real friends have to step in to save Israel from itself, by imposing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which is the swift establishment of a full-fledged Palestinian state. For Israel’s own good, of course.

 

Like Peter Beinart before him, Goldberg says that Obama is not going to directly pressure Israel on this matter, and this seems correct. Instead, Obama has outsourced the Palestinian issue to the Europeans. Europe is going to take the lead in wedging Israel into a corner against its own self-perceived interests (but in reality “for its own good”) – with Obama “leading from behind.” This explains the overwhelming European vote at UN in November in favor of upgrading the status of “Palestine,” even though Washington was opposed (at least in public) to the move and voted against it.

 

Nevertheless, Obama didn’t seem too upset with the Europeans for voting against Israel and the US. Like I said, it’s called outsourcing the pressure on Israel to Europe. The next European move (with Obama “leading from behind”) will be an attempt to impose an internationalized framework for Israeli-Palestinian talks with terms of reference that basically settle everything in advance in favour of the Palestinians (1967 lines, etc.) The Palestinians will be forgiven for their unwillingness to enter direct and unconditional negotiations with Israel. Europe will dispense with insistence on that venerable principle of the peace process. After all, they no longer trust Israel to do what is in its own best interests (to withdraw), even if there were direct talks.

 

So best just get on with it and impose the outlines of a “settlement” in indirect consultations or an international forum. And besides, the main point of the process will not be real negotiations or true peace, but the dethroning of Netanyahu.

 

The author is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, 

 

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WEAK NETANYAHU FINISH SUGGESTS UNWIELDY COALITION

Joshua Mitnick

Wall Street Journal, Jan 18, 2013

 

There is little question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party will emerge at the head of a ruling coalition when Israelis vote in nationwide elections on Tuesday. But polls also show his campaign is limping to the finish line amid falling support, which is likely to leave him weakened and heading a coalition more fragile than the current one….

 

One coalition possibility is an alliance with centrist parties that could push for domestic economic reforms and also support diplomacy with the Palestinians. That would be a salve to Mr. Netanyahu, who is grappling with a looming fiscal austerity plan and increased international isolation, including strained ties with President Barack Obama.

 

But the most apparent option—easier to form, but more challenging to govern—would be a far-right coalition that opposes a Palestinian state. Such a coalition would likely be more fractious and unstable than the current multiparty coalition led by Mr. Netanyahu's center-right Likud Party and the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which with smaller religious and far-right parties currently controls 66 of the Knesset's 120 seats.

 

Following Tuesday's vote, should Mr. Netanyahu's bloc add the projected seats of four smaller right-wing and religious parties, it would maintain its 66-seat majority, according to a Smith Institute poll for the Israeli financial daily Globes. Some five center-left parties would control 44 seats, according to the poll, and Arab-Israeli parties would control 10 seats. Other polls have shown a religious-right bloc could hold from 63 to 69 seats.

 

Mr. Netanyahu's re-election bid has been bolstered by the lack of any formidable rival and a fragmented center-left opposition. His campaign ads tout him as a strong leader keeping the Jewish state stable amid regional turmoil. For the most part, the opposition has shied away from challenging his assertions that the Palestinians are to blame for the peace-process impasse, and that Arab Spring tumult demands that Israel approach new concessions with skepticism. "The major macro issues aren't being debated here to the point that it might have been, if you had two popular leaders from major parties," said Amir Mizroch, the editor of the English edition of Israel Hayom.

 

The closest challenger is Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yachimovitch, whose party would capture about half as many seats as Mr. Netanyahu's Likud, according to the polls. A former television and radio host, Ms. Yachimovich has struggled to persuade the Israeli electorate that she is qualified to be prime minister. She has vowed not to join a government led by Mr. Netanyahu. Her support has been eroded by two center-left parties. One is led by Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who has made restarting peace talks the center of her campaign. A second, headed by former news anchor Yair Lapid, has also skirted foreign policy. The three camps have sparred over whether to form a collective front to face Mr. Netanyahu.

 

Center-left parties are largely to blame for the absence of a foreign-policy debate, said Ari Shavit, a columnist at the liberal Ha’aretz paper. These parties, he said, have focused on domestic issues rather than formulating a fresh pitch on peace. "The old peace ideology collapsed, and it was never replaced," he said….

 

Polls show Mr. Netanyahu is losing support to politicians on the right. His merged party slate with Avigdor Lieberman—who stepped down from his post as foreign minister just last month after a fraud indictment—is running at about 15% below the parties' current 42 seats in the outgoing parliament, polls show. The beneficiaries have included the pro-settler Jewish Home party and its charismatic leader, Naftali Bennett, who opposes a Palestinian state and supports annexation of most of the West Bank.

 

Although a coalition of Likud-Beiteinu, Jewish Home, Shas and United Torah Judaism would be the easiest option for Mr. Netanyahu, "few in the political establishment are willing to bet on this outcome, mainly because with this composition, it will be impossible to pass a dramatic budget cut, to pass new laws on equally sharing the burden [created for subsidies and draft exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox] and to respond to the international pressure on holding negotiations with the Palestinians,'' wrote Zeev Kam, in the Maariv newspaper.

 

Such a coalition could also make it difficult for Mr. Netanyahu to find common ground among a large number of parties, especially among foreign-policy moderates queasy about joining a hard-line coalition. "Netanyahu called elections, but he might end up with a worse situation that he ended walking out of, with less power than he had in the last government," said Reuven Hazan, a political-science professor at Hebrew University.

 

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UNSEATING NETANYAHU A TRICKY GAME

Matthew Fisher,

Postmedia News, Jan. 20, 2013

 

Having led every poll taken from the beginning to the end of a national election campaign that has lasted for months, Benjamin Netanyahu appears poised to be re-elected as Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday. But in Israel, where any of the 34 parties that are contesting the election get more than two per cent of the vote gets seats in the Knesset, election day is the first part of what is a long, tortuous electoral dance. What follows will be days and perhaps weeks of horse trading as Netanyahu scrambles to find the numbers to form a stable right-wing or centre-right coalition government from among the eight or nine parties expected to win more than a few of the parliament’s 120 seats.

 

“Even if he is re-elected, what kind of a coalition will Netanyahu have? What kind of coalition can he build?” asked Eytan Gilboa, director of Bar-Ilan University. “I think he will have a rough time of it because his position will probably not be as strong as it was in the last election. At the end of the negotiations Netanyahu may find himself in a weak, problematic position.”

 

Polls taken last week indicated that the 63-year-old Netanyahu, his right-wing Likud Party and its strongly nationalist partners, Yisrael Beiteinu, led by [former] Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman and strongly backed by Israel’s one million Russians, have been losing support. Nevertheless, the partners were still expected to end up on top. A poll by the Ha’aretz daily gave them as many as 32 seats. Labour, whose leader Shelly Yacimovich has already declared her party will not be part of a Netanyahu-led coalition, was a distant second with about 17 seats….

 

What really matters on election night is how the right-wing religious bloc stacks up against the centre-left-Arab bloc. Polling has suggested that the right-left split may be closer than seemed likely a few months ago. If the pollsters are right, Netanyahu and his likely coalition members appear set to control 63 seats to about 57 seats for the opposition.

 

The biggest election-day drama may turn out to be the size of the bite taken out of Likud’s vote by the hard right, Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi). It is a new party led by Naftali Bennett, a charismatic 40-year-old newcomer to electoral politics who lived for several years as a young boy in Montreal where, according to Ha’aretz, he and his family became religiously observant. Some years after returning to Israel he became a special forces officer and war hero in Lebanon. After that he became a high-tech millionaire. Between 2006 and 2008 he served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff before the two men had a falling out that was never fully explained by either but has been the subject of considerable media speculation.

 

“I think Bennett is real. The question is how many seats is he going to get and how many votes will he take away from Netanyahu,” said Gilboa. “Bennett has adopted a clever election strategy. He says Netanyahu will be prime minister. I will support him and join his coalition. But he is also suggesting that he will constrain Netanyahu. “It has been effective so far. Likud has attacked Bennett lately because it has become concerned by him. It may harm Netanyahu, but that will not effect the right-wing bloc that much because the right-wing vote stays in the bloc.”

 

Bennett has outflanked Netanyahu, who also had a distinguished military record in the special forces, by being even stronger than his former boss on what many Israelis regard as the core issue of retaining West Bank settlements. Sensing the political danger posed by Bennett, who had said he wants to be “a third hand on the wheel” on the wheel of Netanyahu’s coalition government, the prime minister told the Jerusalem Post that “you know that you have to have two steady hands of one driver on the wheel, and if you have other people grab the wheel, pretty soon the car overturns.”

 

The future of the settlements, the lack of peace talks with Palestinians and the issue of whether Israel should attack Iran’s nuclear programme may have vexed U.S. President Barack Obama and the Jewish Diaspora in the United States. Opponents and some columnists in Israel have severely criticized Netanyahu for baldly appearing to back Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in last fall’s American elections. Furthermore, the Israeli media have made much of private remarks allegedly made by Obama to the effect that Netanyahu was “moving his country down a path towards near-total isolation,” by approving the further expansion of a major settlement near Jerusalem….

 

Sensing an opportunity at the other end of the political spectrum, Bennett has run front-page ads saying, “as Israel faces unparalleled international pressure, Prime Minister Netanyahu will need a large Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) by his side.” But none of this appears to have made much of a difference to many voters. Their leading concerns have been with the growing deficit, education, health, social justice, the cost of housing, high taxes and the economy generally.

 

Labour has, with some success, stayed clear of such issues as national security and foreign affairs, which usually figure prominently in Israeli elections. They have stressed economic issues. But this can be a tricky game. Whatever Netanyahu’s weaknesses because he is too strong or too soft on issues involving the Palestinians and the Iranians, he has presided over one of the world’s more successful economies at a time when many countries have dire economic problems.

 

As politicians elsewhere have learned again and again, it is difficult to unseat an incumbent when the economy is doing well.

 

 

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Israeli Electoral Politics – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gil Hoffman, Jeruslaem Post, Jan. 10, 2013—There was good news and bad news this week for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On the one hand, a failed effort by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to begin a process intended to unite the three parties on the Center-Left after the January 22 election helped Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu stop its tailspin in the polls and win back two seats it had lost to its satellite parties.

 

Zionism’s New Boss: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 14, 2013—Under rookie politician Naftali Bennett, religious Zionism is finally becoming Israel’s political mainstream. Naftali Bennett’s press conference late last month was to the Israeli election cycle what a high-speed car chase is to a middling Hollywood action movie. With the chronicle of Bibi Netanyahu’s re-election more or less foretold, Israelis were vying for a shot of adrenaline that would rescue what had otherwise become a bloodless procedural, and Bennett was on hand to deliver.

 

A Far-Right Israeli Electorate?: Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine, Jan. 16, 2013—Perhaps Bibi’s infamous bluster has had its purpose. While his belligerent rhetoric unnerves his many critics, including world leaders, it’s helped keep Israel out of armed conflict. He has presided over more economic success and less war than almost any other Israeli leader in history.

 

Netanyahu Coalition Forming Dilemmas: Joseph Puder, Front Page Magazine, Jan. 21, 2013—The question Israeli political pundits ask regarding the upcoming January 22, 2013 Knesset (parliamentary) elections is not what party will be asked by President Shimon Peres to form the next government,  nor are they asking who will be the next Prime Minister of Israel. The operative question is which parties will join Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu to form the next coalition government.  The answer to that will determine the direction and the likely policies of the next Netanyahu government.

 

PA Hopes Syrian 'Red Herring' Discredits Netanyahu at Polls: Chana Ya'ar, Israel National News, Jan. 21, 2013—On the eve of Israel’s national elections, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is doing his best to discredit Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, claiming the Netanyahu government approved entry of 150,000 Syrian refugees into Judea and Samaria.

 

The Bennett Threat – and Why The Pols Are Scared: Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 31, 2012—Naftali Bennett is a product of Israeli society; articulate and smart, a Sayeret Matkal veteran, he’s an insider that understands what’s going on. He is also a financial success. But that is not what makes him dangerous to the establishment. The threat he poses stems not so much from his ideology, but rather from the fact that that he actually has one, that he articulates what he believes and stands for.

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

COMING JAN. 22 ELECTION: AS ISRAEL, REFLECTING STATUS QUO, SHIFTS TO RIGHT,  OUTLINE OF EMERGENT “TWO-PARTY SYSTEM” DISCERNABLE

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

 

(Please Note: some articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click on the article  link for the complete text – Ed.)

 

 

Why Israel Has Shifted to the Right: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Dec. 20, 2012—If liberal American Jews weren’t already dismayed about the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a shoe-in to be re-elected in next month’s election, the latest political news out of Israel may give them conniption fits. The results of new polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud and its coalition partners are set to exceed the strong governing majority they had in the current Knesset.

 

Israelis: No More ‘Big Ideas to Alter Status Quo’: Evelyn Gordon, Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan. 3, 2013—Yet if you look at what Netanyahu hasn’t done, his popularity becomes instantly understandable. He didn’t sign a breakthrough “peace” agreement that created a terrorist quasi-state in the West Bank, from which Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen proceeded to slaughter over 1,300 Israelis in a little over a decade.

 

Israel’s New Two-Party System: A Force For Extremism: Donniel Hartman, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2013—A new feature has emerged in Israeli politics this election season: the evolution of our political culture into a de facto two-party system similar to the Republican and Democrat divide in the US, referred to here as the Right and the Center-Left.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

A Dose Of Nuance: Not Just France With Humous: Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2012

Say No To Hallucination Dealers: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013

Shamir: If  Convicted, My Leader [Liberman] Must Leave Politics: Ron Friedman, Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2013

Likud Rises as Leftists Vow No Coalition: Maayana Miskin, Israel National News, Jan. 4, 2013

A Labor-Habayit Hayehudi Alliance?: Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013

 

 

 

 

WHY ISRAEL HAS SHIFTED TO THE RIGHT

Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary, Dec. 20, 2012

 

If liberal American Jews weren’t already dismayed about the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a shoe-in to be re-elected in next month’s election, the latest political news out of Israel may give them conniption fits. The results of new polls show that Netanyahu’s Likud and its coalition partners are set to exceed the strong governing majority they had in the current Knesset. But the really interesting numbers are those that show that the main party to the right of the Likud—the Habeyit Hayehudi or Jewish Home Party–is on track to be the third largest in the next parliament with only Likud and Labor (set to finish a distant second) ahead of it.

 

This will give residents and supporters of the settlement movement an even louder voice in the next Knesset than their already healthy contingent in the current one. This will be interpreted by some on the left as a sign of Israel’s depravity or indifference to peace. But the reason for it is clear.

 

Whereas in Israel’s past it could be asserted that the Likud represented Israel’s right-wing constituency, it has, to the shock and dismay of many in the left-wing Israeli media, become the center. That is not because more Israelis are supporters of increasing settlement throughout the West Bank. They are not. Rather it is due to the fact that the Israeli center as well as even many on what we used to call the Israeli left, have given up on the Palestinians. They know that neither Fatah in the West Bank nor Hamas in Gaza will ever recognize Israel’s legitimacy no matter where its borders are drawn. So they have abandoned those parties that hold onto the illusion of peace in favor of those with a more realistic vision while those on the right are now embracing parties like Habeyit Hayehudi in order to hold Netanyahu’s feet to the fire and prevent him from making concessions that will neither entice the Palestinians to the negotiating table nor increase its popularity abroad.

 

Habeyit Hayehudi is the beneficiary in part of the merger of the Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu. Rather than polls showing Likud getting as many seats as the two parties got in the last election, it is registering a loss of several places as some nationalist voters abandon the new conglomerate for its more ideological rival to the right. Though the enlarged Likud will still gain several seats from the mark it won in the 2009 vote that brought Netanyahu back into power and make it by far the largest in the Knesset with 35, Habeyit Hayehudi is set to get 12 with another pro-settlement party getting another two. That will double the number of seats those smaller parties won four years ago. Combined with the Orthodox religious parties, that will give Netanyahu nearly 70 seats out of 120 next year even before any of the centrist members join him as some undoubtedly will do.

 

Habeyit Hayehudi also has the advantage of a new leader in the 40-year-old Naftali Bennett. He is the son of American immigrants who is a former chief of staff to Netanyahu and who earned great wealth through the sale of his Internet security firm. In him, Israel’s nationalist camp now has an articulate and savvy figure who can say things about the Palestinians that Netanyahu, who, as David Horovitz of the Times of Israel pointed out in an insightful analysis, cannot utter for fear of worsening relations with the United States.

 

Bennett’s powerful position, which will be enhanced by a Cabinet portfolio that he will demand and get, will make the next Knesset harder for Netanyahu to manage. The absence of several Likud moderates who have been replaced by more nationalist and younger figures on the party’s Knesset list will also ensure that the prime minister will not be straying far from the wishes of his voters the way some of his predecessors have done.

 

This won’t necessarily mean that Netanyahu will move to build throughout the West Bank the way Bennett would like. But it will strengthen his resolve to continue to do so in Jerusalem and its suburbs as well as the major settlement blocs that Israel will hold onto even in the theoretical scenario where the Palestinians finally give in and accept a two-state solution.  That will lead to much gnashing of the teeth on the part of liberal Jews who are uncomfortable with Netanyahu, let alone those to his right. But those who lament this development should understand that the Israeli people are making this choice with their eyes wide open.

 

Even Labor, the party that is historically associated with the peace process, has more or less abandoned the issue of reconciliation with the Palestinians in this election and instead is concentrating on economic and social justice issues. Those lists that are still devoted to the peace process, including the new party led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, have been thoroughly marginalized.

 

Unlike most Israelis, many if not most American Jews and many non-Jewish friends of Israel haven’t drawn conclusions from the last 20 years of failed peace processing. They cling instead to the fables about the Palestinians that once fueled the post-Oslo euphoria in Israel but which have now been discarded there.

 

 

 

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ISRAELIS: NO MORE ‘BIG IDEAS TO ALTER STATUS QUO’

Evelyn Gordon

Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan. 3, 2013

 

Writing in The Jerusalem Post on Friday [Dec. 28], Donniel Hartman lamented the lack of “new ideas” in this election campaign. Campaigns, he proclaimed, should be a time for politicians to put forth “noble and naïve ideas,” to compete over “new ways to change the status quo;” a campaign that doesn’t do this is “dangerous for Israel and its future.”

 

Hartman’s plaint is a perfect snapshot of the thinking that has made Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the unchallenged king of Israeli politics. Because for 20 years, Israelis have suffered through a succession of prime ministers who not only produced, but implemented, “noble and naïve ideas” to “change the status quo.” And what Israelis discovered is that such ideas are frequently far more “dangerous for Israel and its future” than the cautious conservatism Netanyahu epitomizes.

 

This isn’t to imply that Netanyahu has no ideas. He actually has quite a few, and many are even good ones. But none are of the big, radical, “noble and naïve” type. What he has consistently proposed, over two terms of office, is cautious, incremental change that will hopefully leave the country a bit better than he found it, but probably won’t affect a major revolution. And Israelis confidently expect the same from a third term.

 

Ironically, Netanyahu’s discomfort with big, radical ideas led him to a landslide loss in 1999, when Israelis opted for a rival who promised a host of them: unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, a socioeconomic revolution that would finally “get the old woman out of the hospital corridor,” and more.

 

Yet that very same aversion to big, radical ideas is why he enjoys massive margins of support today. A Haaretz poll last week, for instance, asked respondents which party leader they trusted most on security, economics and diplomatic negotiations. On all three issues, Netanyahu outpolled his nearest rival by more than 2:1; on security, the margin was more than 4:1.

 

If you look merely at what Netanyahu has done, these numbers seem almost incomprehensible. After all, he hasn’t won any wars or thwarted any major security threat; the high cost of living and other economic problems sparked the biggest socioeconomic protests in decades last year; and not only has he failed to negotiate any major diplomatic agreements, but much of the world holds him responsible for this failure.

 

Yet if you look at what Netanyahu hasn’t done, his popularity becomes instantly understandable. He didn’t sign a breakthrough “peace” agreement that created a terrorist quasi-state in the West Bank, from which Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen proceeded to slaughter over 1,300 Israelis in a little over a decade. He didn’t unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon or Gaza, thereby abandoning them to the rule of terrorist organizations that have subsequently fired more than 16,000 rockets at Israel. He didn’t launch a grand diplomatic summit that ended up sparking a terrorist war. He didn’t conduct any failed wars, in either the military or the public-relations sense. He didn’t propose any sweeping territorial concessions that, had they been accepted, would have proven as detrimental to Israel’s security as every previous such concession has.

 

In short, unlike his predecessors, he produced no big ideas for changing the status quo – no “peace agreements,” no unilateral withdrawals, no sweeping final-status proposals, no failed wars “to destroy Hezbollah or Hamas once and for all” (a wildly inappropriate aim if you’re unwilling to do what’s necessary to achieve it). And Israelis, battered and shell-shocked by the disastrous consequences of all these previous big ideas, are grateful for the quiet his cautious, risk-averse policies have produced. But it’s not just that his aversion to grandiose ideas has prevented any major new disasters. It’s that by eschewing such big ideas, he has managed to implement modest but significant improvements.

 

On the security front, he has a laudable track record on counterterrorism. During his first term, he reduced terrorist deaths by 70 percent, from 211 in 1993-96 to 63 in 1996-99. During his current term, he kept terror at the relatively low level inherited from his predecessor.

 

Economically, for all the real problems that sparked last year’s socioeconomic protests, Israel is doing well compared to the rest of the West. Its 7% unemployment rate is vastly better than the Eurozone average of 11.7%; in some Eurozone countries, like Spain and Greece, unemployment has soared to over 25%. The Eurozone has also experienced zero or negative growth for the last four quarters; Israel, by contrast, posted growth of about 3.3% this year.

 

And diplomatically, Netanyahu succeeded in getting the world to impose much tougher sanctions on Iran, something all his predecessors signally failed to do. Indeed, even his most bitter opponents find themselves forced to acknowledge his achievements. Here, for instance, is what columnist Ari Shavit of the far-left Haaretz wrote in October: “Netanyahu's government … correctly focused on the Iranian nuclear challenge and acted against it with skill and ingenuity, most of the time. It led a necessary reform of higher education and an important reform of preschool education, paved roads and built railway lines.”

 

And here’s Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn, writing two weeks ago: “[Netanyahu] said he'd mobilize international public opinion to escalate the sanctions against Iran and prepare the Israel Defense Forces for attack, and he did. He said he'd act to raise the Palestinians' standard of living, and it rose. He spoke out against unilateral withdrawals, and he didn't withdraw. He promised that Israel's students would reach the top 10 in international exams, and their performance has improved. He wrote he would take care of the crime families, and they've dropped out of the public agenda.”

 

Like many Israelis, I think Netanyahu could and should have done far more to address Israel’s numerous domestic problems, and I’m disappointed that he didn’t. Nevertheless, one could do far worse than making some modest improvements while avoiding any major disasters. And after two decades of “noble and naïve” ideas that left the country battered and bloody, Israelis understand this quite well. That’s why most are breathing a quiet sigh of relief at the prospect of four more years without them.

 

 

 

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ISRAEL’S NEW TWO-PARTY SYSTEM: A FORCE FOR EXTREMISM

Donniel Hartman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2013

 

A new feature has emerged in Israeli politics this election season: the evolution of our political culture into a de facto two-party system similar to the Republican and Democrat divide in the US, referred to here as the Right and the Center-Left. There are indeed two sectorial groups outside this divide – haredim and Arabs. The former, however, will join either of the two “parties,” depending on which is willing to greater serve the interests of its sector, while the latter always remains in the opposition.

 

It is true that these two parties are divided into multiple mini-parties. However, the fact that the two major parties (the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu) on the Right have amalgamated, and the third (Bayit Yehudi) is running on the platform of being their coalition partner, while on the Left, politicians are jumping from sub-party to sub-party, avoiding a formal unification primarily because of ego, are all evidence of the fact that the old multiple party system is dead.

 

Voters and politicians are no longer loyal or bound to a sub-party but to the larger party bloc, and shift their affiliations freely within this bloc without feeling any remorse or nostalgia. The sub-party is but a means and a platform to serve them without any ability to generate sustained loyalty. Thus, for example, Amir Peretz can wake up in the morning as one of the leaders of the Labor Party and go to sleep at night as one of the leaders of The Tzipi Livni Party (Hatnuah), itself formed by Livni, the former leader of the Kadima Party. Those who see all of this as opportunism fail to realize the profound shift within Israeli political culture from the multiparty to the two party system.

 

Similarly, the dramatic growth in popularity of the heretofore religious-Zionist sectorial party, the Bayit Yehudi, with the support of secular former Likud loyalists, the significant infiltration into the Likud Knesset candidates list of individuals and ideologues who are using the Likud base to mainstream positions which in the past were the domain of the extreme Right, and on the Left, with the disintegration of the popular base of Kadima, the largest party in the last Knesset, and its redistribution within the Center-Left “party,” are again evidence of the fact that the electorate is thinking within the context of a two-party model, with the sub-parties being merely the vehicle du jour to best represent their core commitments.

 

While this emergence of a two-party system generates greater clarity for the electorate and promises stability for the government, the fact that, as distinct from the United States, it is based on sub-party components, creates a foundation for a particularly toxic and destructive phenomenon. Because most voters are already clearly aligned within one of the two blocs, the main campaigns of the sub-parties are not against those within the other bloc but within their own. This reality generates a move to unnecessary radicalism, as each sub-party attempts to brand itself as unique.

 

In the current election season, the right-wing “party,” which will win the next election, is plagued by a competition amongst its sub-parties as to who is more “pro-settlement,” more “anti-Mahmoud Abbas” and more vociferous in protecting and caring for the “Jewish Israel.”

 

In the past, the conventional wisdom was that you could only win an election in Israel from the Center. While Binyamin Netanyahu, from the perspective of those on the Left, is clearly on the Right, the cornerstone of his political success was his laying hold to the position of the Center- Right. His embrace of Bennie Begin, with his steadfast commitment to democracy and liberalism, and Dan Meridor, a longstanding supporter of both of these values, as well as moderation in foreign policy, together with his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech and ongoing vetoes of most of the anti-democratic legislation put forward by the Knesset, all served to make Netanyahu both electable and acceptable to a broad spectrum of Israelis on both sides of the political divide.

 

In this campaign, however, not only is Netanyahu going into the electoral battle without the above allies, but more and more of his party members believe that the most effective way to combat the Bayit Yehudi is to outflank it on the Right. In this context, the Bar-Ilan speech accepting a two-state solution in theory is now a liability, and spokespeople for the heretofore center-right Likud allow themselves to vocalize a nationalistic, xenophobic and at times even anti-democratic rhetoric that in the past never would even have been considered.

 

One of the lessons of the recent US election is that you cannot win the country from either extreme, and the Republican Party, if it wants to return to power, will have to look carefully at the consequences of a platform that represents the radical Right within the party. The advantage that the Republican Party has is that it lost the election. There is nothing like the harsh reality of failure to generate reevaluation and refocus.

 

In the Israeli dual-party, sub-party system, however, such a corrective does not exist. The right-wing party will win on the basis of a center-right majority within Israel. However, this center-right will be governed by individuals and platforms which represent extreme sub-party ideologies. There are some who find comfort in the belief that election rhetoric does not represent day-after Election Day policies. This is the case only when there are moderating forces at the table. In our frenzy to win the sub-party battles, however, we have stacked the deck against moderation, and I am fearful that we lack the internal forces to heal ourselves.

 

As we move toward the end of the election season it is critical that Center-Right voices emerge with moral and ideological clarity, compelled by a vision of what will be good for the country, regardless of its significance in the sub-party conflict. It will be a mistake if these voices remain silent, waiting to emerge in the safety of the day after the elections. A culture, rhetoric and public discourse about policy are taking root in these elections which will not be easily uprooted. As our rabbis teach us, if not now, when? Every day that this discourse is allowed to rule dramatically changes not the outcome of this election but the future of Israeli society.

 

Finally, sub-parties on the Center-Left must enter into the fray, not as voices in the opposition but as unabashed coalition partner aspirants. The cynics will say that in doing so they are expressing a void of values and a commitment to power over ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics is about using power to actualize ideology. In the new Israeli two-party system, we don’t need a national unity government. We need sub-parties from both “parties” to join together to save us from ourselves.

 

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute.

 

 

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A Dose Of Nuance: Not Just France With Humous: Daniel Gordis, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13, 2012— What Jewish vision animates your social goals for Israel? If you’ve got nothing to say about that, why should any of us vote for you? Are you saying anything about your vision for this country that you couldn’t say if you were running for office in France, or Sweden or Denmark? Anything at all about the Jewish nature of this country? If you did, I might just vote for you.

 

Say No To Hallucination Dealers: Dan Margalit, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013—A voice is needed that combines bravery, prudence, strength and cool-headedness. A voice is needed that warns the young, engaged in their own personal problems, against false prophets. A voice against those who promise everything for free. A voice against those who prattle on in the language of charlatans about how, if we just let them, they can bring peace now or redeem the entire land.

 

Shamir: If  Convicted, My Party Leader [Liberman] Must Leave Politics: Ron Friedman, Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2013—Rookie politician says public servants who’ve faltered should make way for those who haven’t; accuses Netanyahu of flip-flopping on Palestinian state

 

Friday Polls Show Jewish Home Surge May Have Been An Outlier: Joshua Davidovich, Times of Israel, Jan. 4, 2013—Right-wing party seen getting 13-14 seats, and not 18 predicted by Israel Radio poll a day earlier. Both polls show the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu joint list leading the pack, with 36 seats according to Maariv, and 34 according to Israel Hayom. The ruling party had been predicted to get over 40 seats in early preelection polling, but recent polls have shown it bleeding voters on the right to Jewish Home.

 

Likud Rises as Leftists Vow No Coalition: Maayana Miskin, Israel National News, Jan. 4, 2013—Likud Beytenu regains losses in the polls, ending with enough support to win 36 Knesset seats, according to a new poll released Friday by Maariv/nrg. Left-wing parties say they will try to thwart a coalition.

 

A Labor-Habayit Hayehudi Alliance?: Mati Tuchfeld, Israel Hayom, Jan. 4, 2013—Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett isn't ruling out the possibility of joining forces with Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich • In the meantime, he is trying to keep Eli Ben-Dahan and Orit Struck, fellow party members that he views as too extreme, under wraps.

 

 

 

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