israeli politics

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As a former member of the Knesset, Uri Avnery has a far better understanding of Israeli politics than any of us outsiders can ever hope to have. I take his word for the fact that Netanyahu is a shoe-in in the upcoming elections. The man has so much blood on his hands, this seems tragic, yet some of the alternatives are worse!

More interesting for me in Avnery’s analysis is his commentary on recent polls taken in Israel, showing that the population doesn’t really trust any of its political leaders. This would be encouraging, except for the fact that (again) there are no visible alternative candidates with a genuine heart for peace.

As the article suggests, it’s all a great game really. If only the stakes were cash or poker chips instead of the lives of so many women, men and children!

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

A Person Called Nobody

by Uri Avnery

SUDDENLY, I realized that a new star had appeared on the political firmament of Israel. Until yesterday I did not even know of its existence.

A respected public opinion poll posed a Nixonesque question: From which politician would you buy a used car? The answer was stunning: not a single politician reached the mark of even 10%. Except one who would be trusted by a massive 34% of potential voters: a certain Nobody.

This was not the only question to which the voters showed a marked preference for this mysterious candidate. When asked with which candidate they would like to spend an evening, only 5% preferred Shelly Yachimovitch, and even the smooth Binyamin Netanyahu attracted only 20%, while Nobody easily headed the list with 27%.

Whom do you trust most? Again Nobody won with 22%, followed by Netanyahu with 18%. Who cares most for you and your problems? 33% voted for Nobody, followed far behind by Shelly with 17% and Netanyahu with only 9%.

I have never met this Nobody. I don’t even know whether he/she is young or old. Why did he/she not set up a new party, seeing that it would be a shoo-in?

Since it is too late to enter the fray, it is absolutely certain that Netanyahu will be the great victor. He will be the next Prime Minister. He simply has no competitor.

IN MANY languages, including Hebrew, one speaks of the “political game”. But, as far as I know, nobody has yet devised a real game, even for children.

I have taken the trouble to do this now. I hope that it will help some of my readers to wile away the time on a dull evening when there is no “reality” show on the screen.

The game is on the lines of Lego. Each block represents one of the parties. The aim is to set up a government coalition.

Since the Knesset has 120 members, you need 61 to set up a government. You might feel safer with 65, at least, since a number of members are always carousing around abroad and have to be frantically called home for critical votes. Israelis like to travel around the world, especially if somebody else (like the Knesset) pays for it.

For creating a coalition, you should observe the following principles:

First, your own party must be strong enough to overcome any possible opposition within the government itself.

Second, the coalition must be balanced, so that you will always be exactly in the middle on any issue.

Third, it must include enough members so that no single party is big enough to blackmail you by threatening to leave the government on the eve of a crucial vote.

Some unfortunate candidates for the prime ministership in the past have found this job so hard that they had to ask the President of the State for an extension of the time allotted to them by the law.

Actually, this is the most important of all decisions you will have to make until the next elections, including decisions about wars and such. If you get it wrong at this juncture, your government is sure to meet disaster somewhere along the road.

THE POLLS show that this time you will have a comparatively easy job. It will depend on your abilities how successful the outcome will be.

First of all, the building blocks you have to choose from.

Your own list, Likud Beitenu, the one you set up together with Avigdor Lieberman, is expected to gain between 35 and 40 seats.  All other parties will be markedly smaller. There is no party in the 20-35 seats range.

Shelly’s Labor Party is hovering between 15 and 20, competing with four parties between 9 and 15. These are Tzipi Livni’s Movement (that’s actually its name, The Movement); Ya’ir Lapid’s There is a Future (contrary to those who believed that the world would end last week); the oriental-orthodox Shas and Naftali Bennett’s The Jewish Home.

Naftali Who? Bennett is the great surprise of these elections. He appeared from nowhere, a successful high-tech entrepreneur with a tiny kippa, who has managed a hostile takeover of the moribund National-Religious party. He has succeeded in throwing out all its venerable leaders and become the sole boss. Within a few weeks he has doubled the party’s share of the polls by outflanking Netanyahu on the right and voicing opinions which some consider outright fascist.

Where does Bennett get his supporters from? From the Likud, of course. Bennett was once Netanyahu’s office chief of staff, but made the fatal mistake of running afoul of Sarah’le, the Boss’s wife (or, some say: the real boss.) Now a furious battle is raging. Bennett accuses Netanyahu of supporting the Two-State Solution (which nobody in Israel and the world believes) and Netanyahu attacks Bennett for announcing that he, as a soldier – a major in the reserves – would disobey an order to “remove a Jew from his home” The “home” in question being, of course, a settlement on Palestinian land.

Since the Likud itself has become far more extreme since the recent primary elections, and since the addition of Lieberman’s cohorts makes it even righter, the looming confrontation with Bennett will be a riveting fight between the Extreme Right and the More Extreme Right. There is also a Most Extreme Right: the disciples of the late unlamented Rabbi Meir Kahane, who, however, will probably not pass the two-percent minimum hurdle.

Coming back to the party lists: apart from the Likud and the five “medium-sized” parties, there are six small parties. The most important of these by far is the Ashkenazi Orthodox bloc, Torah Jewry. Then there is Meretz, the only Jewish party that admits to being left-wing. Of equal size are the three Arab parties (including the Communists, who are mainly Arab but who also have a Jewish candidate). And then there is poor Kadima, the largest party in the outgoing Knesset which is now struggling to overcome the two-percent curse. Sic transit gloria mundi.

SO NOW you can set to work. Remember: the aim is 61 members at least.

The most natural coalition would be an alliance of the Right. Likud-Beitenu, the Jewish Home, Shas and the Orthodox will probably add up to around 67 seats. They could implement the policy of rapidly expanding the settlements and preventing the creation of a Palestinian state, keeping up the eternal occupation and not giving a damn for world opinion.

The drawback: this composition would put an end to any pretense about your adherence to the Two-State Solution and your desire for peace. You would stand naked before the world. Israel’s international status would plummet, with possible dire consequences.

Also: you would be open to permanent blackmail from the combined Shas-Orthodox block, which might demand huge additional sums for its ghettos, such as higher subsidies for their children (8-10 per family), exemption from work and military service and much more. Also, you would not be located in the middle of your government, but to the left.

To prevent this, you might want to add some centrist spice to the brew. At least three party leaders will line up before your door the day after the election: Shelly, Tzipi and Ya’ir.

Formulating the next government’s program should pose no problem. None of the three have said anything that could disturb you. Actually, they have not said much about anything. So take your pick.

WHY NOT take all of them? That would make a National Union (always popular), with only “the Arabs” and Meretz left outside. A coalition of 100 members.

Ah, but there’s the rub. Two rubs, actually.

First, in such a coalition, you will be in a minority. You might not be able to turn your every whim into law and zigzag happily along.

Second, how do you distribute the ministries? That, after all, will be the main – if not the only – demand of all these leaders, as well as your own party functionaries.

There will be at least three candidates for Defense, four for the Treasury, two for the Foreign Office (unless the courts send Lieberman to prison.)

So here the real game starts. Which party to include, which to exclude?  Do you take Shelly and leave Bennett outside? Or perhaps include Ya’ir and exclude Shas (teach them a lesson, alright!) Or let Tzipi in, as an alibi for those troublesome Americans and Europeans and prevent the ” de-legitimization” of Israel, and forget about Shelly, who says she loves the settlers?

As you see, the possibilities are almost infinite. You have 25 days to go.

Enjoy the game – and the best of luck!

More Avnery articles online: zope.gush-shalom.org…………

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Father Roy writes: Bibi and Avigdor Liegerman have joined forces prior to Israel’s next elections which probably will be held in February of 2013.  Bibi has promised Lieberman the portfolio of his choice.  Most of us know where Bibi stands on the issues: Israeli strike on Iran nuclear plants will only serve to calm Mideast.  Lieberman is known for taking strong stands himself:  Israel will never return the Golan Heights… JPost There is sometimes contention/competition between the two men.

Ehud Olmert willbe a contender if he can get his legal difficulties straightened out (charges of bribery, corruption, etc.)  Tzipi Livni says she’s not going to play “second fiddle” to anybody.  It will be interesting to note which candidate Uri Avnery and the others at TOI … which is “The Other Israel” … led by www.gush-shalom.org… … will end up supporting.  It’ll be fascinating to observe Israel’s “vibrant” democracy in full operation between now and February: ‘Apartheid state’ claim sets off firestorm in Israel.   

Israelis always take great interest in America’s Presidential elections.  Perhaps it’s time for Americans to return the favor.  Bibi went so far as to campaign in Florida for one of our candidates.  Pasted below is an article featuring Yair Lapid who is regarded by some as a “rising star” in Israeli politics.  Lapid is reported to have a special appeal for women voters.  They think he looks like a “film star”.  Please read on.

Peace,Roy

Yair Lapid

Yair Lapid (picture from the Wikimedia Commons)

Lapid slams Left, Right over approaches to peace 

By YONAH JEREMY BOB10/30/2012 22:34

Yesh Atid leader gives 1st major diplomatic-security speech, says party won’t sit in gov’t that won’t return to table of peace process.

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, speaking from the Ariel University Center on Tuesday night, said his party “won’t sit in a government that won’t return” to the peace table, in his first major speech of election season on diplomacy and security issues.Lapid criticized the Right for only coming to the negotiating table with “a gun” and the Left for only coming with “an olive branch,” saying there must be a balanced approach. He did not completely define what that meant

, but he did imply that Israel must be ready to make sacrifices.Lapid indicated that his primary goal was maintaining a Jewish majority, which could only be done by negotiating peace with the Palestinians based on the “two states for two peoples” vision, and not based on unilateral withdrawals or ignoring the Palestinians.

On the other hand, he did specify that he would not withdraw from any of the settlement blocs, from the Gush bloc to Ariel, the site of the speech.

Citing Ariel as a red line and delivering his speech from there was significant, as while it is a large settlement it is also one of the settlements situated most deeply into the West Bank – and media reports have indicated in the past that some Israeli leaders did not view Ariel as a red line.

Lapid also said he had two “iron rules.” He would not recognize Palestinians’ right of return for their refugees. He claimed that part of his basis was that international law does not allow people to pass on the right of return to land to their descendants.

On Jerusalem, Lapid said that he would not divide the capital and would maintain sovereignty.

The language he used on this issue went further than the ambiguous refusal to divide it, which some politicians use as a code for leaving open the possibility of a city split by sovereignty, but not by a fence or concrete border.

However, he did not explicitly negate sharing some part of Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

He did add that Jerusalem is the “heart” of the country and that “the return to Zion” was speaking of a “return to the Tower of David” in Jerusalem, and not to “the Azrieli Tower” in Tel Aviv.

Lapid’s chief criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the peace process appeared to be that he had “wasted four years” by not going to the table with a serious “intent” to make an agreement.

He excoriated Netanyahu for using the “there is no peace partner” argument as a cover for not taking the process seriously.

Lapid quoted former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who said that we may not like the Palestinians, but we are stuck with negotiating with them, and cannot try to “make peace with the Norwegians” and achieve peace.

He also spoke directly to the settlers, saying that he recognized them as having an important role as a “bridge between past and future,” but, likely referring to protests against withdrawals, also said that they must accept government decisions “even if they disagree.” On Iran, Lapid chastised Netanyahu for overemphasizing the military option. He said that while the option must “remain on the table,” the focus must be on the goal of stopping Iran from making a nuclear weapon.

The Yesh Atid party leader implied that since Israel could only set Iran back, but not fully stop it, Israel must work harder than it has in the past to rally world support.

He added that “we must not do the world’s work, we must convince the world that it needs to act on behalf of all of us.” Some commentators have argued that only greater sanctions or a US strike can fully stop Iran’s weapons program.

While Lapid did not formally endorse this view, it appeared to be the direction in which he was going.

Lapid said that while peace with the Palestinians was a “strategic” interest for Israel and “not merely tactical,” another advantage to peace would be the world’s increased willingness to listen to Israel on Iran.

Several hundred people and media packed the Raab Hall at Ariel, with protesters trying to disrupt Lapid’s speech on both sides of the aisle. Right-wing protesters held signs saying “Lapid will throw me out of my house,” while a group of Meretz Youth volunteers held a demonstration outside of the auditorium. They then entered and threw fake bills with Lapid’s face on them on stage, implying he was a sell-out.

The Meretz spokesman did not know about the incident when asked, and said that the group of activists from Meretz Youth “carry out a lot of activities – both ones organized with us and ones that they organize on their own.”

Leading up to the speech, Lapid has been unveiling the names of many leading members of his Knesset list, holding multiple press conferences each week.

Meanwhile, Ma’ariv journalist Ofer Shelach quit his job on Tuesday. Media reports indicated he would be joining forces with Lapid, which the Yesh Atid spokeswoman did not deny, but she also refused to confirm it for the time being.

The spokeswoman also confirmed that Shelach had a heavy influence on Lapid’s policy speech in Ariel.