Tag: Tzipi Livni

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

 

 

Articles:

Netanyahu Faces Wild Cards in Early Elections

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

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

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

 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Murdoch: 'Nightmare for Israel' If Obama Wins

Candidly Speaking: On Israeli Racism and Democracy

Netanyahu: My Gov't Brought Security Back To Israel
 

 

NETANYAHU FACES WILD CARDS IN EARLY ELECTIONS

Dan Perry

Times of Israel, Associated Press, October 15, 2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE CENTER

 

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

 

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

 

A RIVAL

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE GENERAL

 

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

 

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

 

DEFECTIONS

 

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

 

IRAN

 

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

 

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

 

IT’S THE ECONOMY

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Yossi Verter

Ha'aretz, October 11, 2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

A MORE REALISTIC ELECTORAL REFORM PLAN
David Gleicher

Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2012

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________________________________

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles:

Netanyahu Faces Wild Cards in Early Elections

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

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

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

 

On Topic Links

 

Murdoch: 'Nightmare for Israel' If Obama Wins

Candidly Speaking: On Israeli Racism and Democracy

Netanyahu: My Gov't Brought Security Back To Israel
 

 

NETANYAHU FACES WILD CARDS IN EARLY ELECTIONS

Dan Perry

Times of Israel, Associated Press, October 15, 2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE CENTER

 

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

 

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

 

A RIVAL

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

THE GENERAL

 

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

 

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

 

DEFECTIONS

 

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

 

IRAN

 

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

 

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

 

IT’S THE ECONOMY

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Yossi Verter

Ha'aretz, October 11, 2012

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

A MORE REALISTIC ELECTORAL REFORM PLAN
David Gleicher

Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2012

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________________________________

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

ELECTIONEERING: “UNNECESSARY” AND “UNHELPFUL,” OR WILL NEW PLAYERS SHAKE UP ISRAEL’S POLITICAL ARENA?

On Wednesday, Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) submitted a bill to dissolve Israel’s parliament, raising the prospect of an early election to take place on September 4.

 

The bill is expected to be approved by Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday, which will accelerate the legislative process and put the bill to a preliminary Knesset vote on Monday. The bill’s first, second and third readings are likely to take place on Tuesday; the last day of the 18th Knesset is expected to be on Wednesday, May 9, during which the final legislation will be approved.

 

Sources in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office say Binyamin Netanyahu would like to hold an election as soon as possible, to take advantage of his Likud Party’s commanding lead in public-opinion polls and a fractured opposition.

 

Meanwhile, 62 percent of Israelis do not think an election is necessary, and only 27% say an early vote will be for the good of the country.

 

ELECTIONEERING
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2012

If Israeli voters—the onlookers in our political arena—paid discerning attention, they would have noticed a surreal spectacle Tuesday. Just as one political aspirant—Yair Lapid—entered the fray, another contender—Tzipi Livni—proclaimed her exit. It almost looked synchronized, as if one hyped political wunderkind replaced the other neatly and instantly, leaving no gap in the overnight-star category.

In many ways Lapid and Livni seem to be cut from the same cloth. They subscribe to no clear creed or set of values. Indeed, it’s hard to pin down what they stand for. Though they profusely laud their self-professed principles, they rarely, if ever, elaborate. The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that they are ideologically pliable and that they tout this as an asset rather than as a liability. It’s as if articles of faith are undesirable in our present-day political discourse.…

No wonder the hottest speculation at the moment is whether Livni will join Lapid and whether the twosome will run in tandem. Such guesswork presents compelling testimony to the trifling tidbits that preoccupy us. The big picture and undiminished existential dangers pale before headline-grabbing and ratings-generating inconsequentialities.

This is perhaps why our society rushes headlong into early elections, without consideration for the price and ramifications. No government in recent years has lasted a full term (though the present one did better than most). Untold sums go to waste for party financing and mounting costly campaigns more often than democracy mandates.…

But worst of all is the warping of our national agenda at times of increasing peril. Instead of focusing on our collective self-preservation, we’re too frequently gripped by inordinately prolonged campaigns that drag out for at least six months.…

When the superfluous electioneering din dies down, we’ll be left with all that weighed heavy upon us previously—the threat of a nuclear Iran, Palestinian pressures, the perfidy of the Arab Spring, our frayed socioeconomic fabric, the real estate bubble, the cashed-strapped educational framework, health system, police force, public transport networks, etc. None of this will go away.

And, last but hardly least, who will be charged with tending to all the above? In all likelihood it will be another fragile coalition, concocted from yet another ragtag assortment of factional splinters, each of which will extract all it can as the price for its cooperation.

In other words, the odds are that we will be back just where we now are.

NETANYAHU, LIKUD STAND TO GAIN FROM EARLY ELECTIONS
Jonathan Spyer
Pajamas Media, May 2, 2012

Israel will have an election on September 4, and polls indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party will be re-elected to lead the government.

A recent poll by Yediot Ahronot and the Dahaf Institute suggests Likud would become the largest party, increasing its presence in the 120-member Knesset from 27 seats to about 30. The same poll shows the opposition Kadima Party, which recently chose former general Shaul Mofaz as its new leader, would suffer a drastic fall from 28 seats to only 10.

The splits among Likud’s other rivals also show a strengthening of the party. Labor, which has embraced social issues, would grow from eight seats to 18, while a new centrist party created by former journalist Yair Lapid called Yesh Atid (There’s a Future) would take 11 seats. [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebrman’s] Yisrael Beiteinu party would shrink from 16 seats to 13.

If this poll proves accurate, Netanyahu will have a variety of options when it comes to forming a new coalition. Neither Kadima nor Labor nor Lapid’s party have ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. The prime minister might choose to construct a center-right government or a right-religious coalition of the type that currently exists, depending on the parliamentary arithmetic and his own preference.…

Contrary to frequent foreign perceptions, Netanyahu’s governing style is characterized in practice by extreme caution and a desire not to move far beyond the existing consensus. The last three years have witnessed an unfamiliar quiet on the security front and an economic stability currently rivaled by few countries in the West. A solid centrist consensus of Israelis has concluded that—for the moment—there is no real partner on the splintered Palestinian political scene for making diplomatic progress, and that there are deep concerns regarding the chaotic neighborhood emerging in the wake of the Arab upheavals of 2011. Iran and its ambitions are also a matter of grave import.

In such an environment, it is not hard to see why a pragmatic hawk of Netanyahu’s stripe looks like a “safe pair of hands” to many voters.…

ISRAEL GOES TO ELECTIONS
Barry Rubin

Rubin Reports, May 2, 2012

Israel is going to have elections on September 4 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly win by a big margin. Understanding why explains a lot about the country that people think they know the most about but in fact comprehend the least.…

One key element in this equation is that the country is doing pretty well. True, it faces serious security problems but that’s the norm for Israel. Indeed, with no other trusted leader on the horizon, Netanyahu is the one most trusted to manage that dangerous situation.

True, too, there have been real social problems due largely to the gap between low salaries and high living costs that especially hurts younger people and provoked protests last year.… [However], Israel’s economy is doing [relatively well], including low unemployment, low inflation, and manageable state debt. In contrast to other Western economies, Israel’s government has avoided high government spending, unsustainable subsidies, and huge debt.

A third factor is the total fractionalization of the opposition. Indeed, one might speak of Netanyahu and the seven dwarfs. Aside from Kadima there are three other mid-sized parties that take votes from the same potential constituency and quarrel among themselves:

-Kadima, the main opposition party which is vaguely centrist, is so discredited by its former, failed leader Tzipi Livni that it will not be saved by its new head…from losing [upwards of] 20 of its current 28 seats.

-Labor, which has reinvented itself as a social issues party and has an untested [new] leader, [Shelly Yachimovich]…might come in a distant second.

-A new centrist party [led by Yair Lapid]…pushes the same secular centrism that has repeatedly produced one-election parties before.

-Israel Our Home, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, has a solid base among immigrants from the former Soviet Union but by that very fact—and given the fact that Lieberman is widely disliked and close to indictment—should hold but not expand its base.

It is ironic to think that the Obama Administration, whose ignorance of Israel and its politics cannot possibly be overestimated, thought it was going to bring down Netanyahu and replace him with a more pliable Livni. In fact, by its periodic bashing of Israel and ham-handed Middle East policy promoting Israel-hating Islamists, Obama unintentionally mobilized domestic support for Netanyahu.

Speaking about myths about Israel and Israeli politics here are corrections for some of the main ones:

-In contrast to the prevailing myth abroad, Netanyahu is no longer a “right-winger” in the way he was 15 years ago. He has moved into the center, a key factor explaining his success.

-Contrary to others who haven’t followed events closely, Israelis do not believe they have a peace option at present, with the Palestinians uninterested in a deal and Egypt, Iran, Turkey, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria in an all-out hostile mode.

-Despite claims that Obama has proven his support for Israel, among Israelis—even if some think Obama is a nice guy—there is no faith in US backing given the Obama Administration’s views and actions.…

THE LESSON OF LIVNI’S RESIGNATION:
DON’T BELIEVE MEDIA REPORTING ON ISRAEL
Evelyn Gordon

Contentions, May 1, 2012

Former opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s resignation from the Knesset [on Tuesday] offers a good opportunity to reflect on just how unreliable mainstream media reporting about Israel often is.

Just two months ago, Newsweek and The Daily Beast put Livni on their lists of “150 women who shake the world,” describing her as “one of the most powerful women in [Israel].” Yet while that was undoubtedly true a few years ago, by the time the Newsweek list came out in March 2012, Livni was almost universally regarded as a has-been even by her erstwhile supporters.

In an editorial published later that month, for instance, Haaretz mourned that in the three years since her “praiseworthy” decision not to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in 2009, “she has not missed a single opportunity to make a mistake: She did not function as an opposition leader, she did not offer an alternative to the government’s policies and she did not lead her party wisely and set clear policy.” In a poll published just four days after the Newsweek list, the public ranked Livni dead last among 16 leading Israeli political figures.… And three weeks later, Livni’s own party unceremoniously dumped her: She lost Kadima’s leadership race by a landslide 25-point margin. Now, her political career in ruins, she is even quitting the Knesset.

That Livni was a has-been by March 2012 was obvious to anyone who had even cursory familiarity with Israel. Thus, either Newsweek and The Daily Beast were completely ignorant of the Israeli reality, or they deliberately disregarded the facts in order to promote their own agenda: Livni, after all, is a darling of the international media, because as Newsweek said in its profile, she is “a steadfast proponent of the peace process.…” Regardless of which explanation is true, the bottom line is the same: Their reporting on Israel can’t be trusted.

Nor is this problem unique.… [Just this week], The New York Times deci[ded] to play up former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s [recent] verbal attack on Netanyahu…as something that “may add to recent pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to tack to the left.” [But] anyone with any knowledge of Israel knows that Olmert has virtually no political support, being widely viewed as both corrupt and incompetent.…

The media’s job is supposed to be informing the public. But when it comes to Israel, it often seems to prefer misinforming the public. By portraying…Livni and Olmert as important and influential politicians, media outlets make it impossible for readers to understand the real Israel—the one that elected Netanyahu in 2009 and seems likely to re-elect him this fall.…

BIBI’S POLITICAL INHERITANCE
Yossi Klein Halevi

Tablet, May 1, 2012

Benzion Netanyahu, scholar of the Inquisition, secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and father of Bibi, was the last of the purist Revisionist Zionists. He carried Revisionism’s bitter battles against the Zionist left to the end of his 102 years. And his complicated relationship with his son tells the story of the successes and failures of the Revisionist movement.

Through the 1930s and ‘40s, Revisionist and left-wing Zionists argued vehemently about the nature of the future state and how to create it. Labor Zionists were socialists, Revisionists capitalists. Labor cooperated with the British mandate; the Revisionists revolted. And Labor accepted the division of the land of Israel, while Revisionists opposed every partition plan, including the first partition in 1922, which created the Kingdom of Jordan. The future state, argued Jabotinsky, would need ample borders in which to accommodate millions of future Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The most profound debate between Revisionism and Labor concerned the nature of the Zionist transformation of the Jew. All Zionists agreed that the Jewish character had been distorted by exile; the question was what aspects of that personality needed to be changed. Labor advocated a total overhaul: a secular socialist Jew, freed of piety and economic marginality, a farmer and a worker. Revisionism, though, had only one demand on the new Jew: Become a soldier. Jabotinsky didn’t care whether Jews were Orthodox or atheist, workers or businessmen—so long as they knew how to defend themselves.

A key component to self-defense is the ability to perceive threat. And with the rise of Nazism, Revisionism’s insistence on Jewish power became a war against Jewish complacency and self-delusion. In speeches across Eastern Europe, Jabotinsky urged young Jews to learn to shoot and prepare to get out. Es Brent a fire, he warned, a fire is burning. Destroy the exile before the exile destroys you. Jabotinsky’s opponents mocked him as a fear-monger.

Of all the divides separating Revisionism and Labor, the failure of the mainstream Zionist movement to sense the approaching abyss and attempt to rescue Europe’s Jews remained perhaps the most bitter. Zionism, the antidote to Jewish wishful thinking, had, under Labor, been guilty of that worst Diaspora character flaw, and at the worst moment in Jewish history.

In the early years of the state, [therefore],…what Revisionism retained most urgently wasn’t so much ideology but sensibility. Jewish naivete, Revisionists insisted, had been the indispensable partner of the Final Solution. That is what kept the victims from listening to Jabotinsky and fleeing in time. The Nazis played on Jewish hope, reassuring their victims through a series of linguistic deceptions that ended with the showers. What remained of Revisionism was its 11th commandment: Don’t be a fool.

Then came the Six Day War. Suddenly territorial maximalism was relevant again. The new 1967 borders weren’t the same borders Revisionists had dreamed of, but they were close enough. History had compensated the Jews for its territorial losses. Not one inch, vowed Jabotinsky’s heir, Menachem Begin.

Ten years later, in 1977, came the moment the Revisionists had longed for and almost despaired would ever come. After 29 years in opposition—along with two decades in opposition before statehood—Begin finally rose to power. And then, almost immediately, came the shattering. When Begin agreed to cede all of Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt, one of his strongest critics from the right was Benzion Netanyahu.…

But the cruelest blow to Benzion came from his son. A political rift between them opened during the election campaign of 1996, when Bibi declared that he would accept the Oslo Accords, while insisting on Palestinian reciprocity. Benzion was outraged. Bibi tried to explain that his endorsement of Oslo was only tactical. Benzion countered: What begins as tactical ends in a betrayal of principle.

Benzion was right. In his second term Bibi became the first Likud leader to accept the principle of a two-state solution, the possible withdrawal from the second bank of the Jordan. While most of the international community missed the significance of Bibi’s historic concession, his father surely did not. Under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Revisionist ideology was buried in a state funeral. Yet even as he rejected the practicality of his father’s territorial maximalism, Bibi remained faithful to his father’s sensibility.…

It is precisely that dread of Jewish self-deception that has defined the politics of Benzion’s son. Don’t believe the Palestinian leaders when they speak about peace in English and jihad in Arabic, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned in his first term. And do believe the mullahs when they threaten to destroy the Jewish state, he now warns in his second term.

The war between the heirs of Labor and the heirs of Revisionism is no longer over ideology, but sensibility. Labor won the debate over partition: A strong majority of Israelis backs a two-state solution. Yet that same majority wants the Labor ideology of partition to be implemented by the Revisionist sensibility of wariness. And that is what Benzion’s son has committed himself to do. Not to preserve greater Israel at all cost, but to negotiate a safe partition if that becomes possible. A partition without wishful thinking.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has forever changed Israel’s political map and, in so doing, helped prepare the way for an eventual agreement with the Palestinians. That is not the victory Benzion hoped for. But it is, in its painful way, a vindication of the politics of realism he taught his son.