israeli election

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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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More wisdom from the indomitable Uri Avnery. It does seem bizarre that Avnery would hope for American interference in the upcoming Israeli election, akin to Netanyahu’s recent meddling in the Obama v Romney showdown, but his logic is flawless.

Father Dave

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

November 10, 2012

Goodbye to a War

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU and his patron, Sheldon Adelson, betted on Mitt Romney, with the State of Israel as their chip.

They lost.

For Adelson, the betting tycoon, that doesn’t amount to much. Some you win, some you lose.

For Netanyahu, it’s a different matter altogether. He grew up in the US (where he got to know Romney in 1976) and prides himself as a great expert on America. It was one of his strongest cards, since relations with the US are vital for Israel. Now he stands exposed as a know-nothing, together with his ambassador in Washington DC, who was recommended by Adelson.

Does this hurt Netanyahu’s chances in the upcoming Israeli elections? Perhaps. But only if a credible counter-candidate is found, who could repair relations with Barack Obama.

Ehud Olmert is presenting himself as such, and may now join the fray. Some dream of Shimon Peres giving up the presidency to run as a candidate. Peres, who is two weeks older than I, has never won an election in his fifty years in politics. But there’s always a first time, isn’t there?

ISRAELIS ARE, of course, interested mainly in the Jewish vote. It is indeed revealing.

Netanyahu made no secret of supporting Romney to the hilt. US Jews were told that voting for the Republican candidate was voting for Israel. So did they? They did not.

I don’t yet have the detailed statistics, but from results in Florida and other states it seems that the great majority of Jews supported the Democratic candidate, as they have always done.

What does that mean? It means that one of the most basic contentions of Netanyahu and Co. has been shown to be fallacious.

Netanyahu declares almost hourly that Israel is the “nation-state of the Jewish people”. This means that Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world, and that all the Jews in the world belong to Israel. So he speaks not only for the six million Jewish citizens of Israel, but for all the 13 million or so Jews around the globe. (Assuming that no Jews are discovered on Mars.)

Again, this has been proven a fiction. American Jews (or, rather, Jewish Americans) voted as members of the American nation, not of the non-existent Jewish nation. Many of them are certainly sympathetic to Israel, but when it comes to voting, they vote as Americans. Israel plays a very minor role in their concerns. They may give a standing ovation to Netanyahu when he visits, as American Catholics would to the Pope, but they ignore his instruction to vote for a candidate.

This has great implications for the future. In any clash between vital American and Israeli interests, Jewish Americans are first of all Americans. In such a future situation, a similar miscalculation by Netanyahu or his successors may prove fatal.

FOR EXAMPLE, about the Iran war. Israeli hawks can kiss it goodbye.

I doubt that even Romney, had he been elected, would have allowed Netanyahu to attack. Campaign speeches would not have trumped the vital interests of the USA. He, too, would have taken one look at the map of the Strait of Hormuz and shuddered.

Be that as it may have been, there is no chance whatsoever that Obama will now tolerate an Israeli attack. It would have ignited a large scale war with incalculable consequences for the US and world economy.

Americans don’t want another war. They want to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, in practice ceding both countries to their adversaries. Starting another, and far bigger war in Iran is unthinkable.

This may be, for us, the most important result of these elections.

WHAT ABOUT Israeli-Palestinian peace?

No doubt, chances have picked up.

I don’t want to sound too optimistic. The usual cliché says that US presidents in their second term are free of political pressures and can at long last act according to their conscience. That is certainly true – up to a point.

The President is the leader of a party, and from the first day after an election the party starts to think about the next election. Powerful lobbies like AIPAC don’t cease to exist and will continue to exert a lot of pressure for the Israeli right. Big donors will still be needed. In two years, mid-term elections will come up.

But I hope that Obama will return to his starting position and try to compel both sides to commence serious negotiations. The forthcoming Palestinian application to the UN General Assembly to accept it as a state (with observer status) may be a test. Its acceptance is of great importance, since it would put the two-state solution squarely back on the international table. The US has no veto power there, and it is up to the president to decide whether to apply pressure or not.

The US is like a huge aircraft-[space instead of hyphen]carrier. To turn around it needs a lot of time and space. But even a slight change of course can have a major impact on our lives.

IN ISRAEL, the major question is: Will He Take Revenge?

No doubt, Obama hates Netanyahu, and with good reason. Netanyahu will not receive a warm welcome  in the Oval Office.

But Obama is a cold fish. He will keep his personal feelings in tight check.

But how tight? Will he change his attitude towards Netanyahu and his policies enough to give encouragement or even support to Israeli peace forces? Will he influence the Israeli elections as Netanyahu tried to influence the American ones?

Frankly, I hope so. For Israel’s sake.

Obama’s victory will reinforce the liberal, democratic, secular, social-minded, less-militant spirit throughout the world. If the Israeli government continues on its present course, its isolation in the world will increase dangerously.

Unless we do to Netanyahu what the Americans just did to Romney.

AS EVERYBODY knows, there are some basic similarities between the US and Israel.

Both are immigrant nations. Both were built by white settlers who carried out ethnic cleansing. Both glorify their huge achievements while keeping quiet about the darker sides of their past.

The elections in both countries illuminate another similarity: the ever-growing split between the various “sectors” of society. White male Americans rallied behind Romney, colored Americans and women behind Obama. Demographic factors played a major role. To some extent it was a rearguard action by the dominant white male elite against the new majority of blacks, Hispanics, women and the young.

The split was exacerbated by the Tea Party fanatics. It seems that every few generations the American nation is afflicted by a new wave of insanity – the anti-Anarchist hysteria after WWI, McCarthy after WWII, the Tea Party now. To its immense credit, America has a knack of overcoming these waves.  But the Tea Party killed Romney, in spite of all his desperate flip-flopping.

Israel has a similar split. Society is divided into sectors, which cast their votes on sectoral lines: Whites (Ashkenazim), Orientals, Ultra-Orthodox (Haredim), National-Religious, Russian immigrants, Arabs. The Likud is a party of Orientals dominated by white males. Lieberman’s is the party of the “Russians”. Together with the religious of various stripes they constitute a powerful coalition. Unlike Obama, the Israeli left has not been able up to now to build an effective counter-coalition.

We need an Israeli Obama, who will work with the US Obama for peace.

Before it is too late, please.

For more Avnery articles online, go to zope.gush-shalom.org…