Tag: Yair Lapid

ISRAEL IS “GLOBALIZED, OPEN AND DEMOCRATIC”, DESPITE WARNINGS FROM THE LEFT, HA’ARETZ, & NYT

Israeli Democracy is Not at Risk: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 3, 2017— The Economist last week released its annual global democracy index. Not surprisingly, Israel scored high.

How Israelis See the Settlements: Yossi Klein Halevi, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2017— A billboard near the highway entering Jerusalem proclaims in Hebrew: “The Time for Sovereignty Has Come.”

A Leader in Waiting, Lapid Slowly Builds a Doctrine for the Trump Era: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017 — Squandering the political capital created by the arrival of US President Donald Trump at the White House on settlement building would be a historic mistake, according to former minister Yair Lapid…

Netanyahu Messed Up But it is Time to Move Forward: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 16, 2017— Enough is enough.

 

On Topic Links

 

Amid UN Warning, Israel Set to Pass Historic Settlements Bill: Gil Hoffman, Udi Shaham, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 2017

It’s Time Canada Ended its Double Standard that Considers Israeli Settlements ‘Illegal’: Jason Reiskind, National Post, Jan. 31, 2017

Could Submarine Scandal Blow up in Netanyahu’s Face?: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 1, 2017

No Victory: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 2, 2017

 

 

 

ISRAELI DEMOCRACY IS NOT AT RISK

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, Feb. 3, 2017

 

The Economist last week released its annual global democracy index. Not surprisingly, Israel scored high. The highbrow magazine ranked Israel very high for pluralism and political culture. It ranked Israel a bit lower for civil liberties, mainly because of the rabbinate's ultra-rigid control over Jewish marriage, divorce and conversion. Indeed, Israel is more globalized, open and democratic than at any time in its history. Over the past decade, Israel's "democracy" scores have risen from 7.28 to 7.85 on a scale of 1 to 10, according to The Economist.

 

In comparison, Belgium this year rated a score of 7.77, France 7.92, the U.S. 7.98, Britain 8.36, and Canada 9.15. Greece was downgraded to the status of a "flawed democracy" at 7.23. Turkey is no longer rated a democracy, but a "hybrid regime." And yet, there is a steady drumbeat of warning about "dangers to Israeli democracy" being propagated these days.

 

You read it on the front pages of the left-leaning Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz newspapers. You get it from progressive academics in Israeli political science and sociology departments, and you are confronted with it by politicians seeking to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The discourse goes like this: Israeli democracy is under attack by dark forces of ultra-nationalism, racism, fascism and religious radicalism. An ugly wave of hatred is washing across Israel, with fundamentalists leading a surging tide of extremism.

 

The purported evidence for this are the youths who gathered this week to prevent Amona from destruction, and hooligans who threatened army leaders and judges after Elor Azaria's conviction for killing an immobilized terrorist. Adding to the list of alleged "dangers to democracy" is a series of nationalist legislative initiatives in Knesset. These range from cultural and educational issues (spending more shekels on arts communities in the periphery, high school curriculum changes in civics and Jewish-Zionist heritage studies, and keeping the Breaking the Silence organization out of the school system) to constitutional matters (the nation state law, reform of the judicial appointments process) to political initiatives (crackdown on illegal Bedouin and Arab building, tougher prosecution of terrorist family members), and so on.

 

But none of the above actually proves the charges of fascism or undermining of Israeli democracy. Not at all. The noisy demonstrations and bullying of a few hundred radicals prove nothing, except that there are fringe elements in our society that need to be kept in check, on the extreme Left and Right alike. This holds equally true for radicals who threaten to upend Israel on behalf of the terrorist-abetting Israeli Arab MK Basel Ghattas, and for those who threaten military judges on behalf of Azaria. All zealots must be marginalized. But note: The right-wingers in Amona don't come close to falling into this category. They were mainly passive protesters, expressing outrage at flawed policy in legitimate fashion.

 

It is critically important how we approach the public policy debate. It is wrong to portray Israeli society as bisected by two enemy narratives: that of a moral, liberal, democratic, universalist Israeli Left, versus an immoral, illiberal, isolationist, nationalist Israeli Right. This is a false dichotomy, and it's an untrue picture of Israeli society. Like Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. these days, there is a real and worthy debate in Israel over important public policy matters, and there is a continuum of respectable views that defy simplistic categorization as democratic or anti-democratic.

 

It's important to acknowledge this, and to abjure accusations that every controversial policy innovation is motivated by hatred, moral insensitivity or authoritarianism. Taking up one side of the debate, I will argue that neither hawkish Israeli foreign policies, nor conservative Israeli socio-economic and cultural policies, automatically make this country less free, enlightened, noble, creative or exciting. Let's say, for example, that the NGO funding transparency law is passed by the Knesset, or that the judicial appointments process is altered to deny Supreme Court judges a veto over selection of their successors. Is that the "end of democratic Israel"? Of course not!

 

Let's say that the Knesset breaks up the Labor party's kibbutz-controlled food cartels, or that it passes a law mandating compensation for absentee Palestinian landlords for land on which Israelis have been living for 40 years (instead of expelling such Israelis from their homes). Is that the "end of democratic Israel"? Of course not! When the High Court of Justice ruled in favor of Netanyahu government policies on natural gas exploitation and on expulsion of illegal African migrant workers (while circumscribing some aspects of the attendant legislation) — policies that were strenuously opposed by the Left — was that the end of Israeli democracy? Or let's imagine that Azaria receives a light sentence for his manslaughter. Would that be fascist and undemocratic?

 

My point is that opposition to public policy should be debated on its merits — without semiautomatic screeching about intolerance, repression, dictatorship, thought police and the crushing of democratic norms. Over-the-top attacks make the political opposition sound just as crude and intolerant as the caricature of the government they are communicating.

 

Of course, no one should pooh-pooh civic challenges that do stand before Israeli society. The Israel Democracy Institute's 2016 democracy index found a significant drop in public trust of government institutions and politicians; and an increasing willingness to marginalize minorities, such as Israeli Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and settlers. But we must beware of a doomsday discourse about depredations in Israel's democratic moorings. Israel is far more hale and hearty than some of its detractors would have us believe.                                                             

 

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HOW ISRAELIS SEE THE SETTLEMENTS

Yossi Klein Halevi

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2017

                       

A billboard near the highway entering Jerusalem proclaims in Hebrew: “The Time for Sovereignty Has Come.” It is part of a new campaign for the formal incorporation into Israel of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest settlements in the West Bank and barely a 10-minute drive east of Israel’s capital. The campaign’s sponsors, backed by several ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ’s coalition, see annexing Ma’ale Adumim as the first step to annexing the entire West Bank and preventing the creation of a Palestinian state.

 

Israelis have been arguing about settlements ever since the Six Day War of June 1967, when the Israeli army captured the West Bank—the biblical regions of Judea and Samaria—and small groups of Israelis began establishing enclaves there. Annexation, long the goal of the settlement movement, has always been more aspiration than possibility, thwarted by opposition within Israel and from the international community. But with the rise of Donald Trump, settlement leaders have sensed an opening. Mr. Trump’s nominee as U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a longtime pro-settlement activist. And in a marked break with American policy, the Trump administration refused to condemn Israel’s announcement that it intends to build some 5,000 housing units in settlements, the largest expansion project in recent years.

 

The collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the chaos of the Arab world in recent years have reinforced the settlers’ sense of opportunity. So too has the imminent approach of a date fraught with symbolic significance: the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War. According to Jewish tradition, 50 years—a jubilee—is the time for a reset. For those who believe that Israel needs to overcome its hesitancy and claim its rightful borders, it is a moment of high expectation.

 

Unlike critics abroad, including the U.N. Security Council, who denounce settlements as illegal under international law, mainstream Israeli discourse takes for granted the legitimacy of Israel’s claims to the West Bank—lands where the Jewish people find their deepest historical roots, won in a war of self-defense against the Arab world’s attempt to destroy the Jewish state. The debate, instead, is over the wisdom of implementing these claims to the “territories” (the more politically neutral term preferred by many in Israel). Permanently absorbing the West Bank would mean adding more than two million Palestinians to Israel’s population, forcing it to choose eventually between the two essential elements of its national identity as both a Jewish state and a democracy.

 

That is precisely the point of another new campaign, from the opposite side of the political spectrum, urging withdrawal from the territories. “We’re Not Annexing—We’re Separating,” reads one billboard near the highway in Tel Aviv. A second billboard warns of what will happen if Israel doesn’t separate from the Palestinians: “The One-State Solution. Palestine.” That warning reveals a profound shift in Israeli discourse. The mainstream Israeli left no longer promises “land for peace” but instead offers a more modest formula: withdrawal as the best way to ensure that Israel remains both Jewish and democratic. This shift recognizes that, after years of terrorism and Palestinian rejection of past Israeli peace offers (the last offer was in 2008), the Israeli public has become deeply skeptical of Palestinian intentions.

 

Polls consistently show that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, while doubting the possibility of peace. According to an October 2016 poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute’s Peace Index, nearly 65% of Israelis backed peace talks—but only 26% thought they would succeed. Israelis worry that a Palestinian state would be overtaken by the radical Islamist movement Hamas and would threaten their population centers with rocket attacks—precisely what happened in 2005 when Israel uprooted its 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and withdrew. For supporters, settlements are crucial to security—preventing Israel’s contraction to its pre-1967 borders, barely 9 miles wide at their narrowest point. For opponents, settlements are a mortal threat to the Jewish state. The Israeli dilemma: Which alternative is the greater existential danger?

 

Some 430,000 Israelis live in 131 officially sanctioned settlements spread throughout the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem). In addition, dozens of small settlement outposts have been established without Israeli government approval. Meanwhile, a bill is advancing in the Knesset to legalize some 4,000 housing units built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, while offering compensation to the owners. The bill has been widely denounced abroad and by Israel’s opposition Labor Party. For their part, the Palestinians regard all settlement building, especially since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, as intended to deny them national sovereignty and basic dignity—proof that Israel has no intention of ever withdrawing.

 

For both sides, settlements can assume mythic symbolism. Palestinians often refer to them as “colonies,” reflecting the supposedly colonialist nature of Israel itself. Indeed, Palestinian media regularly ignore any distinction between Israel’s boundaries before and after the 1967 war, labeling coastal cities such as Tel Aviv and Ashkelon as settlements too. For Israelis, the refusal of many Palestinians to come to terms with Israel’s legitimacy is proof that the conflict isn’t about settlements but about the very existence of a Jewish state.

 

Although the settlements tend to be regarded by the international community as an undifferentiated entity, the discourse about them in Israel is very different. For Israelis who support a two-state solution, settlements fall into two broad categories: those within so-called settlement blocs, close to the pre-1967 border and likely to remain a part of Israel in a final agreement, and those outside the blocs, which Israel would probably evacuate as part of a peace deal. Israel’s retention of the blocs near the border would still allow territorial contiguity for a Palestinian state—though at least one settlement, Ariel, which Israel regards as a future bloc, is deep enough inside the West Bank to threaten that contiguity. Under various proposed plans, a Palestinian state would be compensated for lost land with territory from within pre-1967 Israel.

 

Depending on how one draws the map, more than three-quarters of the settler population lives in blocs likely to be kept by Israel under an agreement. The blocs plan gives hope to supporters of a two-state solution that settlement-building hasn’t yet reached the point of no return. Though Israel is hardly likely to evacuate 430,000 settlers, it could, with enormous strain to its social fabric, evacuate the 80,000 or so settlers living outside the blocs. (How traumatic would a forcible evacuation be? This past week, it took some 3,000 police and soldiers to remove a few dozen settlers from Amona, an illegal hilltop outpost.)…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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                                 A LEADER IN WAITING,

LAPID SLOWLY BUILDS A DOCTRINE FOR THE TRUMP ERA

          Avi Issacharoff

  Times of Israel, Feb. 6, 2017

 

Squandering the political capital created by the arrival of US President Donald Trump at the White House on settlement building would be a historic mistake, according to former minister Yair Lapid, a centrist politician who some see as a possible successor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview, Lapid, the head of the opposition Yesh Atid party, took a less bullish view of the new president than Netanyahu, who has openly feted Trump’s election as a welcome change after years of strained ties with Obama, but expressed cautious optimism over the new United States leader.

 

“While it is important and good that there is a friendly president in the White House. We don’t know how this will look in the long term,” Lapid told The Times of Israel last week. In the telling of Lapid, who has called for “separation” from the Palestinians, Trump’s heavy slant toward Israel regarding the conflict with the Palestinians will help dismantle some of the international pressure on Israel to accede to Palestinian statehood demands. However, Israel must use that breathing space wisely, said Lapid, and not as Netanyahu has done, announcing some 6,000 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as plans for the first officially sanctioned new settlement in 25 years.

 

“The Palestinian Authority’s strategy of putting heavy international political pressure on us has collapsed. We have freedom of action,” Lapid said. “But this is also our chance to dictate, from a position of strength, what we want. If it’s squandered on building another four outposts, that will be a mistake that will be mourned for generations.” Instead, Lapid called for the convening of an international conference to try to resolve the situation with Gaza and seek progress with the Palestinian Authority, an idea he has pushed for the last year, though one which has made little headway in diplomatic circles.

 

Despite saying he wants to make peace with the Palestinians, Lapid drew the line at speaking to Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terrorist serving five life sentences in Israeli prison but also a popular politician. And he said he would not negotiate directly with terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, though he does support giving the Strip a seaport in exchange for a long-term truce, including a cessation of tunnel-digging and rocket fire. “It’s a win-win situation. You’re starting a kind of disarmament, preventing rocket fire, and preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he said. He also expressed full support for moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and warned against being intimidated by threats from the Arab world opposing such a move.

 

For now, this is just the talk of a politician with little say on whom Israel does and doesn’t talk to. But that could change. Recent polls have shown Lapid’s party surpassing Netanyahu’s Likud, making him a potential prime minister or at least a kingmaker. Elections are theoretically years away, but with Netanyahu under investigation for a raft of scandals, some analysts believe they may be in the offing sooner than planned. A former journalist and son of late minister Tommy Lapid, Lapid rode to power in 2013 as a freshman politician on an anti-corruption platform.

 

On the topic of suspicions that Netanyahu took hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of gifts from wealthy businessmen, Lapid was unequivocal. “Did the prime minister say it was permissible to accept gifts? I’m telling you it is not. Absolutely not. Anyone in the political world knows that accepting gifts is not allowed, so they don’t accept them. It’s against the law,” he said. Despite his party’s initial focus on domestic concerns, Lapid has used his time as a lawmaker to fashion himself as something of a shadow foreign minister, with the role of top diplomat currently held by Netanyahu himself…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

 

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NETANYAHU MESSED UP BUT IT IS TIME TO MOVE FORWARD

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 16, 2017

 

Enough is enough. Since the beginning of his public life, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been subject to the most ferocious ongoing campaign of vilification endured by any politician in the democratic world. For two decades, Noni Mozes, the publisher of the daily Yediot Aharonot, which until recently had the highest circulation and was most influential newspaper in Israel, waged an ongoing campaign employing the worst form of character assassination, defamation and double standards aimed at achieving the downfall of Israel’s prime minister. There were even unsuccessful efforts to introduce Bolshevik- style legislation into the Knesset making it illegal to provide the public with a free newspaper (Israel Hayom) because of its support for Netanyahu and popularity among Israeli readers. The promoters of this reprehensible legislation – political opponents and the hostile media – had the chutzpah to initiate it in the name of democracy.

 

Over the past few weeks, the public was shocked to learn that in the very midst of this battle with his greatest enemy, Mozes, their prime minister had actually been indulging in crude horse trading with him. The disclosure of contents of extensive taped telephone conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes prior to the last elections stunned Israelis. Israel Hayom, the free daily newspaper whose primary shareholders are Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, had emerged as the largest Israeli daily, overtaking the giant Yediot Aharonot in circulation, and many argue it was a crucial contributor to Netanyahu’s electoral success. The tapes disclose bizarre offers from Netanyahu to Mozes to allow passage of legislation which would limit the expansion of Israel Hayom and eliminate the weekend supplement – in return for political support and a guarantee that Mozes would promote him as prime minister indefinitely.

 

The fact is that Netanyahu has no control whatsoever over Israel Hayom and, not surprisingly, the deal was never consummated. In his defense, Netanyahu pathetically claims that the recordings were made to protect himself from extortion by Mozes. This deplorable demonstration of amorality by both parties nauseated Israelis of all political persuasions and reflects badly on Netanyahu’s lack of trust even in those who have been his strongest allies and supporters.

 

Although there is no justification for Netanyahu’s behavior, he has been treated outrageously by the media. Since the 1990s and his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu has been confronted by a barrage of unsubstantiated, politically motivated allegations in unsuccessful efforts to discredit him. The most virulent defamation was the despicable personal attacks on his family. The ad hominem, front-page screaming headlines day after day attacking Netanyahu, his wife and even his children go beyond what is considered “yellow press.” They reflect a total absence of moral compass and represent a disgrace to the nation. His son was accused of being invited to fly on private jets by and receiving guest accommodation from Netanyahu admirers – hardly corruption. His wife was headlined as augmenting her income with NIS 20 weekly by “stealing” 1,000 bottle refunds for her own credit. At one stage, the prime minister’s household expenses were headlined as extravagant because of Netanyahu’s penchant for quality ice cream.

 

In recent weeks, there were front-page headlines about Netanyahu and his wife receiving gifts of luxurious Cuban cigars and expensive wines from well-wishers amounting to “hundreds of thousands of shekels.” The consumption of a bottle of wine per day either from “gifts” or from the household budget was considered extravagant “while poor Israelis suffered.” Ronald Lauder, a multi-billionaire and one of world Jewry’s most generous philanthropists, is reprimanded for giving gifts that go back nearly 20 years. The hint that in return he was obtaining benefits from Netanyahu in Israel where he has invested millions of dollars in projects that were valuable contributions to the state is absurd. Moreover, Lauder is a shareholder in Channel 10, which has been at the vanguard of defaming Netanyahu and his family…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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On Topic Links

 

Amid UN Warning, Israel Set to Pass Historic Settlements Bill: Gil Hoffman, Udi Shaham, Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 6, 2017—The Knesset late Monday night is set to pass historic legislation hailed by the Right wing for salvaging 4,000 settler homes and attacked by the Left as the first step toward de-facto annexation.

It’s Time Canada Ended its Double Standard that Considers Israeli Settlements ‘Illegal’: Jason Reiskind, National Post, Jan. 31, 2017—Canada’s current position on Israeli “settlements” is that they are illegal because they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically Paragraph 6 which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The time has come for Canada to change our position to align with Canadian basic values and, equally important, with international law.

Could Submarine Scandal Blow up in Netanyahu’s Face?: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 1, 2017—The media may be focused on the pricey cigars and bottles of champagne that the Netanyahu family allegedly amassed from its benefactors over the years, but the police investigation into the submarine procurement scandal is gaining momentum. The scandal, which Al-Monitor reported on at the end of October, is about to become a huge international imbroglio.

No Victory: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 2, 2017— There were no winners in the Amona evacuation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett – heads of what has been billed as the most right-wing government in the state’s history – all were hurt politically by allowing Jewish settlers in the West Bank to be evacuated from their homes on their watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

On Topic Links

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

LAPID AND THE HAREDIM

Susan Hattis Rolef

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The writer is a retired Knesset employee..

 

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ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE
MINISTER WANTS TO ACCELERATE SETTLEMENTS

Mazal Mualem

Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, April 28, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

What exactly did he delay?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Whose agenda does this serve?

 

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

 

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

 

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PALESTINIAN JOURNALISTS DECLARE
WAR ON ISRAELI COLLEAGUES

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, April 26, 2013

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

A Soldier’s Mother Blog, April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Harel told Ben Gurion and others…

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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.)

 

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.

 

 

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/.

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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

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Contents:                          

 

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

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

Top of Page

 

 

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.

 

 

Top of Page

 

 

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.

 

Top of Page

 

 

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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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)

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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.