Tag: Kadima

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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Contents:                          

 

(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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

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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ISRAEL’S COMING ELECTION: DESPITE WILD CARDS, 
NETANYAHU’S BLOC STRONGER, OPPOSITION LEADERLESS

 

 

Articles:

Netanyahu Faces Wild Cards in Early Elections

The Israeli government has called a general election for Jan. 22, and polls suggest Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist-religious coalition is likely to win a renewed majority — but an array of wild cards make the outcome of this campaign unpredictable nonetheless….

Ha’aretz poll: Netanyahu Beats Election Rivals, Right-wing Bloc Grows Stronger
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no serious challenger in the next election, political experts said, after he launched the campaign for the 19th Knesset on Tuesday. A poll carried out for Ha’aretz on Wednesday appears to confirm this.

A More Realistic Electoral Reform Plan
It’s that time of the year again when voters’ minds begin to think about “What if?” What if we had a better election system? What if our representatives were elected from districts instead of nationwide?

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Murdoch: 'Nightmare for Israel' If Obama Wins

Candidly Speaking: On Israeli Racism and Democracy

Netanyahu: My Gov't Brought Security Back To Israel
 

 

NETANYAHU FACES WILD CARDS IN EARLY ELECTIONS

Dan Perry

Times of Israel, Associated Press, October 15, 2012

 

The Israeli government has called a general election for Jan. 22, and polls suggest Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist-religious coalition is likely to win a renewed majority — but an array of wild cards make the outcome of this campaign unpredictable nonetheless….

 

The vote also comes at a pivotal point in the increasingly acrimonious cultural clash between Western-oriented liberals and Netanyahu’s resilient alliance of social conservatives, security hawks and fundamentalist Jews.

 

That dichotomy is mirrored in Israel’s traditional electoral map, a bewildering affair that nonetheless reduces to two rival “blocs” vying for 61 out of 120 Knesset seats — the threshold needed to form a government.

 

The “left” bloc, historically led by the Labor Party, wants the West Bank and Gaza — captured from Jordan and Egypt respectively in the 1967 war — either traded for peace or separated from Israel in some other way to protect a Jewish majority within “Israel proper.” Jews currently make up about three-quarters of Israel’s population, but when the West Bank and Gaza are included, the breakdown between Jews and Arabs is close to 50/50. Smaller dovish groups and parties from Israel’s Arab minority are also in this bloc.

 

The “right” bloc is led by Netanyahu’s Likud, which historically has been hostile to territorial concessions. Netanyahu now says he is ready for a limited Palestinian state in some of the West Bank — yet his government continues to build Jewish settlements deep inside it and few take him at his word. Rounding out the bloc are even more nationalist groupings and religious parties eager to deepen the Jewish character of the state.

 

Polls suggest the right could win about 65 Knesset seats — a near-default majority that has mostly held for decades, built in part by the demographic advantage of a religious minority with high birthrates….The new campaign presents a significant number of wild cards that could affect the result:

 

THE CENTER

 

Popular dissatisfaction with the left-right dichotomy occasionally gives rise to “centrist parties” that claim they might align with either bloc. But these days such parties — whose support and makeup generally reflects the secular and Westernized side of Israel — find their natural location with the left, as Kadima did, and amount to a device for taking votes from the right.

 

The newest centrist offering is Yesh Atid (There Is A Future), built around the popularity of 49-year-old Yair Lapid — a former TV news anchor, talk show host, newspaper columnist, movie star, mystery novelist and amateur boxer. Polls show he could lead one of the largest parties, with up to 19 seats. Depending on whom he chooses to run by his side, he seems to have a shot at taking votes from the right.

 

A RIVAL

 

Whereas Netanyuahu is unchallenged in his bloc, the left is splintered into at least three mid-sized parties: a somewhat resurgent Labor, with former journalist Shelly Yachimovich as its leader, running mostly on social issues such as redistribution of wealth; Kadima, now led by the relatively unpopular former military chief Shaul Mofaz; and Yesh Atid.

 

There is tremendous pressure on them to unite, driven by the idea that this would change the psychology of the race and draw support greater than the sum of the left’s current parts. Indeed, a poll in the Jerusalem Post found that a unified party would outpoll Likud and become the largest party.

 

Would that be enough to crack the advantage of the wider right bloc? That may depend on whether a galvanizing figure is brought in to lead it.

 

The current speculation focuses on an Olmert comeback, which he is believed to be considering and which would be a gamble. Forced from office four years ago by a corruption scandal, he has been cleared of most charges but still faces trial in a bribery case. The backup is Tzipi Livni, Olmert’s foreign minister and a former Kadima leader — who is also said to be mulling the creation of yet another centrist party.

 

THE GENERAL

 

Gabi Ashkenazi, who was military chief until last year, is so popular that it is generally accepted that the recent law freezing top security officials out of politics for three years after their retirement was formulated mostly to keep him from leading the left against Netanyahu — and so in popular parlance it bears his name.

 

Taciturn and tough-looking, with security credentials and of politically useful mixed European and Middle Eastern heritage he is believed to have strong appeal to the right. The much-discussed scenario has him campaigning for the left under the understanding that if the bloc wins it would repeal the “Ashkenazi Law” and appoint him defense minister.

 

DEFECTIONS

 

Although the right bloc has propped Netanyahu nicely for four years, two potential defections exist. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the mid-sized Yisrael Beiteinu party, is an aggressive nationalist who nonetheless took part in the last Kadima government, is bitter about a years-long corruption investigation, and harbors ambitions of leading the right bloc that suggest an interest in seeing Netanyahu go down. And Arieh Deri, the only major ultra-Orthodox leader who is seen as moderate on the Palestinians, is returning to politics after a jail spell and a long hiatus; if he is not reinstated as head of the religious Shas Party many expect him to run against it, taking some of its dozen-odd seats and possibly delivering them to the left.

 

IRAN

 

Some in Netanyahu’s circle cast the election as a referendum on attacking Iran — or at least on Israel’s right to act militarily to prevent the Islamic Republic from achieving nuclear weapons capability. Normally, on security issues, Israelis do turn hawkish at the polls.

 

But this one is complicated: The security establishment considers the talk of an attack reckless and seems to oppose the idea; much of the world is arrayed against the notion, seeking more time for economic sanctions to force Iran’s hand; and polls show the Israeli public — fearing a massive counterstrike including missiles on their cities and mayhem on their borders — opposes any move that is not coordinated with the United States. It could make very uncomfortable campaigning for Netanyahu.

 

IT’S THE ECONOMY

 

Netanyahu supporters nonetheless hope the election hinges on the usual strategic issues, especially the Palestinians. On that well-worn ground, Likud is helped by the perception here that the Palestinians are sticking to unreasonably maximalist positions — including a division of Jerusalem that would mean a potentially tense border running right through the downtown of the holy city.

 

But if the left can change the discourse, Netanyahu is vulnerable on two issues.

 

So many Israelis are unhappy with the economy — surprisingly good macroeconomic figures alongside tremendous income gaps and widespread poverty — that a social protest movement largely aimed against the government last year sent hundreds of thousands to the streets. If this becomes an election issue it could galvanize the left vote — which historically, unlike the disciplined masses of the religious right, tends to be lazy on election day.

 

And Netanyahu is dangerously exposed on the question of ending the current system of draft exemptions for tens of thousands in the burgeoning ultra-Orthodox minority — ordered earlier this year by the Supreme Court, supported by most Israelis, and largely ignored by his government. The secular majority, including many on the right, is increasingly alarmed by Orthodox efforts to segregate the sexes in public, their widespread reliance on state handouts, and their school system, which turns out Torah scholars who know little English or math and have few skills for the work world. Netanyahu’s utter dependence on their parties’ votes for the right bloc’s majority could focus minds, drive away the center and amount to his Achilles’ heel in this campaign. (Top of Page)

 

HAARETZ POLL: NETANYAHU BEATS ELECTION RIVALS,
RIGHT-WING BLOC GROWS STRONGER

Yossi Verter

Ha'aretz, October 11, 2012

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no serious challenger in the next election, political experts said after he launched the campaign for the 19th Knesset on Tuesday. A poll carried out for Ha’aretz on Wednesday appears to confirm this.

 

The poll, conducted by Dialog under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, shows that Netanyahu easily defeats all his possible rivals from the center-left bloc. As far as the public is concerned, Netanyahu is deemed much more suitable for post of prime minister than any of his potential rivals.

 

At the same time, the Likud-right wing-ultra-Orthodox bloc has increased its strength to 68 Knesset seats, while the center-left bloc has gone down to 52, compared to the blocs' respective strength in the outgoing Knesset and the previous poll.

 

The candidate with the highest support after Netanyahu is Tzipi Livni, who has retired from political life. However, Livni, who is considering a return, fails to muster more than half of the support attributed to Netanyahu (57 percent – 28 percent ).

 

Ironically, Livni, who failed as Kadima's leader in the opposition, lost to Shaul Mofaz in the party primaries and was ousted from the political arena by her party members, is the leading opposition candidate. Kadima members may regret voting for Mofaz as their party leader in March. No wonder many of them are hoping that she or Ehud Olmert will return. Or even both of them.

 

Support for the remaining potential candidates – former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who hasn't decided yet whether he's throwing his hat in the ring, Atzmaut leader Ehud Barak, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich – is not impressive. The poll results lead to the conclusion that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister.

 

The poll…shows that support for Netanyahu is even stronger than it was in the previous poll some two weeks ago. Asked about their satisfaction with Netanyahu's performance as prime minister, 45 percent of the interviewees were satisfied and 45 percent were dissatisfied, marking a 15 percent improvement from the last poll, in which only 38 were satisfied compared to 53 who were not. The improvement in Netanayhu's position likely results from his presentation at the UN and perhaps from his announcement of early elections.

 

While the Likud receives a few more Knesset seats and Labor a few less, Yair Lapid is considerably stronger, according to this poll. Ehud Barak's Atzmaut Party does not obtain the minimum required votes to enter the Knesset.  Future polls are expected to examine the repercussions of a party led by Olmert on the political map. However, in view of the right wing bloc's strength, it is hard to imagine Olmert, with or without Livni, attracting enough cross-over votes from the right.

 

If Olmert joins the campaign, he will no doubt affect the power balance in the center-left bloc dramatically. Yacimovich will weaken, Lapid will weaken even more. Mofaz will probably have to renounce his place as Kadima leader. It is not clear, however, whether this will change the outcome for Netanyahu.  (Top of Page)

 

 

A MORE REALISTIC ELECTORAL REFORM PLAN
David Gleicher

Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2012

 

It’s that time of the year again when voters’ minds begin to think about “What if?” What if we had a better election system? What if our representatives were elected from districts instead of nationwide? In response, “good government” groups and political parties propose various electoral reform ideas, all of them doomed to go down in flames because the reformers forget a basic rule of politics (and of life, I suppose): No one is going to vote to put themselves out of a job.

I’m not against electoral reform. In fact, as a former participant/member of the Cook County Democratic Party (a.k.a. the “Machine”), I believe in the late Mayor Richard J. Daley’s adage, “Good government is good politics.” But you’ve got to be realistic about what you can accomplish.

In light of that, I propose an electoral reform plan that can maybe, just possibly, pass, because, counter-intuitively, it adds 30 more Knesset seats, thus preserving the jobs of many current MKs. Here’s how it would work:

1: Israel would be divided into 25 electoral districts of roughly equal population. The districts would be drawn by a committee consisting of Knesset representatives, judges and respected “public” members to be chosen by the president. The committee would be instructed to keep districts compact and neighborhoods intact in order to prevent American-style gerrymandering.

Each district would elect three representatives. However, no more than two of a district’s representatives could be from the same party. A voter would have three votes at his disposal. S/he could give one candidate all three votes or split the votes between two candidates or give three candidates one vote each. This will prevent one party from dominating any single district….

2: The other 75 seats would be voted on as we do now, as a national ticket. However, the threshold requirement would be 4 percent of the vote, giving a party three seats. This would still give the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab parties representation in the Knesset, but would force other smaller parties to consolidate or die.

3: The head of the national ticket (that is, the non-district seats) would be that party’s candidate for prime minister. However, if a party gets fewer than 25 “national” seats, its candidate for prime minister would be forced into a runoff against the second-highest party’s candidate.

Unlike today, the winner would automatically be named prime minister for a four-year term. To give the government stability, a no-confidence vote in the government’s first year would require 100 votes; in the second year, 90 votes; in the third year, 80 votes; and in the fourth year, a mere majority.

4: Cabinet members would be appointed by the prime minister and approved by the Knesset. However, a cabinet minister or deputy minister could not also serve as a Knesset member. That would enable ministers to concentrate on their ministries, not general Knesset affairs.

In addition, while Knesset members from districts will receive an office allotment and funds for a secretary and aide, MKs elected on the party slate, not having district responsibilities, will be allotted only one secretary and share a receptionist with other MKs. Another advantage: With the increase in numbers of MKs, each one will have fewer committee assignments, allowing the MK to concentrate on that committee’s work.

The raising of the Knesset from 120 to 150 seats will be controversial, but it is a necessary price to get this proposal passed because it would still give smaller parties representation. And we would not be “over-represented.”

According to research done by former Jerusalem Post executive editor Amotz Asa-El in his must-read study of Israeli electoral reform (“Israel’s Electoral Complex,” Azure Magazine, Winter, 2008), mixed legislative systems used in other western countries have the following legislators per citizen: Finland and Sweden have about 26,000 citizens per legislator, Denmark has 29,000, New Zealand has 31,000, and Austria has 32,000. Right now there is one Knesset member for every 62,500 Israelis. The change would make it one MK per 50,000 Israelis, still fewer legislators than the countries listed above.

Politics is the art of compromise. Add 30 more legislators and maybe we get reform. I think it’s worth the price. And when former Ra’anana mayor Ze’ev Bielski realizes that he could easily run and win from a Ra’anana district more easily than as a generic Kadima member, and when Tzipi Hotovely realizes that her Rehovot neighbors will vote for her without the need to deal with Likud vote contractors, we may see MKs come to the same conclusion that “Good government is good politics.” (Top of Page)

_______________________________________________________

 

Murdoch: 'Nightmare for Israel' If Obama Wins: Paul Scicchitano, Newsmax, October 14, 2012

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted on Saturday that it would be a “nightmare for Israel” if President Obama is re-elected to a second term.

 

Candidly Speaking: On Israeli Racism and Democracy: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012

Nothing makes us cringe more than screaming headlines reporting racist outbursts or hate crimes in our own country. No matter how rare, such acts not only shame us but encourage us to ask ourselves how such obscene behavior could occur in the homeland of the Jewish people which itself endured 2,000 years of persecution and humiliation in the Diaspora.

 

Netanyahu: My Gov't Brought Security Back To Israel: Jpost Staff, Jerusalem Post, October 15 2012
PM addresses Knesset, officially asking to advance elections to January 22, 2013, making his case to be reelected; says, "anyone who underestimates the threat a nuclear Iran poses to Israel is not worthy to be PM."

ISRAEL’S COMING ELECTION: DESPITE WILD CARDS, 
NETANYAHU’S BLOC STRONGER, OPPOSITION LEADERLESS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles:

Netanyahu Faces Wild Cards in Early Elections

The Israeli government has called a general election for Jan. 22, and polls suggest Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist-religious coalition is likely to win a renewed majority — but an array of wild cards make the outcome of this campaign unpredictable nonetheless….

Ha’aretz poll: Netanyahu Beats Election Rivals, Right-wing Bloc Grows Stronger
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no serious challenger in the next election, political experts said, after he launched the campaign for the 19th Knesset on Tuesday. A poll carried out for Ha’aretz on Wednesday appears to confirm this.

A More Realistic Electoral Reform Plan
It’s that time of the year again when voters’ minds begin to think about “What if?” What if we had a better election system? What if our representatives were elected from districts instead of nationwide?

 

On Topic Links

 

Murdoch: 'Nightmare for Israel' If Obama Wins

Candidly Speaking: On Israeli Racism and Democracy

Netanyahu: My Gov't Brought Security Back To Israel
 

 

NETANYAHU FACES WILD CARDS IN EARLY ELECTIONS

Dan Perry

Times of Israel, Associated Press, October 15, 2012

 

The Israeli government has called a general election for Jan. 22, and polls suggest Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist-religious coalition is likely to win a renewed majority — but an array of wild cards make the outcome of this campaign unpredictable nonetheless….

 

The vote also comes at a pivotal point in the increasingly acrimonious cultural clash between Western-oriented liberals and Netanyahu’s resilient alliance of social conservatives, security hawks and fundamentalist Jews.

 

That dichotomy is mirrored in Israel’s traditional electoral map, a bewildering affair that nonetheless reduces to two rival “blocs” vying for 61 out of 120 Knesset seats — the threshold needed to form a government.

 

The “left” bloc, historically led by the Labor Party, wants the West Bank and Gaza — captured from Jordan and Egypt respectively in the 1967 war — either traded for peace or separated from Israel in some other way to protect a Jewish majority within “Israel proper.” Jews currently make up about three-quarters of Israel’s population, but when the West Bank and Gaza are included, the breakdown between Jews and Arabs is close to 50/50. Smaller dovish groups and parties from Israel’s Arab minority are also in this bloc.

 

The “right” bloc is led by Netanyahu’s Likud, which historically has been hostile to territorial concessions. Netanyahu now says he is ready for a limited Palestinian state in some of the West Bank — yet his government continues to build Jewish settlements deep inside it and few take him at his word. Rounding out the bloc are even more nationalist groupings and religious parties eager to deepen the Jewish character of the state.

 

Polls suggest the right could win about 65 Knesset seats — a near-default majority that has mostly held for decades, built in part by the demographic advantage of a religious minority with high birthrates….The new campaign presents a significant number of wild cards that could affect the result:

 

THE CENTER

 

Popular dissatisfaction with the left-right dichotomy occasionally gives rise to “centrist parties” that claim they might align with either bloc. But these days such parties — whose support and makeup generally reflects the secular and Westernized side of Israel — find their natural location with the left, as Kadima did, and amount to a device for taking votes from the right.

 

The newest centrist offering is Yesh Atid (There Is A Future), built around the popularity of 49-year-old Yair Lapid — a former TV news anchor, talk show host, newspaper columnist, movie star, mystery novelist and amateur boxer. Polls show he could lead one of the largest parties, with up to 19 seats. Depending on whom he chooses to run by his side, he seems to have a shot at taking votes from the right.

 

A RIVAL

 

Whereas Netanyuahu is unchallenged in his bloc, the left is splintered into at least three mid-sized parties: a somewhat resurgent Labor, with former journalist Shelly Yachimovich as its leader, running mostly on social issues such as redistribution of wealth; Kadima, now led by the relatively unpopular former military chief Shaul Mofaz; and Yesh Atid.

 

There is tremendous pressure on them to unite, driven by the idea that this would change the psychology of the race and draw support greater than the sum of the left’s current parts. Indeed, a poll in the Jerusalem Post found that a unified party would outpoll Likud and become the largest party.

 

Would that be enough to crack the advantage of the wider right bloc? That may depend on whether a galvanizing figure is brought in to lead it.

 

The current speculation focuses on an Olmert comeback, which he is believed to be considering and which would be a gamble. Forced from office four years ago by a corruption scandal, he has been cleared of most charges but still faces trial in a bribery case. The backup is Tzipi Livni, Olmert’s foreign minister and a former Kadima leader — who is also said to be mulling the creation of yet another centrist party.

 

THE GENERAL

 

Gabi Ashkenazi, who was military chief until last year, is so popular that it is generally accepted that the recent law freezing top security officials out of politics for three years after their retirement was formulated mostly to keep him from leading the left against Netanyahu — and so in popular parlance it bears his name.

 

Taciturn and tough-looking, with security credentials and of politically useful mixed European and Middle Eastern heritage he is believed to have strong appeal to the right. The much-discussed scenario has him campaigning for the left under the understanding that if the bloc wins it would repeal the “Ashkenazi Law” and appoint him defense minister.

 

DEFECTIONS

 

Although the right bloc has propped Netanyahu nicely for four years, two potential defections exist. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the mid-sized Yisrael Beiteinu party, is an aggressive nationalist who nonetheless took part in the last Kadima government, is bitter about a years-long corruption investigation, and harbors ambitions of leading the right bloc that suggest an interest in seeing Netanyahu go down. And Arieh Deri, the only major ultra-Orthodox leader who is seen as moderate on the Palestinians, is returning to politics after a jail spell and a long hiatus; if he is not reinstated as head of the religious Shas Party many expect him to run against it, taking some of its dozen-odd seats and possibly delivering them to the left.

 

IRAN

 

Some in Netanyahu’s circle cast the election as a referendum on attacking Iran — or at least on Israel’s right to act militarily to prevent the Islamic Republic from achieving nuclear weapons capability. Normally, on security issues, Israelis do turn hawkish at the polls.

 

But this one is complicated: The security establishment considers the talk of an attack reckless and seems to oppose the idea; much of the world is arrayed against the notion, seeking more time for economic sanctions to force Iran’s hand; and polls show the Israeli public — fearing a massive counterstrike including missiles on their cities and mayhem on their borders — opposes any move that is not coordinated with the United States. It could make very uncomfortable campaigning for Netanyahu.

 

IT’S THE ECONOMY

 

Netanyahu supporters nonetheless hope the election hinges on the usual strategic issues, especially the Palestinians. On that well-worn ground, Likud is helped by the perception here that the Palestinians are sticking to unreasonably maximalist positions — including a division of Jerusalem that would mean a potentially tense border running right through the downtown of the holy city.

 

But if the left can change the discourse, Netanyahu is vulnerable on two issues.

 

So many Israelis are unhappy with the economy — surprisingly good macroeconomic figures alongside tremendous income gaps and widespread poverty — that a social protest movement largely aimed against the government last year sent hundreds of thousands to the streets. If this becomes an election issue it could galvanize the left vote — which historically, unlike the disciplined masses of the religious right, tends to be lazy on election day.

 

And Netanyahu is dangerously exposed on the question of ending the current system of draft exemptions for tens of thousands in the burgeoning ultra-Orthodox minority — ordered earlier this year by the Supreme Court, supported by most Israelis, and largely ignored by his government. The secular majority, including many on the right, is increasingly alarmed by Orthodox efforts to segregate the sexes in public, their widespread reliance on state handouts, and their school system, which turns out Torah scholars who know little English or math and have few skills for the work world. Netanyahu’s utter dependence on their parties’ votes for the right bloc’s majority could focus minds, drive away the center and amount to his Achilles’ heel in this campaign. (Top of Page)

 

HAARETZ POLL: NETANYAHU BEATS ELECTION RIVALS,
RIGHT-WING BLOC GROWS STRONGER

Yossi Verter

Ha'aretz, October 11, 2012

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no serious challenger in the next election, political experts said after he launched the campaign for the 19th Knesset on Tuesday. A poll carried out for Ha’aretz on Wednesday appears to confirm this.

 

The poll, conducted by Dialog under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, shows that Netanyahu easily defeats all his possible rivals from the center-left bloc. As far as the public is concerned, Netanyahu is deemed much more suitable for post of prime minister than any of his potential rivals.

 

At the same time, the Likud-right wing-ultra-Orthodox bloc has increased its strength to 68 Knesset seats, while the center-left bloc has gone down to 52, compared to the blocs' respective strength in the outgoing Knesset and the previous poll.

 

The candidate with the highest support after Netanyahu is Tzipi Livni, who has retired from political life. However, Livni, who is considering a return, fails to muster more than half of the support attributed to Netanyahu (57 percent – 28 percent ).

 

Ironically, Livni, who failed as Kadima's leader in the opposition, lost to Shaul Mofaz in the party primaries and was ousted from the political arena by her party members, is the leading opposition candidate. Kadima members may regret voting for Mofaz as their party leader in March. No wonder many of them are hoping that she or Ehud Olmert will return. Or even both of them.

 

Support for the remaining potential candidates – former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who hasn't decided yet whether he's throwing his hat in the ring, Atzmaut leader Ehud Barak, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich – is not impressive. The poll results lead to the conclusion that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister.

 

The poll…shows that support for Netanyahu is even stronger than it was in the previous poll some two weeks ago. Asked about their satisfaction with Netanyahu's performance as prime minister, 45 percent of the interviewees were satisfied and 45 percent were dissatisfied, marking a 15 percent improvement from the last poll, in which only 38 were satisfied compared to 53 who were not. The improvement in Netanayhu's position likely results from his presentation at the UN and perhaps from his announcement of early elections.

 

While the Likud receives a few more Knesset seats and Labor a few less, Yair Lapid is considerably stronger, according to this poll. Ehud Barak's Atzmaut Party does not obtain the minimum required votes to enter the Knesset.  Future polls are expected to examine the repercussions of a party led by Olmert on the political map. However, in view of the right wing bloc's strength, it is hard to imagine Olmert, with or without Livni, attracting enough cross-over votes from the right.

 

If Olmert joins the campaign, he will no doubt affect the power balance in the center-left bloc dramatically. Yacimovich will weaken, Lapid will weaken even more. Mofaz will probably have to renounce his place as Kadima leader. It is not clear, however, whether this will change the outcome for Netanyahu.  (Top of Page)

 

 

A MORE REALISTIC ELECTORAL REFORM PLAN
David Gleicher

Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2012

 

It’s that time of the year again when voters’ minds begin to think about “What if?” What if we had a better election system? What if our representatives were elected from districts instead of nationwide? In response, “good government” groups and political parties propose various electoral reform ideas, all of them doomed to go down in flames because the reformers forget a basic rule of politics (and of life, I suppose): No one is going to vote to put themselves out of a job.

I’m not against electoral reform. In fact, as a former participant/member of the Cook County Democratic Party (a.k.a. the “Machine”), I believe in the late Mayor Richard J. Daley’s adage, “Good government is good politics.” But you’ve got to be realistic about what you can accomplish.

In light of that, I propose an electoral reform plan that can maybe, just possibly, pass, because, counter-intuitively, it adds 30 more Knesset seats, thus preserving the jobs of many current MKs. Here’s how it would work:

1: Israel would be divided into 25 electoral districts of roughly equal population. The districts would be drawn by a committee consisting of Knesset representatives, judges and respected “public” members to be chosen by the president. The committee would be instructed to keep districts compact and neighborhoods intact in order to prevent American-style gerrymandering.

Each district would elect three representatives. However, no more than two of a district’s representatives could be from the same party. A voter would have three votes at his disposal. S/he could give one candidate all three votes or split the votes between two candidates or give three candidates one vote each. This will prevent one party from dominating any single district….

2: The other 75 seats would be voted on as we do now, as a national ticket. However, the threshold requirement would be 4 percent of the vote, giving a party three seats. This would still give the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab parties representation in the Knesset, but would force other smaller parties to consolidate or die.

3: The head of the national ticket (that is, the non-district seats) would be that party’s candidate for prime minister. However, if a party gets fewer than 25 “national” seats, its candidate for prime minister would be forced into a runoff against the second-highest party’s candidate.

Unlike today, the winner would automatically be named prime minister for a four-year term. To give the government stability, a no-confidence vote in the government’s first year would require 100 votes; in the second year, 90 votes; in the third year, 80 votes; and in the fourth year, a mere majority.

4: Cabinet members would be appointed by the prime minister and approved by the Knesset. However, a cabinet minister or deputy minister could not also serve as a Knesset member. That would enable ministers to concentrate on their ministries, not general Knesset affairs.

In addition, while Knesset members from districts will receive an office allotment and funds for a secretary and aide, MKs elected on the party slate, not having district responsibilities, will be allotted only one secretary and share a receptionist with other MKs. Another advantage: With the increase in numbers of MKs, each one will have fewer committee assignments, allowing the MK to concentrate on that committee’s work.

The raising of the Knesset from 120 to 150 seats will be controversial, but it is a necessary price to get this proposal passed because it would still give smaller parties representation. And we would not be “over-represented.”

According to research done by former Jerusalem Post executive editor Amotz Asa-El in his must-read study of Israeli electoral reform (“Israel’s Electoral Complex,” Azure Magazine, Winter, 2008), mixed legislative systems used in other western countries have the following legislators per citizen: Finland and Sweden have about 26,000 citizens per legislator, Denmark has 29,000, New Zealand has 31,000, and Austria has 32,000. Right now there is one Knesset member for every 62,500 Israelis. The change would make it one MK per 50,000 Israelis, still fewer legislators than the countries listed above.

Politics is the art of compromise. Add 30 more legislators and maybe we get reform. I think it’s worth the price. And when former Ra’anana mayor Ze’ev Bielski realizes that he could easily run and win from a Ra’anana district more easily than as a generic Kadima member, and when Tzipi Hotovely realizes that her Rehovot neighbors will vote for her without the need to deal with Likud vote contractors, we may see MKs come to the same conclusion that “Good government is good politics.” (Top of Page)

_______________________________________________________

 

Murdoch: 'Nightmare for Israel' If Obama Wins: Paul Scicchitano, Newsmax, October 14, 2012

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted on Saturday that it would be a “nightmare for Israel” if President Obama is re-elected to a second term.

 

Candidly Speaking: On Israeli Racism and Democracy: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012

Nothing makes us cringe more than screaming headlines reporting racist outbursts or hate crimes in our own country. No matter how rare, such acts not only shame us but encourage us to ask ourselves how such obscene behavior could occur in the homeland of the Jewish people which itself endured 2,000 years of persecution and humiliation in the Diaspora.

 

Netanyahu: My Gov't Brought Security Back To Israel: Jpost Staff, Jerusalem Post, October 15 2012
PM addresses Knesset, officially asking to advance elections to January 22, 2013, making his case to be reelected; says, "anyone who underestimates the threat a nuclear Iran poses to Israel is not worthy to be PM."

THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL POLITICS & THE LEVY REPORT: TOWARDS A TWO PARTY STATE? A TWO STATE SOLUTION?

Dear Readers:

 

   Today marks a major moment in the life of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.  Our talented current Publications Editor, Charles Bybelezer, is leaving for Israel. He has been responsible for the unerringly on-topic, wide-ranging, and clearly focused Daily Isranet Briefings you have received in recent years (as well as for our ISRAFAX quarterly print journal and annual Commemorative Book).

 

   Charles is taking up a new position as an editorial staff writer with the Jerusalem Post. This is a wonderful and richly deserved opportunity for Charles, an immensely promising and eloquent young writer. Widely-read, analytically incisive, and Jewishly learned, he is, as a committed Zionist, an ardent supporter of our democratic, Jewish state.

 

   All of us at CIJR are delighted for him, and know he is going to be a major resource at the Jerusalem Post and an outstanding figure in the centrally important field of intelligent, informed and hard-hitting Israel advocacy.

 

   And, even as Charles leaves, we are also delighted to welcome our new Publications Editor, Ber Lazarus. Trained as a sociologist, with a creative career in social work, and an accomplished artist as well, he is also an able websight designer and blogger.

 

   Ber is an untiring Israel advocate, and an effective pro-Israel writer in his own right.  Not least, he is also an activist, most recently in support of the brave St. Denis Street merchants in Montreal fighting a vicious boycott campaign against Israeli-made products.

 

   As a proudly pro-Israel academic research center now in its twenty-fifth year, CIJR early recognized that one of its key functions should be the training of able, informed and highly motivated staff. We are proud to have helped shape Israel advocates who can think, write, and speak clearly and forcefully. 

 

   The war being waged today in the media, on campuses, and in   international institutions seeks to delegitimate Israel. This is a key front in the ongoing campaign against the Jewish state, a war of ideas which,  given the approaching Iranian nuclear weapon, we must win.

 

   We know that Charles, in Israel, and Ber, in Canada, will be making solid contributions to this crucially important goal.  CIJR wishes all the best to Charles, with whom we shall remain in close touch, and welcomes Ber, whom we know will also be a major asset to CIJR and to the Jewish people  

 

 

Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,

Editor, Daily Isranet Briefing

THE REGION: THE FUTURE OF ISRAELI POLITICS

Barry Rubin
Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2012

 

“Can’t anybody here play this game?”—Casey Stengel, New York Mets’ manager.

Stengel’s complaint is the precise description of Israeli politics nowadays. To a remarkable extent—and this has nothing to do with his views or policies—Binyamin Netanyahu is the only functioning politician in Israel today. No wonder he is prime minister, will finish his current term, and almost certainly be reelected in 2013.

 

Consider the alternatives.

 

The number one such option is Shaul Mofaz who is head of Kadima. Mofaz was a competent general but is a dreadful politician. He may be the least charismatic man I’ve ever met. Tzipi Livni, his predecessor, was a disaster as leader of the self-described centrist party.…

 

• Although her party had one seat more than Netanyahu’s in the 2009 election, Livni bungled the chance for some kind of coalition or rotation agreement. True, Netanyahu held the upper hand and had no incentive to give up much but that was all the more reason for her to offer him a good enough deal so she wouldn’t be totally thrown into fruitless opposition.

 

• As leader of the opposition, Livni was a total failure, never providing a good counter to Netanyahu’s positions and showing signs of personal panic that shocked people. Even the anti-Netanyahu media couldn’t rally behind her.…

 

Mofaz’s record is quite bad, too. In fact, as one Israeli joke puts it, in terms of damage, Mofaz accomplished in three months what it took Livni 18 months to do. He said he would never leave Likud for Kadima, and then did so a few hours later. He said he wouldn’t join Netanyahu’s coalition, then he did, and then he announced he was leaving not too much later over the issue of drafting yeshiva students.…

 

Then there’s the Left.

 

The Labor Party has split, with the smaller, more national security-oriented faction led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak sticking with Netanyahu’s coalition. That group should also disappear in the next election.

 

 

The remaining party has veered to the Left and put the priority on domestic social issues. That might well revive the party—especially with the defection of lots of Kadima voters—but it won’t win them an election. The party is now led by Shelly Yechimovich, whose career experience consists of having been a radio journalist and has never been a cabinet member.

 

Of course there were social protests in Israel last year about high prices for some consumer goods and for apartments. These are genuine problems. But these are the result of economic policies that also brought Israel one of the best records of any developed country in the world during the international recession.

 

And the fallout from the Arab Spring puts national security issues front and center once again.

 

Along with this has been the collapse of the social protests. Last year the movement could mobilize hundreds of thousands—though the media exaggerated its size—and had broad public sympathy across the political spectrum.

 

Now it is reduced to a few thousand at most. Why? Because the loony leftists ousted the moderate leadership which had some realistic proposed solutions.…

 

There are three key factors necessary to understand contemporary Israeli politics.

 

First, Netanyahu is not seen by the electorate generally as being right-wing and hawkish but as being centrist. He has successfully been developing this posture now for about 15 years without much of the Western media appearing to notice.

 

Second, Israelis don’t really see the likelihood that different policies are going to make lots of Arabs and Muslims love Israel, or bring peace with the Palestinians or end the vilification of Israel in the Left. All of those things were attempted by means of Israel taking high risks and making big concessions during the 1992-2000 period. Israelis remember—even if others don’t—that this strategy doesn’t work.

 

Third, there are no other politicians who are attractive as potential prime ministers.

 

We now know that US President Barack Obama’s administration thought that he was going to overturn Netanyahu and bring Livni to power on a platform of giving up a lot more to the Palestinians on the hope that this would bring peace. The editorial pages of American newspapers and alleged experts still advocate this basic strategy.

 

They couldn’t possibly be less connected to reality.

 

TWO-PARTY POLITICS

Editorial|
Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2012

 

The latest in a series of political crises afflicting Kadima has made the problems of being a centrist party in our political system abundantly clear.

 

The two veteran parties, the Likud and Labor, to a large extent like the Republicans and the Democrats in the US represent the two mainstream positions on cardinal issues such as security and socioeconomics.

 

The ideological room between them is simply too narrow and insubstantial to allow for a third party.

 

Disingenuous attempts have been made—particularly by Yair Lapid, head of the next up-and-coming superfluous centrist party, Yesh Atid—to paint Labor chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich as a radical socialist who is opposed to free market enterprise, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been portrayed as a heartless neoconservative.

 

But in reality the differences between Yechimovich’s social-democratic platform and Netanyahu’s more conservative stance are not so marked, and are similar to the differences that split Democrats and Republicans. Kadima has never fully articulated a distinct socioeconomic platform, while the nuances distinguishing Lapid’s socioeconomic platform from Yechimovich’s do not justify the creation of a separate party.

 

On security issues, Kadima has not brought to the political discourse any new ideas either. Kadima supporters such as Ariel Sharon’s confidant and adviser Dov Weissglas, claim that Sharon created the party because he felt shackled by the Likud’s ideological constraints. After implementation of the pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria in 2005, Sharon was fast losing support within the Likud, though his popularity soared among the general public. This was only natural since the sort of unilateral dismantling of Jewish settlements—without receiving any Palestinian commitments—was diametrically opposed to the Likud’s ideology.

 

Indeed, it was Labor’s Amram Mitzna—not Sharon—who led his party into the 2003 national elections on a platform of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. If implementation of the disengagement was so important to Sharon, he could have returned to Labor, where he began his political career.

 

To this day Kadima’s stance on security is indistinguishable from Labor’s. Chairman Shaul Mofaz’s peace proposal—which calls for the immediate establishment of an independent, unarmed Palestinian state in part of the West Bank and Gaza and entering negotiations with Hamas, if the terrorist organization wins another Palestinian election—could easily be adopted by Labor.

 

Centrist parties, such as David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, Yigael Yadin’s Democratic Movement for Change, Avigdor Kahalani’s Third Way, and Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin Shahak’s Center Party, never represented substantial political or ideological positions not given expression in either the Likud or Labor.…History has shown that centrist parties are not only superfluous, they are detrimental to political stability.

 

Over the past few decades the size of the two largest political parties has steadily decreased from around 40 MKs on average to fewer than 30, in large part due to the creation of various short-lived centrist parties. Election reforms such as the raising of the 2-percent threshold for entry to the Knesset and the institution of regional elections for some Knesset seats would go a long way toward improving political stability.

 

But so would a good dose of humility. And it might even be in politicians’ best interests to cooperate. A recent survey found that a Center-Left party (Labor) led by Yechimovich, Lapid and Tzipi Livni would garner 40 Knesset seats.

 

A Knesset resting on two strong political parties—one Center-Left and one Center-Right—would foster a more stable political environment while at the same time give expression to two clear political agendas. With talk of early elections in the air, serious thought should be given to taking the steps necessary to make a quasi-two-party system a reality.

 

BAKER DEFENDS LEVY REPORT IN LETTER TO US JEWS
Tovah Lazaroff

Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2012

 

Attorney Alan Baker has defended the government-initiated report he co-authored that calls to authorize West Bank outposts.

 

In a letter to the Israel Policy Forum [see “Link” below—Ed.] last week, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Baker said the so-called Levy report does not close the door to a Palestinian state, and offers Israelis and Palestinians pragmatic solutions to land dispute issues.

Related:

 

Earlier this month, the New York-based forum sent a letter [see “Link” below—Ed.] to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, urging him to reject the report on the outposts penned by a three-member legal panel led by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy. The other two panel members were Baker and former Tel Aviv District Court deputy president Tehiya Shapira.

 

More than 40 US Jewish leaders signed the letter, stating they were “deeply concerned” by the report, which said that under international law Israel did not occupy the West Bank and had a legal right to build settlements there. The US Jewish leaders said they were concerned that government approval of the report would “place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”…

 

In his letter to the Israel Policy Forum, Baker said he did not believe the US Jewish leaders had read his report. Had they done so, he said, they would not have warned that authorization of the document imperiled a two-state solution.

 

The report’s affirmation of Israel’s legal and historic rights to the West Bank “is not different from Israel’s policy statements over the years, including speeches by all of Israel’s leaders and ambassadors in the UN, as well as in official policy documents issued over the years by Israel’s Foreign Ministry,” Baker wrote. There is nothing in the report that imperils the two-state solution, he said, and added, “The opposite is in fact the case.”

 

The report stated that despite Israel’s legal and historic claim to sovereignty over the area, consecutive Israeli governments have preferred to negotiate with the Palestinians to find a solution to sovereignty issues in the West Bank. “This is completely compatible with the address by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the US Congress last May,” Baker wrote.

 

Lastly, he noted that the document, released earlier this month, offers pragmatic solutions to issues of outpost authorization and land disputes with Palestinians. It suggests the creation of a civilian court to adjudicate such disputes. “The report stresses the need to ensure that genuine land-ownership rights of the local Palestinian population are respected by all related authorities and individuals,” Baker said.

 

“Without in any way doubting the deep commitment of all the signatories to Israel’s well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, it is to be regretted that they have permitted themselves to be drawn so hastily into criticizing the Levy report, without justification,” Baker said….

 

 

LA VICTOIRE DE HOLLANDE : INDICATIF D’UN CHANGEMENT CIVILISATIONNEL EN OCCIDENT?

HOLLANDE SERA-T-IL L'OBLIGÉ DE SON ÉLECTORAT MUSULMAN?

Ivan Rioufol
upjif.org, 9  Mai 2012

François Hollande a été notamment élu grâce aux voix des musulmans. Il aurait obtenu 93% des suffrages des votants, selon un sondage OpinionWay publié mardi par Le Figaro. Un sondage TNS Sofres évalue ce pourcentage à 85%. Toujours selon OpinionWay, les catholiques se seraient, eux, portés sur Nicolas Sarkozy à 73% pour les pratiquants réguliers et à 51% pour les non pratiquants. Musulmans et catholiques partageant un même conservatisme lié aux mœurs, à la famille, à la filiation, ce ne sont donc pas les perspectives d’un mariage homosexuel ni d’une euthanasie légalisée qui expliquent cette spectaculaire adhésion au président nouvellement élu. La clé de ce vote doit être recherchée ailleurs, dans les signaux envoyés par le PS en direction d’une communauté attachée à son particularisme culturel. Reste à savoir si cette politique d’accommodements et de connivences, qui n’est pas clairement assumée par un président qui dit vouloir lutter contre le communautarisme, ne risque pas de consolider le multiculturalisme et ses repliements, ces freins à l’intégration. Personnellement, je le redoute.

Les résultats obtenus par Hollande répondent aux vœux du groupe de réflexion socialiste Terra Nova. Ce think tank a publié, le 9 mars 2011, une étude intitulée : "Débat sur l’islam : pour une citoyenneté musulmane". Ce document a l’honnêteté de reconnaître "la mutation profonde et rapide de l’identité de la France" du fait de l’immigration musulmane. Mais de ce constat, Terra Nova estime que "l’intérêt général du pays" est d’accompagner cette mutation en faisant émerger une "puissante citoyenneté musulmane" afin que les musulmans deviennent "acteurs du changement", notamment grâce à l’encouragement au vote. Dans un texte ultérieur intitulé : "Gauche : quelle majorité électorale pour 2012 ?", Terra Nova a même proposé aux socialistes d’abandonner la classe ouvrière et populaire, jugée désormais acquise à la droite, au profit de la "France de demain" constituée par les femmes, les jeunes et les minorités des cités, soit un potentiel évalué entre 10 à 15 millions d’électeurs. C’est cette stratégie, pourtant dénoncée officiellement par le PS, qui a produit ses effets attendus. Hollande tiendrait-il un double discours ?

 En tout cas, ces nouveaux soutiens n’ont pas tardé à se rappeler au bon souvenir du nouveau président de la République. Dès mardi, le collectif AC le Feu, qui s’est fortement impliqué pour inciter les habitants des cités  à se rendre aux urnes, a réclamé immédiatement une "bouffée d‘oxygène". "Le nouveau chef de l’État devra envoyer des signes forts en direction des quartiers populaires de l’ensemble des territoires de France, notamment en ce qui concerne la représentativité qui devra transparaître dès la mise en place de son gouvernement provisoire", écrit le collectif basé en Seine-Saint-Denis : un département où Hollande a fait mieux (65,32%) que dans son fief de Corrèze. Le même jour, le président algérien Abdelaziz  Bouteflika  a estimé que "seule une lecture objective de l’histoire" permettra à la France  et à l’Algérie "de transcender les séquelles du passé douloureux", ouvrant la voie à une énième repentance unilatérale. Hollande saura-t-il ne pas être l’obligé de cet important électorat ?

 RÉFLEXION SUR LE REGARD DE LA FRANCE PORTÉ SUR ISRAËL

Victor Perez

juif.org, 9 Mai 2012

Les ténors du Parti Socialiste ont tous nié, avant le second tour des présidentielles, que les imams de centaines de mosquées, ou encore le théologien Tarik Ramadan aient appelé à voter François Hollande. Au soir de sa victoire les drapeaux de l'Algérie, de Tunisie, du Maroc, d'Égypte, du Liban, ou encore de la « Palestine » ont flotté sur la place de la Bastille. Le drapeau français était, quant à lui, quasi absent. Intrigués, les journalistes de Khouspa Tv ont filmé ce qu'en pensent quelques jeunes militants sur place. Ils obtinrent quatre minutes de stupidités sur le conflit proche-oriental, d'accusations mensongères et de haine pure. Un anti-israélisme primaire partagé à n'en pas douter par un très grand nombre de français. Ce qui impose à tout quidam curieux un certain questionnement.
Comment en 2012, en France la Patrie des droits de l'homme, de telles idées nauséeuses peuvent êtres aussi répandues ?…

Le principal associé du PS, le Front de Gauche, préconise déjà des pressions commerciales, une suspension de l'accord d'association UE-Israël, et l'établissement de listes noires des entreprises israéliennes, françaises et européennes qui auraient un quelconque intérêt économique dans la « colonisation ». Listes établies dans l'objectif de les boycotter et les sanctionner.

Dialoguer ou tenir compte des besoins spécifiques d'Israël ? Quelle idée ! L'os de cette politique écœurante est que le deuxième belligérant est quant à lui systématiquement excusé si ce n'est pardonné. L'assassinat de civils Juifs, l'éducation à l'antisémitisme dans les écoles ou le refus de reconnaître le droit d'existence de l'État d'Israélien tant qu'état du peuple juif ne dérangent nullement les ??bonnes'? consciences françaises quelles soient, intellectuelles, politiques ou médiatiques. Position partisane qui autorise la pensée manichéenne et la mise à l'index de l'état juif par la collectivité.

Faut-il, après cela, s'étonner que la jeunesse soit inculte et haineuse ? Qu'elle descende manifester bruyamment dès que l'occasion se présente en scandant des slogans délégitimant et déshonorant l'état juif ? Que les politiques récupèrent ce mécontentement à leurs seuls profits en poursuivant et amplifiant leur condamnation systématique de « l'entité sioniste » ? Ou encore que les médias tenus par leur idéologie et la fidélité à leur clientèle éduquée à l'anti-israélisme reproduisent aussitôt en les développant les blâmes portés.

Bien sûr que non ! Ainsi la boucle est bouclée et l'espoir d'une marche arrière réduit à rien. Constat qui confirme un avenir sombre pour la France ainsi que pour la communauté juive qui y habite toujours.

FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE, INCH ALLAH
Guy Millière
dreuz.info, 9mai 2012

On parle et on parlera beaucoup encore dans les jours qui viennent des mutations politiques en cours. Un Président de la république s’en va et un autre le remplace. Des élections législatives auront lieu eu juin. On parle et on parlera beaucoup de politique politicienne : qui va s’allier avec qui, et qui peut gagner, ou perdre.
    On parlera de la situation économique du pays et de celle de l’Europe, mais en évitant de trop insister sur les sujets qui fâchent, tels l’endettement catastrophique du pays et les situations de banqueroute qui devraient s’ajouter les unes aux autres, dans un effondrement qui ressemblera, dans quelques mois, à celui d’un château de cartes. 
    On ne parlera pas de sujets pourtant tout aussi essentiels, voire davantage. La France, comme d’autres pays d’Europe, est en train de changer de civilisation. Le changement s’est trouvé enclenché bien plus tôt. Il se poursuit et s’accentue, et avec l’élection de François Hollande, et l’élection vraisemblable d’une majorité de gauche à l’Assemblée nationale dans les semaines à venir, ce changement va connaître une accélération difficilement réversible. 
    Ce changement a reposé depuis longtemps sur une destruction patiente des rouages économiques. La captation par le gouvernement de la richesse produite a augmenté au fil des années. Un nombre croissant d’entreprises ont été placées sous tutelle et en situation de dépendance par le biais de l’économie administrée jusqu’à ce que l’idée de liberté d’entreprendre soit asphyxiée. Un nombre croissant de gens ont été placés eux-mêmes en situation de dépendance par rapport au gouvernement : l’augmentation du nombre des fonctionnaires est allé de pair avec l’augmentation du nombre des chômeurs et des pauvres et avec la démultiplication des allocations versées aux chômeurs et aux pauvres. Comme les engrenages mis en place ont coûté de plus en plus cher et ont fini par coûter si cher qu’il n’a plus semblé possible de taxer beaucoup plus les strates encore actives et dynamiques, et comme les membres des strates encore actives et dynamiques ont commencé à prendre le chemin de l’exil, il a été décidé de recourir à l’endettement qui, lui-même est en train d’atteindre ses limites.
    Ce changement a reposé sur une destruction patiente de la logique et sur une délégitimation graduelle de ce qui a fait la fécondité du monde occidental. Les institutions d’enseignement ont diffusé au fil des ans des discours relativistes suggérant que tout vaut tout, qu’il n’y a plus ni bien ni mal, ni fécondité ni stérilité, que le capitalisme et le libre marché sont délétères, que le développement est destructeur, que l’être humain est une créature polluante, que l’État est bienveillant et doit disséminer une « justice sociale », que les droits fondamentaux sont des droits créances signifiant que chacun a le droit de tendre la main aux fins que le gouvernement distribue. La culture subventionnée a prolongé la destruction et la délégitimation venue des institutions d’enseignement. Les grands médias ont fait le reste.
    Ce changement a reposé sur une dissémination d’éléments de détestation vis-à-vis de la civilisation occidentale elle-même ou, tout au moins, vis-à-vis de ce qui dans la civilisation occidentale était porteur de fécondité. L’Occident a été accusé pour la colonisation, et seul l’Occident semble s’être rendu coupable de quelque chose: les empires non occidentaux ont été totalement exonérés. L’Occident a été accusé pour l’esclavage (ne parlez surtout pas d’esclavage africain ou d’esclavage musulman !), pour le « pillage » des richesses de la terre, pour « l’impérialisme » qu’il est censé avoir pratiqué, pour le racisme qui est censé avoir été son apanage, pour l’exploitation de l’homme par l’homme et l’exploitation de la nature par l’homme, et que sais-je encore.
     L’Occident a été accusé pour le nazisme et le fascisme, dont on a oublié au passage qu’ils ont été des excroissances monstrueuses du socialisme. Des pays occidentaux ont été les heureux bénéficiaires de doses de haine nettement plus intenses : les États-Unis, qui sont un pays abominable, sauf lorsqu’ils portent à la présidence un métis anti-américain d’extrême gauche. Israël, qui est aussi un pays abominable, sauf quand des Israéliens expliquent eux-mêmes qu’ils détestent Israël ou disent qu’ils voient dans des terroristes antisémites des gens désespérés en raison des crimes commis par Israël. 
    Ce changement, au nom de la lutte contre la xénophobie, est passé par la nébulisation dans l’atmosphère d’une xénophilie effrénée qui fait que tout discours sur l’identité nationale tenu par un occidental est décrété abominable, mais que tout discours sur l’identité nationale tenu par un non occidental est décrété admirable, ou que les critiques les plus viles du christianisme sont considérés comme courageuses et nécessaires alors que les critiques vis-à-vis de l’islam sont considérées comme infâmes et racistes vis-à-vis des membres de la race musulmane, inventée pour l’occasion.
    Nous sommes face au résultat. La victoire de François Hollande est celle d’un assemblage de gens qui ne comprennent plus comment la richesse se crée, ce que c’est que le droit, que la richesse n’est pas une substance qu’on peut prélever indéfiniment pour la donner à d’autres. Elle est celle d’un assemblage de gens qui n’ont plus de repères moraux et civilisationnels, et qui ne comprendront vraisemblablement rien quand l’effondrement généralisé de l’Europe viendra.
    Elle est celle des dogmes hétéroclites, simplistes et suicidaires de la gauche. Elle est celle aussi de ce qui a été le grand absent des débats entre les deux tours de l’élection présidentielle et qui restera sans doute le grand absent des débats qui précéderont les élections législatives : l’islam. Oui.
   Les dogmes de la gauche se sont faits les compagnons de route de l’islam en France. Au nom de la tolérance et de l’anti-racisme, ils entendent interdire qu’on évoque le totalitarisme islamique en train d’incendier tout le monde musulman, de l’Afghanistan à la Syrie, de la Turquie au Maroc, en passant par l’Égypte. Ils entendent imposer le silence face à l’extermination des Chrétiens en terres musulmanes et à l’antisémitisme virulent qui monte partout où règne la parole coranique.
    Au nom de la tolérance et de l’anti-racisme, ils entendent tout faire pour que ne soient pas évoquées les banlieues de l’islam, et l’existence en France et ailleurs en Europe d’un islam radical, intolérant, antisémite, anti-occidental.
   Au nom de la liberté de parole et des valeurs de la société ouverte, je dis qu’il faut évoquer le totalitarisme islamique qui monte à nos portes et qui a déjà, souvent, franchi la porte. Je dis qu’il faut parler de l’extermination des chrétiens en terre d’islam, de l’antisémitisme musulman, des banlieues de l’islam, de l’antisémitisme musulman et de l’existence de l’islam radical en France et ailleurs en Europe.
   C’est pour évoquer ces sujets que j’ai écrit, avec Daniel Pipes, un livre bref, et, je pense, indispensable en ces temps troublés. Il s’appelle Face à l’islam radical*. Il a été écrit pour poser les questions qui s’imposent, et pour proposer des réponses. La France, comme d’autres pays d’Europe, est en train de changer de civilisation, disais-je. Il est extrêmement tard pour aller contre le courant. Je veux de toutes mes forces penser qu’il n’est pas trop tard.
   Le soir du 6 mai, place de la Bastille, les drapeaux de tous les pays du dar el islam flottaient, triomphalement, accompagnés de drapeaux rouges ornés de la faucille et du marteau. Les drapeaux français étaient encore tolérés. Quelques drapeaux du mouvement gay étaient visibles : le mouvement gay est toléré, provisoirement, en ce qu’il détruit de l’intérieur la civilisation exécrée par l’islam. Je n’imagine pas que des drapeaux israéliens ou américains auraient eu leur place, sinon pour être brûlés ou piétinés.
   Dans les jours qui ont précédé le 6 mai, une vidéo a été mise en circulation sur le net, appelée 24 H avec FH. On y entend plusieurs fois : François Hollande Inch Allah. Ce n’est pas un hasard. Le vote du 6 mai n’a pas été seulement cela, mais il a été aussi cela : un vote François Hollande Inch Allah. La musique d’accompagnement n’est pas très Inch Allah : elle fait partie aussi de ce qui détruit de l’intérieur la civilisation exécrée par l’islam. C’est un rap de Kanye West, artiste noir gauchiste américain. Il y est question de « putes », d’alcool, de drogue et de « mother fuckers ». François Hollande Mother Fucker aurait été moins porteur sans doute que François Hollande Inch Allah.
   Daniel Pipes pense, comme moi, que rien n’est inéluctable. Nous expliquons dans Face à l’islam radical que rien n’est inéluctable, non, et nous expliquons ce qui se joue. Nous disons aussi qu’il est très tard pour réagir. Vraiment très tard.

 LES PERDANTS DE L’ACCORD LIKOUD-KADIMA

Gilles Finzi
guysen.com, 9  Mai 2012

Le coup d’éclat politique de Benyamin Netanyahou ce mardi 9 mai, aura eu le mérite d’apaiser les inquiétudes au sein de plusieurs partis. En formant la plus large coalition de l’Histoire de l’Etat d’Israël, en unissant Likoud et Kadima, le Premier ministre israélien a évité une périlleuse redistribution des cartes lors d’élections anticipées qui s’annonçaient pour début septembre.

Si c’est Kadima, qui semble avoir été sauvé d’un naufrage certain, qui sort avec le Likoud grand gagnant de la manœuvre, d’autres partis n’ont pas eu d'autre choix que de se résoudre à l’accord qui maintient l’actuelle Knesset, a priori, jusque fin 2013.
Tous les regards se tournent bien sûr vers deux partis, qui jusqu’ici pouvaient se targuer de faire la pluie et le beau temps au sein du gouvernement : Shass, et Israël Beitenou.
Avec le poids nouveau des 28 députés de Kadima, ils ne pourront plus menacer de faire tomber la coalition. Benyamin Netanyahou réduit ainsi sa dépendance à l’égard de partenaires certes conciliants mais exigeants.

Désormais hors de position de faire pression, ces deux partis de droite s’estiment du coup heureux de conserver des postes ministériels, alors que les sondages leur prédisaient, à eux aussi, la perte de plusieurs sièges à la Knesset. Même constat pour Yahadout HaTorah, sans parler d’un Ehoud Barak, dont le poids de son micro-parti Atsmaouth, est insignifiant.

Pour Benyamin Netanyahou en revanche, il s’agit d’une démonstration de force. Au plus haut dans les sondages, et plébiscité pour son action et son aura par les Israéliens, le Chef du gouvernement voit son influence on ne peut plus renforcée. Il contrôle plus que jamais la coalition, et ne craint pas l’éventualité d’élections anticipées si le nouveau Gouvernement s’avérait instable.

La stabilité, c’est d’ailleurs le mot d’ordre, de Benyamin Netanyahou. Il affirme avoir mis sur pied cette nouvelle équipe, pour doter Israël d’une assise ferme, face aux défis en tous genres qui l’attendent.

Shaoul Mofaz, de son côté, assure la survie politique au moins provisoire de Kadima, un parti dont il vient de prendre le leadership à Tsipi Livni, et obtient une place au sein du très stratégique cabinet restreint de sécurité. De quoi faire dire à certains que l’arrivée de cet ancien Chef d’État-Major de Tsahal renforce le sentiment d’imminence d’une importante opération, comme par exemple une intervention en Iran.

Autres grands perdants du deal, les travaillistes, qui espéraient gagner des sièges à la Knesset, en cas d’élections anticipées et qui se retrouvent de facto à la tête d’une mini-opposition en lambeaux. Mais aussi le tout nouveau mouvement de Yaïr Lapid, contraint d’attendre 1 an et demi dans l’opposition, sans le moindre député, de quoi diluer nettement l’effet « nouveauté » lors du prochain scrutin.

Une chose est sûre : c’est une leçon de réalisme politique que vient d’infliger Benyamin Netanyahou à tous ses adversaires.

SOCIÉTÉ ALLEMANDE:

"VOUS ÊTES UNE VRAIE JUIVE, MENTEUSE ET TRICHEUSE"

Philosémistisme, 7  Mai 2012

Une société allemande a présenté des excuses à une cliente en Israël pour l'envoi d'un email antisémite suite à un différend commercial. (Jerusalem Post)

Lars Adler, co-propriétaire de Hoff-Interieur, un fabricant basé à Nuremberg, s'est excusé pour un email envoyé à partir du compte de son entreprise à Eti Doron, qui tient un magasin de jouets à Tel Aviv.  L'email disait que les Juifs sont une maladie et faisait l'éloge de l'écrivain Günter Grass qui a accusé Israël d'être une menace pour la paix mondiale.

Lars Adler a déclaré que le message injurieux a été envoyé, à son insu lorsqu'il était à l'étranger, par son père, M. Walter Adler, le fondateur à la retraite de l'entreprise.

"Veuillez noter que nous regrettons sincèrement l'affront fait à Mme Doron, à sa religion et à votre peuple.  Nous sommes des personnes libérales, cosmopolites, ouvertes et commerçons avec le monde entier depuis de nombreuses années", a-t-il écrit au Jérusalem Post.

M. Adler a déclaré que son père, âgé de 75 ans, n'était plus impliqué dans la gestion de l'entreprise car les médecins avaient diagnostiqué il y a cinq ans qu'il souffrait d'une maladie mentale.

La semaine dernière Eti Doron a montré au JPost le message haineux que lui avait adressé Hoff-Interieur suite à l'annulation d'une transaction d'une valeur de 600 euros.

"Nous voyons que vous avez décidé d'être une vraie Juive, non seulement une menteuse mais aussi une tricheuse.  Votre comportement abominable nous a causé une grosse perte. Nous devons nous rappeler ce qui fut un aphorisme pendant des centaines d'années en Europe, que certaines personnes de votre origine sont la pestilence-la peste pour l'être humain. Nous n'avons jamais cru que c'était vrai, mais vous avez confirmé que c'est bien vrai."

NETANYAHU’S “BIG BANG”: FORMATION OF UNITY GOV’T A “GENUINE OPPORTUNITY” FOR REFORM

OUT OF SELF-INTEREST, GENUINE OPPORTUNITY
David Horovitz

Times of Israel, May 8, 2012

The cynicism that greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition agreement with Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz Tuesday is easily understood. Mofaz has made a gold-medal-worthy sprint from bitter foe to warm ally of the prime minister. One minute he was calling Netanyahu a liar and vowing never to negotiate with him. The next, they were Best Friends Forever, or at least until Netanyahu tires of him.…

Most of the analysts’ criticism has been heaped on Mofaz. Netanyahu achieved stability at almost no price—a single ministerial position for Mofaz when, three years ago, a partnership with Tzipi Livni’s…Kadima would have cost him half the seats at the cabinet table. Netanyahu brought 28 more seats into his coalition, but won’t have to compromise his agenda in the slightest to Kadima’s (insofar as it has one). He was able to stave off a confrontation with Likud hardliners over the composition of a Knesset slate for elections he never wanted. A win-win-win for him.

Mofaz, however, sold Kadima “like a stall-holder in Mahane Yehuda (vegetable market) minutes before Sabbath-eve closing time,” declared Channel 2’s political analyst Amit Segal. “It’s a complete capitulation.… The end for Mofaz.… The beginning of the end for Kadima.” Segal may well be right about that. If the great big new coalition achieves anything, it is the prime minister who will reap the political benefits when Israel does go to the polls next year. If all we see is 18 months of immobility…Mofaz will get the blame.

And yet the Netanyahu-Mofaz partnership really could produce change, if its protagonists follow through on their fine rhetoric.

It is hard to believe the alliance will have any great effect on peacemaking with the Palestinians, notwithstanding Tuesday’s appeals by both men to the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table.… Likewise, Mofaz’s presence at the cabinet table will have no impact on policy regarding Iran. If Netanyahu believes the Jewish State faces imminent annihilation, he will act. Until then, he won’t. Period.

And while Mofaz has made a transparently expedient attempt to recast himself as a champion of social justice, Kadima’s coalition presence is not going to spark a radical remake of government economic policy. Mass social protest might do that. Moaning from Mofaz will not.

Where promised electoral reform is concerned, however, progress in the next 18 months is conceivable—hard to believe, but not impossible. Netanyahu and Mofaz could take advantage of the new, rare marginalization of the smaller parties to change the system. The public wants a more accountable process for electing and rejecting its leaders; the politicians want a more manageable one.

But perhaps the greatest opportunity for real change with this new coalition is over legislation to require national service for all—notably including the ultra-Orthodox community. The national consensus is that the current situation—where a substantial part of the Jewish demographic is subsidized by the rest; where the burden of protecting the country is unfairly distributed; and where the norm of a mass of Jewish scholars studying rather than working full-time represents a stark departure from authentic Orthodoxy—is untenable and must change.

Here is an issue with wide public resonance. Here is an issue vital to Israel’s economic and security well-being. Here is an issue where reform is most emphatically in both the national interest and the narrow interest of our two new leaders. Here is an issue where progress would utterly silence the cynics.

REFORM TIME
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2012

At a press conference to announce their coalition agreement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and incoming Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz articulated four central goals. They plan to pass legislation that will obligate ultra-Orthodox yeshiva student to perform military or national service; they hope to pass a two-year fiscal budget; they want to advance “responsible” peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The two men also vowed to advance electoral reform aimed at fostering political stability.

The incorporation of Kadima to create the broadest coalition government in Israeli history, with 94 MKs, presents a unique opportunity. As early as October 1948, just months after the creation of the state, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, called to change the electoral system. About 10 bills calling for regional elections were presented to the Knesset between 1958 and 1988. However, all such attempts at reform were torpedoed by small parties that were members of consecutive government coalitions—especially religious parties that stood to lose the most.

These parties presently take advantage of the fundamental instability and chronic divisions that characterize our extreme proportional representation government, with its relatively low 2-percent threshold for election to the Knesset.… These sorts of governments tend to encourage the creation of political parties—such as the Pensioners Party, religious parties or Shinui—with radical or narrow agendas that represent only a fraction of the population or have fleeting popularity. Government coalitions are created by pulling together a patchwork of diverse factions. These governments are plagued with divisions and instability. In many cases, a single party can bring down a government, giving it inordinate leveraging power.…

It should come as no surprise that the average duration of Israeli governments between 2000 and 2009 was less than three years, much shorter than the world average. This has very bad ramifications for long-term government planning.… Now with a large, stable coalition, Netanyahu and Mofaz can act where previous political leaders failed.…

The benefits of regional elections, at least for some of the Knesset’s seats, are clear. Leaders with strong grassroots backing, chosen for their unique talents, pragmatism and ability to get things done, will be brought into politics. These men and women will be obligated to represent their constituency, not the party hacks.

Raising the threshold is another important step that should be taken. Until 1996, the two largest political parties combined consistently had more than 70 Knesset seats. Since 1999, the two largest political parties have had fewer than half the seats in the Knesset.…

Another reform that should be considered is increasing the number of Knesset seats. According to data presented by the Israel Democracy Institute, the ratio of MKs to citizens in Israel is one to 59,000, higher than in any comparatively sized European country.

The unprecedented size of the new government coalition and its consequent stability provides a unique opportunity to institute much-needed electoral reforms. We hope that Netanyahu and Mofaz will take advantage of this situation to help ensure that future governments enjoy similar stability.

UNITY GOV’T—OPPORTUNITIES AND DANGERS
Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2012

The dramatic coup by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz in forming a national unity government and setting aside elections until October 2013 has dazzled the nation.… In truth, beyond personalities and ambitions, there was no ideological obstacle preventing the Likud and Kadima, both essentially pragmatic (and opportunistic) centrist political parties, from forming a unity bloc.…

The vast majority of Israelis will undoubtedly welcome this move which, if managed effectively, could finally overcome the great divide which has so hurt the nation since the era of the Oslo Accords. The creation of a centrist government of 94 lawmakers also provides the possibility to tackle a host of major political, social and identity issues that were relegated to the back burner because of the excessive veto power of small hardline or one-dimensional parties which have until now controlled the balance of power in the Knesset.

It could make Netanyahu one of the most powerful prime ministers Israel has ever had.… It will also immensely improve his global standing and relationship with [US] President Barack Obama and the Americans in relation to the Iranian threat and Palestinian intransigency.

But Netanyahu is also taking an enormous risk. He was a virtual certainty to win the election, but if he mishandles this unity move, or due to time limitations fails to convince Israelis that the new government is determined to reform the system, this move could represent an end to his flourishing political career. It will require major legislation within nine to 12 months—a daunting but certainly not impossible challenge.

For Kadima and its leader Shaul Mofaz it represents a reprieve, because the party would have collapsed in an election, which explains its lack of concern for cabinet portfolios. Up to two-thirds of the sitting Kadima MKs would have been sent home if elections took place in September. Mofaz now has the opportunity—if he performs well—to regain the support of the electorate or to ultimately merge with the Likud.

The other beneficiary is Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, who now emerges as a genuine leader of the opposition and may concentrate on social and economic issues, and possibly at a later stage still join the government.

In my opinion there are five crucial issues which Netanyahu and Mofaz must overcome if they are to win over the public.

• The first could be the most crucial, because it will set the tone for the new government: to restore the concept of cabinet responsibility.

The worst manifestations of dysfunctionality in recent Israeli governments were the tendency of individual ministers and coalition parties to act as though they represented independent fiefdoms rather than being responsible members of government. Netanyahu must ensure that once the government adopts a position, any minister who feels obliged to make a critical statement must resign.

• The second issue, which seems to have been agreed upon in advance, is to introduce the long overdue and desperately needed electoral reform designed to stabilize the government and to weaken the power of splinter groups to veto the will of the people.

• The third issue, also apparently agreed upon in principle, will undoubtedly prove to be the most challenging: the desperate need to review issues of religion and state, which could never previously be dealt with rationally, due to the opposition of the haredi parties controlling the balance of power.

The replacement for the “Tal Law” and the introduction of a form of national service for all Israeli citizens—Arabs as well as haredim—must be implemented if the national rage and bitterness generated by the burgeoning draft exemptions is to be overcome.

There are other religious issues such as the role of the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts in relation to marriage and conversions, and the imperative of ensuring that future generations of ultra-Orthodox Israelis are equipped with the education required to enable them to earn a livelihood and not remain lifelong recipients of welfare.

This will require courage on the part of both Netanyahu and Mofaz, both of whom seek to nurture the political support of the religious parties. If they merely introduce cosmetic reforms it will lead to a massive backlash at the next elections and provide strength for opposition parties.

• Fourth, the government must continue along the path of economic reform, especially as the European economic meltdown is likely to affect Israel over the next 12 months. The main focus should be to continue breaking the excessive control of a few large groups which inhibit competition in the market.

• Finally, there is a need to initiate an ongoing review of the education system which currently encourages tribalization of society in lieu of cementing national unity. Whilst the haredi and Arab sectors require considerable autonomy, it is imperative that in the long term all streams be obliged to implement a core curriculum which incorporates minimum standards for secular subjects and in which an atmosphere of national volunteerism is nurtured.

Theoretically, these objectives could all be achieved in a limited time and would enjoy the enthusiastic support of most Israelis.…

NO IRAN DISSENSION WITHIN ISRAELI COALITION
Jonathan S. Tobin

Contentions, May 9, 2012

With the dust settling from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s brilliant political maneuver in which he vastly expanded his coalition and his power, the question remains what will he do with it in the next year? While Israelis seem more interested in domestic political implications of the move, not surprisingly, most foreign observers are focused on the impact of the new coalition on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. Some of Netanyahu’s frustrated critics are holding on to the hope that somehow the addition of Kadima head Shaul Mofaz will moderate the prime minister’s stand on the issue. But this is not only a misreading of Mofaz but of Netanyahu’s position.

As the prime minister demonstrated [yesterday] in his meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, far from Mofaz’s entry into the Cabinet acting as a restraint on him, the creation of a government that can count on nearly 80 percent of the Knesset means that when Netanyahu speaks now there can be no doubt that he represents a strong consensus within his country on the issue. By bringing Mofaz as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to speak to Ashton, Netanyahu demonstrated that there is across-the-board support for his demands that Iran’s nuclear program be stopped dead in its tracks.

Ashton, a virulent critic of Israel who has been ceded control of the P5+1 talks with Iran by President Obama, may have intended her visit to Israel as an opportunity to mend fences so as to allow her to continue the diplomatic minuet she is dancing with the Islamist regime to continue unimpeded by Israeli actions. But Netanyahu used the meeting to lay down the guidelines for the upcoming negotiations in Baghdad. As Haaretz reported:

“During the meeting, the Israelis presented a rigid set of demands for the Iranians.… Netanyahu and the three ministers told Ashton that Israel’s position leading up to the Baghdad talks is that the talks will be considered as progress only if they would yield an Iranian guarantee—with a clear timetable—to halt uranium enrichment, to remove all enriched uranium out of Iranian soil, and to dismantle the underground enrichment facility in Fordo, which is near Qom.”

In doing so, Netanyahu is attempting to box in the Western negotiators who have given every indication that they will be happy to allow the Iranians to drag out the talks and would be satisfied with a deal that would leave their nuclear program intact. These terms were delivered to Ashton, but the real audience for Israel’s position is in Washington.

Three years ago, President Obama may have entertained hopes about toppling Netanyahu, but now he is faced with the fact that the Israeli is stronger than ever. Though fears about a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran are probably exaggerated—Netanyahu would almost certainly not contemplate such an option while Western talks with Iran are ongoing —the new coalition will force the administration to stop listening to dissident Israeli voices carping at Netanyahu for his tough stance on Iran.

As Haaretz also notes, the idea that Mofaz disagrees with the prime minister on Iran is a misperception fueled by Israeli political maneuvering: “According to a report published by Israeli newspaper Maariv on Wednesday, several officials who took part in the coalitional negotiations between Mofaz and Netanyahu said the two are ‘coordinated’ over the issue of Iran and are ‘of one mind’ when it comes to stopping Iran’s nuclear program.”

Netanyahu knows Iran has no intention of giving up its nuclear chips in the current talks. He now has a broad government that will back him on any decision to take action. That places more pressure than ever on Obama not to allow the U.S. to be dragged into an unsatisfactory deal by Ashton that will have negative political repercussions at home and might force Israel to act on its own. Though the president may hope to kick the Iranian can down the road until after the fall U.S. elections, Netanyahu’s coup may have made it more difficult for the president to do so.