Tag: Shas

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

On Topic Links

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

COALITION TALKS ENTER OVERTIME

Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Allon & Yehuda Shlezinger

Israel Hayom, Feb. 28, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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ISRAELI POLITICS: ON THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Wed. Feb 27, 2013

                                     

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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BENNETT-LAPID: GENIUS TACTIC OR GROSS IRRESPONSIBILITY?

Gil Ronen

Israel National News, Feb. 25, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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


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Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

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.

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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

 

 

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

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

TU B’SHEVAT! POLITICS AND NEW LIFE—ISRAEL’S “SOFT-RIGHT” ELECTION , AND ISRAEL AS ANTI-SEMITES’ U.S. PROXY

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

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

 

 

 

Tu B'shevat: Chag Hailanot: Israel Forever, Jan 25, 2013—In Jewish tradition, Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of Trees is celebrated on the 15th (TU = ט"ו) day of the Jewish month of Shevat שבט, this year on January 25-26. This is one of the 4 New Years mentioned in the Mishnah, we honor this day when budding fruit enters a new year of life and the first bulbs of spring are beginning to bloom.

 

The Centrality of Politics: Israel’s Soft-Right Election and Foreign Policy: Frederick Krantz, CIJR Jan. 24, 2013— Israel’s election signifies three things.  First, the ever-green utility of the old aphorism, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”; second, what the great German historical-sociologist Max Weber called “the primacy of politics”; and third, the Israeli electorate’s strikingly broad “foreign policy” consensus on both the Palestinian and Iranian issues.

 

 

What the 'Lobby' Knows About Animus for Israel: Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, Jan.16, 2013—The confirmation process for those slated to guide American foreign policy can profitably be used to clear up at least one point of confusion. What's at issue is not the degree of their affection for Jews or for Israel. Never mind the Jews: Opposition to Israel camouflages a much more virulent hostility to America. How does an American statesman assess the anti-Jews who attack Israel as a proxy for this country?

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

The Settlements Don't Endanger Israel's Existence: Dani Dayan, Intelligence Squared, Jan. 21, 2013 (video)
Needed: War Against Jihadists: Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, Jan 18, 2013
The New World Disorder: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Jan. 21, 2013

Obama Second Term Bodes Trouble for Israel: Daniel Pipes, The Washington Times, Jan. 22, 2013

 

 

 

 

TU B'SHEVAT: CHAG HAILANOT

Israel Forever, Jan 25, 2013

 

Tu B'Shevat Higiya, Chag HaIlanot!

 

In Jewish tradition, Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of Trees is celebrated on the 15th (TU = ט"ו) day of the Jewish month of Shevat שבט, this year on January 25-26. This is one of the 4 New Years mentioned in the Mishnah. Known in Israel as "Chag HaIlanot" (Ilan אילן= tree), we honor this day when budding fruit enters a new year of life and the first bulbs of spring are beginning to bloom.

 

The spiritual connection of this special holiday is that this date is used to calculate the age of fruit-bearing trees in the Land of Israel. This is important for the practice of tithing, so that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years of a tree's life. The fourth year fruits were intended to be used in Temple ceremonies, based on Leviticus 19:23-25.

 

Additionally, knowing the age of a tree allows us to honor the law of shmitta שמיטה, when the fruit of the land in the seventh year cannot be eaten, used or sold.  The rabbis chose the 15th of Shevat because it is in the midst of Israel's rainy season, rather than during the seasons of agricultural planting. Thus, the fruit of the trees that bloom before Tu B'Shevat would be counted toward the previous year, and those budding after Tu B'Shevat would be the first fruits of the new "tree year." As the almond (shkediya שקדיה) trees and other early bloomers awake from the winter slumber…and a new fruit-bearing cycle begins. In honor of this beautiful holiday, it is traditional in Israel to eat fruits and grains that come from the land of Israel, particularly of the "Shivat Minnim," the seven biblical species:

 

1. Wheat – Chita חיטה

2. Barley – Se’orah שעורה

3. Grapes – Anavim גפן

4. Fig – Te’enah תאנה

5. Pomegranate – Rimmon רימון

6. Olive – Zayit זית

7. Honey – D'vash דבש

 

 

כי ה' אלוהיך מביאך אל ארץ טובה, ארץ נחלי מים, עיינות ותהומות יוצאים בבקעה ובהר, ארץ חיטה ושעורה וגפן ותאנה ורימון, ארץ זית שמן ודבש" דברים ח', ז-ח'

 

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey. (Deuteronomy 8:7-8)

 

Israelis commonly exchange gifts of dried fruit with loved ones, a tradition drawn from the years of Diaspora Jewish life in Eastern Europe and elsewhere when they couldn't get fresh fruits in the winter with which to celebrate. Today, in the markets throughout Israel, dates, pomegranates, olives, avocado, persimmon, oranges, carob, sabras (cactus fruit), and other beautiful fruits are transformed into delicious delectables to be shared by family and friends….

 

The most common tradition of all for the celebration of Tu B'Shevat is to plant new trees. While the holiday doesn't really have anything to do with planting trees, the idea may be borne from the mitzvah known as "yishuv ha'aretz," יישוב הארץ, settling the land. "I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage." (Shemot 6:8); “You shall possess the Land and dwell in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it” (Bamidbar, 33:53); “You shall possess it and you shall dwell therein” (Devarim, 11:31)

 

This doesn't only speak to the ingathering of Jews to make their homes in the Land of Israel. Yishuv HaAretz invites Jews from all over the world to join in the effort of working hand-in-hand with the land, to make the desert bloom, to grow roots in our ancestral soil, and to ensure another generation of trees will prosper for the next generation of Jews in Israel and throughout the world to enjoy.

 

"And when you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food…" (Leviticus19:23) וְכִי-תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, וּנְטַעְתֶּם כָּל-עֵץ מַאֲכָל    

 

As a result of this love for planting trees…Israel was one of the only countries to end the last century with more trees that it had 100 years earlier! Our connection to the land can be increased by learning of the significance of trees and their fruit to the life and land of the Jewish State….

 

 

 

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THE CENTRALITY OF POLITICS: ISRAEL’S

SOFT-RIGHT ELECTION AND FOREIGN POLICY

Frederick Krantz, Jan. 24, 2013
 

 Israel’s election signifies three things.  First, the ever-green utility of the old aphorism, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”; second, what the great German historical-sociologist Max Weber called “the primacy of politics”; and third, the Israeli electorate’s strikingly broad “foreign policy” consensus on both the Palestinian and Iranian issues.

 

 (1) All the major media, in Israel, North America and Europe, relying on multiple polls in Israel, wrongly predicted a massive right-wing electoral sweep.  And while that didn’t materialize (in fact Likud-Israel Beiteinu lost 11 of 42 seats), neither did the Left feel the wind beneath its sails–it did poorly, with Labour receding, and Tsipi Livni’s party getting 6 votes (plummeting from her former party, Kadima’s 29 tallies in 2009).

 

What Israel’s electorate in fact returned, upsetting all expectations, was a Right-Center  preponderance, clearly focused domestically on social and economic issues (and, in Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid’s 19-vote case, on IDF service for the ultra-Orthodox). (We will turn to foreign policy in a moment.)

 

(2) Max Weber, an opponent of Marxism, understood that while socio-historical dynamics involve economic, political, and cultural-ideological factors,  history above all rests upon, and is made by, politics.  Politics, not the economy, is the “independent variable”, and politics, in turn, has much to do with the intangible human qualities we call  leadership (it was Weber, after all, who invented the term “charismatic leader”).

 

And Israel’s election indeed turned on leaders, able and less able. Here three leaders, who organized and motivated coherent large-scale followings were key. Bibi Netanyahu, already twice prime minister, and clearly on the verge, despite losses, of organizing a third governing coalition; Yair Lapid, an actor and journalist, able to ride the wave of a domestically centrist movement with social concerns but which is, at the same time, as we shall see, “soft-right” in terms of security policy; and Naftali Bennett, of the Jewish Home party, taking right-wing and religious votes away from Likud-Beitenu with a clearly pro-settlements and anti-Palestinian platform. 

 

On the other hand, would-be leaders of leftist parties did not do very well. Shelly Yachimovich, concentrating wholly on domestic issues, led Labour to a disappointing, lacklustre finish; and Tsipi Livni (concentrating  on making peace with the Palestinians) fell off the electoral  cliff, barely making the cut with a miserable two seats for the “Tsipi Livni Party”.

 

So Israel’s election throws light on how politics both reflect, and shape, issues, and is in turn affected by leadership. And how, in democracies, politics and leadership largely

determine the outcome of elections.

 

Thirdly, Israel, alongside the election’s clear domestic emphasis, nevertheless also expressed a second, “soft-Right” regional-diplomatic-security consensus.  Here the pundits and pollsters again missed the boat: the key parties upon which a new, Netanhyahu-led  governing coalition will be based—Likud-Beitenu, Yesh Atid,  probably Shas and Jewish Home (both of which may well reach workable issues-related  compromises), and even, possibly, Tsipi Livni’s Kadima remnant, are united by a “go-slow” policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and a clear concern over Iran’s approaching nuclear capability…. 

 

Indeed, this right-center, or soft-Right, consensus is the election’s over-riding importance, given the gathering storm over Iran.  And it validates a key reason Netanyahu chose to hold the vote at this time in the first place: as a kind of referendum on his tough, “red-line” anti-Teheran security policy.

 

Here we should all recall another key variable facing Netanyahu, and Israel, American policy after Obama’s re-election.  Here my hunch—reinforced recently by his nomination of the Un-Holy Trinity of Hagel, Brennan, and Kerry (a trio which reminds one of FDR’s attacks on “Martin, Barton, and Fish”, three Republican isolationists), all clearly anti-Israel figures, to key Cabinet posts–is that Obama will not only not support an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations, but will work actively to prevent it. 

 

And—once the real meaning of the recent election becomes more clear–Obama will also do what he can to undermine the emerging “soft-Right” Israeli coalition probably emerging from the current political negotiations. (Here we should register his striking election-eve indication that he, Obama, knew better what was in Israel’s best interest than Netanyahu.)

 

All of which brings us back to Weber, politics and power—given that “big fish [try to] eat little fish”, can Israel defend its own national existence (which, in its neighbourhood, means survival) in the face of opposition, indeed, even undermining, by what is, after all, not only the world’s only super power, but Israel’s only ally?

 

It is an excruciating situation—how this struggle between survival and expediency, sovereignty and  intervention, will play out remains shrouded in the mists of the future. But some kind of final confrontation seems, and not too long off,  to be in the offing, and in this regard the recent Israeli election—which could, somewhat paradoxically, result in a broad-based  70+ vote Right-to-Center-Left national-unity coalition–may well prove providential.

 

(Professor Krantz is Editor of the Daily Isranet Briefing, and

Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

 

 

 

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WHAT THE 'LOBBY' KNOWS ABOUT ANIMUS FOR ISRAEL

Ruth R. Wisse

Wall Street Journal, Jan.16, 2013,

 

The confirmation process for those slated to guide American foreign policy can profitably be used to clear up at least one point of confusion. What's at issue is not the degree of their affection for Jews or for Israel—despite the consternation caused by the nomination for defense secretary of Chuck Hagel, who said in 2006: "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, but I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."

 

The Nebraskan's imputation of excessive Jewish influence in Washington is less worrisome than his failure to recognize why the "lobby" exists. Never mind the Jews: Opposition to Israel camouflages a much more virulent hostility to America. How does an American statesman assess the anti-Jews who attack Israel as a proxy for this country?

 

Let's start with basics: The cause of the long-running Arab war against the Jewish homeland is not Israel, it is Arab leaders' need for war against a "foreign intruder." Seven Middle East countries rallied their citizens by forming the Arab League in 1945 to prevent the creation of Israel. Failing in that effort, the Arab League eventually expanded to 21 members, which organized their domestic and foreign politics against the Jewish state. When Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt was suspended from the league, expelled from the Islamic Conference and ousted from other regional and financial institutions. Re-admission for Egypt came only after the assassination of Sadat and his successor's abrogation of almost every term of the treaty.

 

Opposition to Israel is the only glue of pan-Arabism and the strongest common bond of otherwise warring Muslim constituencies. Even those inclined to end the war are afraid of the consequences (including assassination) of giving up hostilities.

 

Like the anti-Semitism from which it derives, anti-Zionism is less about the Jews than about the larger aims of those aggressing against the Jews. When the League of Anti-Semites formed in Germany in the 1870s, its primary goal was to prevent the spread of liberal democracy. Rather than denounce a freer, more open society, the league called democracy the ruse that allowed Jews to conquer Germany from within.

 

In the same way, anti-Zionism today unites conservatives and radicals in the Middle East against all that Israel represents—religious pluralism, individual rights and freedoms, liberal democracy, and Western ideas of progress. Jews and Israel are merely a convenient face or emblem for the huger bastions of those same ideals. Israel, "little Satan," is a handier target than the "big Satan."

 

The Arab war against Israel has cost thousands of Jewish lives, but its damage to Palestinians is arguably greater, destroying the moral fabric of a society that was once relatively prosperous and culturally advanced. Anti-Jewish politics works by misdirection, drawing attention away from real concerns toward the alleged Jewish violator. Thus, Arab leaders who tried to deny Jews their country accused Jews of denying Arabs their country. To make the charge stick, the leaders have kept Palestinian Arabs in perpetual refugee status while millions of other refugees around the world—including 800,000 Jews from Arab lands—were resettled and started their lives anew.

 

Many societies have identified Jews as the threatening alien, but Palestinian Arabs are the first people ever to shape their national identity exclusively around opposition to the Jews. The special ingredient that sets Palestinian nationalism apart from that of surrounding Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—and reputedly makes it the strongest form of Arab nationalism—is the usurpation of Jewish symbols and history. The most important date in the Palestinian calendar is not any Arab or Muslim holiday or event, but the day of Israel's founding, commemorated as Nakba, the catastrophe that ostensibly spurred the creation of Arab Palestine. Commemorated as "Palestine's endless Holocaust," Nakba simultaneously libels the Jewish homeland and demeans the Shoah by appropriating the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews.

 

A new logo for the Palestinian political party Fatah claims the entire map of Israel. Fatah's rival, Hamas, is led by Khalid Mashaal, who recently called for the liberation of "Gaza today and tomorrow Ramallah and after that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa." Clearly, both factions remain more intent on destroying their neighbor than on bettering Palestinian lives.

 

A perfumer in Gaza has named his new fragrance "M-75" after the "pleasant and attractive" missiles used by Hamas to attack Israel. A Facebook FB +0.08% page for Fatah shows a mother strapping her child into a suicide belt; when he asks his mother why him and not her, the mother says that she must bear more children to sacrifice for Palestine. Civil war in Syria, turmoil in Egypt, crisis in Iran and an Islamist threat to Jordan—all follow from the same ruinous politics of grievance and blame.

 

Chuck Hagel does not have to like Jews, but if he expects to defend the United States, he needs to understand the nature and scope of the war against Israel, including its corrupting effect on Arab societies. The alignment between Israel and America is dictated by those who burn the flags of both countries on the same pyre. By contrast, those who lobby for Israel's protection axiomatically have America's back.

 

Ms. Wisse is professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard.

 

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The Settlements Don't Endanger Israel's Existence – They Guarantee It: Dani Dayan, Intelligence Squared, Jan. 21, 2013—YouTube video from the debate "Israel is destroying itself with its settlement policy: If settlement expansion continues Israel will have no future" which took place at the Royal Geographical Society on 15th January 2013.   

 

Needed: War Against Jihadists: Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, Jan 18, 2013—West faces Third World War against those who hate them. Today, the Middle East is increasingly being ruled by jihadists who hate the West, plot to target Western facilities and take Western hostages, and have an ever-growing land base from which to operate. How’s that working out for us?

 

The New World Disorder: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Jan. 21, 2013—John Brennan, Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry will be confirmed. The three will provide a force-multiplying effect on the Obama foreign policy of disengagement. The trio is less competent than their predecessors, but also perhaps more representative of a country on its way to a $20 trillion national debt and a “lead from behind” foreign policy of managed decline.

Obama Second Term Bodes Trouble for Israel: Daniel Pipes, The Washington Times, Jan. 22, 2013—The election is over, President Obama has just been sworn in for a second term, and cold treatment of Israel is already firmly in place. Mr. Obama has signaled during the past two months what lies ahead for U.S. relations with Israel through several actions.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

ISRAEL’S VOTE: DOMESTIC-ISSUES FOCUS, YES—BUT “SOFT-RIGHT” ON PALESTINIANS, IRAN

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

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

 

 

No, Israel Did Not Just Vote for the Center: Michael J. Koplow, Foreign Affairs, Jan. 23, 2013Yesh Atid, however, cannot be accurately described as centrist when it comes to the peace process. Lapid has stated that Jerusalem cannot be divided under any circumstances and insists that standing firm on this issue will force the Palestinians to recant their demand that East Jerusalem serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

 

Daunting Challenges Facing Netanyahu: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23, 2013The unexpected election results have created daunting challenges for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Many Israelis dislike Netanyahu. He has personality deficiencies and, like every Israeli leader since David Ben-Gurion, has made major mistakes.

 

Peace Process? Check the Back Burner: Mark A. Heller, New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013Skeptics like to say that the real Israeli election only begins after the votes are counted, because the electoral system makes it practically impossible for any single party to gain a majority. This week’s election confirms that pattern.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Elections Over, Now Israelis Will Have to Pony Up: David Lev, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 24, 2013

The Lapid Factor: David Rubin, Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan 23, 2013

Israel’s Elections: What Just Happened?: David Horovitz, Times of Israel,  Jan. 23, 2013

MainStreamMedia Bungles Israel’s Election: Walter Russell Mead, National Interest, January 23, 2013

 

 

 

NO, ISRAEL DID NOT JUST VOTE FOR THE CENTER

Michael J. Koplow

Foreign Affairs, Jan. 23, 2013

 

By the time Israeli voters went to the polls on Tuesday, the nearly universally accepted wisdom held that the right was ascendant. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's faction — which comprises his own conservative Likud Party and Avigdor Lieberman's even-more-conservative Yisrael Beiteinu Party — was poised to win almost twice as many seats as its closest challenger. Netanyahu's erstwhile chief of staff, Naftali Bennett, was leading the surging Bayit Yehudi, a right-wing nationalist party calling for the annexation of large swaths of the West Bank. These two parties alone were expected to win around 50 seats, which would put Netanyahu in a dominant position when it came to forming a governing coalition.

 

The parties considered to be left-wing and centrist, meanwhile, were floundering. The Labor Party, led by Shelly Yachimovich, was expected to win fewer than 20 seats — likely becoming the second largest party in the Knesset but still not achieving anything close to the dominance it enjoyed in the 1990s under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak. Hatnua, a new party chaired by Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who led Kadima to win more votes than any other party in the 2009 elections, seemed likely to take only a handful of seats.

 

Yesh Atid, helmed by the former newsman Yair Lapid, was expected to pull in a respectable ten to 12 seats — not bad for a newcomer but not enough to make much of a difference in the government. These three parties might have been able to defeat Netanyahu with a united front, but their leaders instead spent their time squabbling. All this — together with a Likud primary that expelled the party's moderates and elevated its hardliners, the emergence of Bayit Yehudi as a viable party to the right of Likud, and the expected increased presence of settlers in the Knesset — indicated that Israel was set to move further to the right.

 

Once the results of the voting began to roll in, however, a new narrative quickly emerged. Not only did the joint Likud-Beiteinu list do worse than anticipated, winning only 31 seats, but Lapid's Yesh Atid outperformed expectations, coming in second with 19 seats. Bayit Yehudi won 11 seats, a respectable showing but not the 16 seats some polls indicated it would receive. Finally, the far-left Meretz Party doubled its representation from three seats in the previous Knesset to six in the new one. Suddenly, observers who had just hours before spoken of Israel's rightward drift were proclaiming the center and left's comeback. The conventional wisdom about the election is now that Yesh Atid has reinvigorated the Israeli center, debunking the notion that Israel's electorate necessarily leans to the right.

 

The problem with this narrative, however, is that Tuesday's results were not really a victory for centrists and Yesh Atid is not really a centrist party. The largest vote-getter was still Likud-Beiteinu, made up of arguably the most right-wing version of Likud in the party's history and the nationalist and pro-settlement Yisrael Beiteinu. Bayit Yehudi also did well, and it will be the fourth largest party in the Knesset with 11 seats. On the left, Labor underperformed and could not even garner enough votes to win second place as expected. Livni's Hatnua, meanwhile, won fewer seats than even the parochial ultra-orthodox party, United Torah Judaism. Kadima, a real centrist party, has all but disappeared, plummeting from 28 seats to two. Even though the right-wing parties did not do quite as well as they had hoped, the larger picture does not support the claim that the center scored a great victory.

 

Furthermore, the grouping of Labor, Hatnua, and Yesh Atid under a centrist or center-left banner is analytically lazy. On economic issues, those three parties do indeed fall within the left and the center. On security and foreign policy issues, Labor and Hatnua are centrist as well. Yesh Atid, however, cannot be accurately described as centrist when it comes to the peace process. Lapid has stated that Jerusalem cannot be divided under any circumstances and insists that standing firm on this issue will force the Palestinians to recant their demand that East Jerusalem serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state. During the campaign, Lapid chose the West Bank settlement of Ariel as the place to give a major campaign speech calling for negotiations with the Palestinians, and declined to endorse a settlement freeze. None of this is enough to put him into the far-right camp, which rejects the two-state solution and calls for annexing the West Bank, but it also does not make him a centrist. In fact, Lapid's views on security issues are close to those that Netanyahu has publicly staked out.

 

The basic fact remains that the Israeli electorate leans right. Israelis are willing to negotiate with the Palestinians, but the violence of the second intifada and the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza have made them hesitant to support dramatic peace overtures. It would be a mistake, therefore, to see Netanyahu's losses as the result of a resurgent center. Likud's decline largely came from the hard-liners who left the party and jumped on the Bayit Yehudi bandwagon because they believed that Netanyahu was not committed to protecting the settlements and to holding on to the West Bank permanently.

 

Even Yesh Atid's gains can be attributed to some right-leaning voters' decision to abandon Netanyahu for Lapid, who presents a blander and more comforting version of right-wing politics, focused mainly on reviving the middle class. Nobody in Yesh Atid is advocating annexation, as some Likud members are, but Lapid also did not campaign on reviving the peace process, as Livni did. Lapid's brand of politics is reminiscent of U.S. President George W. Bush's so-called compassionate conservatism, which painted a moderate image but drew in right-leaning voters.

 

In short, neither the rise of Yesh Atid nor Likud's decline means that the Israeli center won. Rather, they show that the hard-line right opted to move even further right, and the non-ideological right opted to back a softer version of the agenda it already supported. 

 

 

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DAUNTING CHALLENGES FACING NETANYAHU

 

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23, 2013

 

The unexpected election results have created daunting challenges for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Many Israelis dislike Netanyahu. He has personality deficiencies and, like every Israeli leader since David Ben-Gurion, has made major mistakes.

 

But to his credit, over the past four years he has moved Likud to the center and achieved a national consensus. He succeeded in resisting concerted global pressures which would have undermined our security and has created an international awareness of the dangers of a nuclear Iran. He also made crucial strategic decisions that proved to be highly beneficial and undoubtedly provided greater security to the nation than his predecessors. Nevertheless, his electoral strategies proved disastrous….

 

However, the extraordinary success of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid may in the long term prove a blessing for both Israel and Netanyahu. It may enable him to introduce highly overdue domestic reforms and to chart a balanced approach toward the Palestinians on behalf of a broad national government.

 

In viewing this, one must dismiss the media nonsense that the elections created an evenly balanced Right–Left division. Setting aside the fact that such terms are meaningless in this context, a government dependent on the support of 12 overtly anti- Zionist Arab MKs is inconceivable.

 

Nor has the nation moved to the Right. The elimination of liberals and the success of hard-liners in the Likud primaries reflected internal party machinations rather than a genuine national shift to the Right. However this cost Likud votes and Netanyahu’s subsequent efforts to compete for hard-right voters may have been counterproductive.

 

This election was not a vote of no-confidence in Netanyahu’s handling of the peace process, relations with the United States or foreign affairs. The only parties directing the campaign against Netanyahu’s external policies were Meretz and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, both of which combined only obtained 12 seats.

 

Despite some lip service criticizing the government handling of negotiations, the major opposition parties concentrated primarily on domestic social issues. In particular, Yair Lapid’s challenge against ultra-Orthodox extremism – his call to engage them in the draft or take up gainful employment, attracted many voters. In terms of foreign affairs, despite the massive decline of support for Likud Beytenu, the vast majority of the electorate still prefer Netanyahu over all other candidates to retain the leadership.

 

A consensus prevails among Israelis supporting Netanyahu’s view that it is impossible to achieve peace with the Palestinians under their current leadership. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is now perceived as a charlatan, speaking with a forked tongue and committed to ending Jewish sovereignty no less than is Hamas. His comments this week regarding Zionist collaboration with the Nazis should not be surprising given his doctorate was premised on Holocaust denial.

 

However, most Israelis have no wish to absorb and rule over millions of Palestinians and oppose annexing the territories or creating a binational state. They favor the status quo, but only until such time as a genuine peace partner emerges and a Palestinian state no longer threatens Israel’s security. Thus, in the present climate, most Israelis back Netanyahu’s unwillingness to make further concessions and endorse his efforts to achieve interim solutions….

 

In this environment, with the Europeans ready to impose more unrealistic demands upon us, our ties with the US are more crucial than ever. Yet recent signals from the US administration are troubling. Obama has nominated as defense secretary a man with a consistent record of hostility toward Israel and opposition to any form of military action against Iran.

 

Obama’s offensive remarks on the eve of the election that he has a better understanding of Israel’s needs than Netanyahu represented blatant interference in a sovereign country’s domestic affairs and a display of contempt for an ally. Should Congress provide Obama with a free hand, over the next four years he could make our life extraordinarily difficult.

 

The US could suspend employing its veto against one-sided UN votes sanctioning Israel; there may be calls to accept the indefensible ’49 armistice lines as borders (with swaps which the Palestinians will never agree to); requests for additional territorial concessions to the Palestinians without reciprocity; demands for a settlement freeze including within the major settlement blocs and Jewish Jerusalem; pressure to divide Jerusalem, despite the fact that even most Israeli Arabs prefer to remain under Israeli sovereignty.

 

However, despite Obama no longer requiring votes or support for re-election and despite his obvious dislike of Netanyahu, he cannot simply ignore or overrule the wishes of Congress. Fortunately, as of now, the US-Israel relationship remains solid and Congress is committed to retaining the alliance.

 

To retain our strong ties with Congress and the American people, Netanyahu must create a broad government and demonstrate that he is acting on behalf of the entire nation. He would then have the ability to make concessions on secondary issues while remaining firm on those matters that can impact on Israel’s basic security requirements. He would also be able to demonstrate to the world that his policies are supported by the vast majority of Israelis and expose the falsehood of liberals seeking to depict Israel’s policies as being based on hard right influences rather than a national consensus.

 

The principal obstacle which could thwart this would be his inability to retain support of both Shas and Yesh Atid and also respond to popular demands that haredim participate in the draft or national service and become encouraged to work for a livelihood rather than being lifelong recipients of welfare.

 

This will undoubtedly represent a key condition for Lapid joining the government and Shas (many of whose supporters, unlike United Torah Judaism, serve in the IDF) will be under pressure to compromise on this issue. If Shas, Yesh Atid, Kadima and Bayit Yehudi join Likud-Beiteinu to form a coalition, Netanyahu would then preside over a stable government based on 74 MKs not subject to intimidation by any single faction.

 

The effervescent Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi, whose dramatic surge was also a highlight of the election, will be obliged to overcome his previous confrontations with Netanyahu and control the extremists in his party. Failure to create a broad coalition would confront Netanyahu with a nightmare situation of heading a narrow government whose policies would be subject to the veto of haredim or ideological hardliners promoting annexation and convinced that we can stand alone without the support of a superpower.

 

Under such circumstances no stable government could be formed. The chaos arising from this would undermine our ability to confront our adversaries and withstand global pressures. To avert this situation, we are entitled to demand that our political representatives behave as patriotic Israelis, suspend their differences and collaborate to promote the national interest.

 

 

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PEACE PROCESS? CHECK THE BACK BURNER

 

Mark A. Heller

New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013

 

Skeptics like to say that the real Israeli election only begins after the votes are counted, because the electoral system makes it practically impossible for any single party to gain a majority. This week’s election confirms that pattern.

 

As expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged as the leader of the largest party. However, the reduced plurality of his Likud Party (which merged with Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Is Our Home) will further complicate the task of assembling a majority that can satisfy the policy preferences and personal ambitions of both his partner parties and his own base….

 

So to the question that most non-Israelis are asking — “What do the elections mean for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?” — the answer is, “Not much.” Despite relatively impressive macroeconomic performance, Israelis have been increasingly incensed by such issues as the unequal distribution of the benefits and burdens of growth, “sweetheart” wage agreements in some sectors of the public service, overcrowded hospitals, and unaffordable housing, especially for young people.

 

The year 2011 witnessed the largest and most sustained social protests in recent history, and in the month before the vote, news of an unexpectedly large budget deficit concentrated attention on the prospect of spending cuts and/or tax increases. A poll released just before the election showed that for 60 percent of potential voters, socioeconomic issues were the primary concern, with security second, at 19 percent, and peace a poor third, at 16 percent.

 

In other words, two months after a brief little war in Gaza, the prism through which much of the outside world views Israel — the conflict with the Palestinians and its possible resolution — now barely figures on the Israeli radar screen….

 

The reason is not that Israelis are opposed to the conventional formula for peace — “Two states for two peoples” — or even merely ambivalent. Surveys have for years shown a consistent majority of between 60 and 70 percent endorsing the principle. Instead, the explanation lies in the lack of felt urgency — certainly as compared with domestic economic and social challenges and even with the temporarily dormant Iranian nuclear threat — coupled with cumulative fatigue at the futility of all previous efforts.

 

As a result, the next Israeli government, regardless of its precise composition, will almost certainly not undertake any major new initiative on this issue. Its leader and most of its prospective members will in any case not be inclined in this direction, and they will not be pushed by public opinion to become more proactive.

 

The Israeli election will not revive the moribund peace process. The only thing that might conceivably do that is a deus ex machina named Barack Obama. By clearly communicating that some positive movement is necessary to sustain the vibrancy and intimacy of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, Obama can provide for Israelis the sense of urgency they do not feel….

 

Finally, nothing Obama does can be effective unless it fully complements an equally visible redefinition by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of the purpose of the process. For while Obama may inject an element of urgency, only Abbas can dispel the sense of pointlessness — by clearly communicating that positive movement will culminate not just in Israeli concessions on territory but also in a definitive termination of the conflict, the renunciation of any further claims, and the peaceful coexistence of two states for two peoples.

 

If Abbas is not inclined to move in this direction, or if his own political constraints prevent him from doing so, then the Israeli election will continue to resonate inside Israel but it will quickly fade from everyone else’s view.

 

Mark A. Heller is principal research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University, and editor of the quarterly journal, Strategic Assessment.

 

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Elections Over, Now Israelis Will Have to Pony Up: David Lev, Arutz Sheva, Jan. 24, 2013Among the edicts Liebman expects to be enacted: a 2.4% average increase in municipal taxes; 2.8% higher costs for water; 10%-15% more money to be laid out on electricity bills; and increases in food, fuel, and housing costs.

 

 

The Lapid Factor: David Rubin, Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan 23, 2013—After Likud-Beytenu’s Pyrrhic victory in Tuesday’s elections, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu now faces the formidable task of piecing together a new coalition. Given the diverse group of potential partners, this will be no easy feat.

 

Israel’s Elections: What Just happened?: David Horovitz, Times of Israel,  Jan. 23, 2013—Israel voted for change, and moved a little from right to center; Lapid is the big success but Netanyahu is still a winner, albeit battered and constrained.

 

Analysis: A Vote for Internal Change: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 23, 2013After slogging through a dead, relatively uneventful campaign, the Israeli electorate went to the polls Tuesday and sent their leaders an unmistakable message: Change.

 

MSM Bungles Israel’s Election: Walter Russell Mead, National Interest, January 23, 2013The story as far as we’re concerned is the spectacular flop of the West’s elite media. If you’ve read anything about Israeli politics in the past couple weeks, you probably came away expecting a major shift to the right—the far right. That was the judgment of journalists at the NYT, WSJ, BBC, NBC, Time, Reuters, Guardian, HuffPo, Slate, Salon, Al Jazeera, and countless others.

 

 

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

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

 

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 
 

Contents:                          

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

MAKING CONSERVATIVE CHOICES

David M. Weinberg

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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WEAK NETANYAHU FINISH SUGGESTS UNWIELDY COALITION

Joshua Mitnick

Wall Street Journal, Jan 18, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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UNSEATING NETANYAHU A TRICKY GAME

Matthew Fisher,

Postmedia News, Jan. 20, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

WHY ISRAEL HAS SHIFTED TO THE RIGHT

Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary, Dec. 20, 2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Evelyn Gordon

Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan. 3, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Donniel Hartman

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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