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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bibi Netanyahu’

Enough with ‘Bibi’

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

What we call people matters.

After making aliya in November 2009, one of the first news articles I recall reading was a Jerusalem Post report titled “90 Fatah terrorists ‘pardoned’ to bolster Abbas.” The prime minister then was Binyamin Netanyahu, who went on to further incentivize terrorism with the Shalit deal.

On the latest 104 terrorists to be freed by Netanyahu, I have seen some shocked reactions along the lines of “This isn’t the man we elected.” Seriously? This would be like a tennis fan in the 1980s acting surprised to see Stefan Edberg go to the net or John McEnroe throw a tantrum.

The vileness of Netanyahu’s latest action was matched only by its predictability. There’s a point where being clueless becomes obnoxious, particularly when it results in nationally suicidal electoral behavior.

Some bloggers who have condemned the terrorist releases display a different problematic habit. Here are three examples:

  • “Bibi is making a mockery of our justice system.”
  • “Nothing exemplifies Israel’s looming civic disaster quite like Bibi’s recent announcement to free terrorists.”
  • “Shame on you Bibi Netanyahu. Shame on you for your fecklessness and lack of courage and backbone.”

I agree with all of the above, but the informal reference to Netanyahu undermines the writers’ intention. When you call someone by a nickname, how offensive and damaging can his acts really be?

By contrast, this informality doesn’t appear in Frimet Roth’s assessment of the latest releases. I don’t think that is coincidental. A mother doesn’t tend to call the man who freed the murderer of her child “Bibi.”

Years ago I wrote extensively about human rights abuses and anti-Semitism in Cuba, my work being cited by people including a National Book Award winner and a multi-Grammy Award winner. The apologists for Cuba’s despotic regime often refer to Fidel Castro by his first name. Several opponents of the regime have done likewise, unwittingly perpetuating the sympathetic attitudes they seek to reduce.

Like Cuba, Israel is a small country with an informal culture, and over time nicknames in Israel have become widespread—thus for example “Bogie” Ya’alon, “Buji” Herzog, “Arik” Sharon, and the prime minister. This implies endearing social warmth on the one hand, but excessive informality can also beget coarseness and cloud moral clarity—like using a man’s nickname in the context of him freeing our brothers and sisters’ murderers.

The man who expelled 8,600 Jews from Gush Katif and empowered Hamas is no Arik to me.

The man who tramples on justice and tells the world that Jewish blood is cheap is no Bibi to me.

The next time you’re about to call the prime minister by his nickname, consider the bereaved families whose pain he has increased. Consider how you would feel if you were one of them. Does “Bibi” still seem appropriate?

Exclusive: Joe ‘Yoely’ Lhota on his Relationship With the Jews

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota has never been to Israel.  He didn’t join Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his trip to Israel in 1997  because he was acting mayor when Giuliani was overseas. Nevertheless, Mr. Lhota  shares something in common with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: they both have faith in Arthur Finkelstein. For those who don’t know, Arthur J. Finkelstein masterminded the merger of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu in the most recent Israeli Knesset election, which retrospectively granted Netanyahu his third term as Prime Minister (but also cost both parties more than 10 seats). Mr. Finkelstein also helped Netanyahu get elected as Prime Minister in 1996. Among his current clients are Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, who is running for reelection in the upcoming municipal vote, in October.

The Brooklyn born Finkelstein, who was raised in Levittown and Queens, scored his first significant win as a pollster/strategist in 1970, when James Buckley ran on the newly minted New York Conservative Party line and unexpectedly won a Senate seat in a three-way race. Finkelstein went on the help elect New York Republicans to office such as Alfonse D’Amato and George Pataki.

According to the latest Campaign Finance Board filing, the Lhota campaign paid Mr. Finkelstein $49,500 for polling. In a conversation with this reporter, Mr. Lhota confirmed that Mr. Finkelstein was hired as a pollster for the campaign.

Interestingly enough, John Catsimatidis, Lhota’s rival in the Republican primary, hired John McLaughlin, who worked as a pollster for Bibi Netanyahu in the Likud primaries in 2005, and later as a Likud campaign adviser in 2009.

Mr. Lhota also recalled his personal relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who served as mayor of Jerusalem at the same time Mr. Giuliani was mayor of New York. “He used to come to New York all the time. He would spend time in my office. We used to go cigar smoking,” Mr. Lhota recounted.  “I was so proud when he became Prime Minister,” he added.

Joseph Lhota, born October 7, 1954, is considered a Jew according to Jewish law. His maternal grandmother, Ita Steinberg, was born in the U.S. to a Russian Jewish family but married a Roman Catholic. She died in 1964. In an extensive interview with this reporter, Mr. Lhota said he had been aware of the fact since he was a very young man, but wouldn’t use it as a tool to court Jewish votes. “I think that would be patronizing,” he said.

“I am extremely respectful of the Jewish community. You know, I am Christian. I think of Jews as my older brothers. I mean, there wouldn’t be Christianity without the Jewish religion. There is a direct connection between the two of them,” he added.

Asked about his personal relationship with the Jewish community, Mr. Lhota spoke of his time as budget director and deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration. “As budget director, I had great personal relationships with the folks at the MET council; With Agudath Israel; With various different COJO’s, in various different parts of the city. It was very instrumental in making sure daycare vouchers were made available, and I continued that when I was deputy mayor. I maintained those relationships throughout the community. During the Giuliani administration, the Jewish community was understood, and I think there was a reciprocal affection in the administration for the Jewish community,” Mr. Lhota noted.

How do you intend to earn the Jewish vote? We asked.

“I had been spending, since mid January–when I announced–a significant portion of every day  fundraising, because I have to. I am running against a guy who is self funding. I am also against people who have been fundraising for the last 3 and 4 years. So I have a lot to catch up,” Mr. Lhota said, explaining his absence from Jewish events. “I am making more and more inroads in very different parts of the Jewish community as the summer develops.”

Speaking of the issues that are of great concern to the Jewish community, Mr. Lhota acknowledged that he still has a lot to learn. Nevertheless, he  expressed great knowledge of the issues the individual in the Jewish community faces in daily life. “Every time I go to the Jewish community, the issues are the same. It’s about education. Not just public school education, but also how unfairly yeshivas are being treated in comparison to others; it’s about affordable housing; it’s about jobs! The unemployment rate in the Jewish community is not really talked about. And crime. Even though the number of murders has dropped, other felony crimes are up.  And last but not the least, treating the community fairly and equitably,” Mr. Lhota said.

Mr. Lhota promised to fight hard for school choice vouchers. “The mayor can use the bully pulpit to advocate in Albany for private schools,” he said. “It’s important that our children are properly educated. The role of the government and the role of the state is making sure they have the proper textbooks; making sure they are secure; making sure that they have transportation. The children that go to parochial schools and yeshivas are residents and the children of taxpayers in the city of New York, and they are not getting their fair share. They are just not,” he asserted.

“On the issue of tax credits, I have been in favor of that. I have yet to find a way that it would cover the full tuition, but some form of a tax credit, to give relief to parents who pay for property tax as well and all the other taxes in New York, and are also paying tuition,” Mr. Lhota proclaimed.

Would you pledge to fight for it and get it done in your first term? We pressed.

“Would I start fighting for it in my first term, using my bully pulpit? I will start  doing it in my campaign. However, the mayor doesn’t have a vote in Albany. But rest assured, I will fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure it happens in Albany,” he pledged, adding, “I couldn’t make a commitment  that I will get it done in the first term.”

With regard to affordable housing, Mr. Lhota said he’s in favor of returning to the Mitchell-Lama program that gave tax credits to private developers as long as they remained in the program, and low-interest mortgages, subsidized by the federal, state, or New York City government.”We need to the same thing again. Those programs have lapsed. The government needs to partner with the private sector. The government shouldn’t build the houses; the government should provide the financial incentives to developers who build the housing, and keep the rentals affordable,” he said.

Mr. Lhota also raised the issue of City and State owned vacant properties, as a possible option to get more land to build affordable housing.

The third area is the federal government, Mr Lhota pointed out. “The federal government talks about closing most of the post offices. There are about  30 post offices in New York City they want to shut down. I want that property. Most post offices are surrounded by tall buildings. We would be able to take those buildings and use them as a location to put new housing, and coordinate that with some tax incentive plan.”

In conclusion, out of many conversations this reporter had with Jewish voters, the following story is the weirdest so far: on the first night of Shavuot, as I was walking home from Shul, I came across a cousin of mine who asked me what I do for a living. When I told him I cover the race for mayor he started asking me this and that etc. A friend who was following him interrupted the conversation, saying that out of all the candidates, Yoely Lhota stands the best chance.  “I am telling you, this Yoely Lhota knows what he’s talking about. He was already in government. He’s a fiscal conservative. I trust him,” the stranger said.

As I was walking home, I was thinking why would this guy call Mr. Lhota, whose real name is Joseph,  ”Yoely?” I came to the conclusion that when uttered in one breath, Mr. Lhota’s full name sounds like Joel Lhota, especially among Hasidim, whose every second or third child, if born to a Satmar family in the 80′s and 90′s, is named Joel (affectionately: Yoely).

When I recounted the story during our sitdown with Mr. Lhota, he laughed. “Call me Yoely from now on,” he said.

New Government in Place, Lapid Gave Up Foreign Office

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid has agreed to drop his demand for the Foreign Office portfolio, and will decide this weekend whether he wants the Finance or the Interior ministries – and it is estimated that he is going for Finance, Reshet Bet reported Saturday evening. On Friday, Lapid met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence.

With Lapid’s demand out of the way, the PM will be holding the Foreign Office portfolio for his election partner Avigdor Liberman, until the latter concludes his business with the legal authorities. The case against him opens in mid-April. It has been noted that knowing that Liberman is coming back could intimidate Foreign Office employees and might change their minds about testifying against their boss—but that belongs in a different article.

Lapid also consulted with Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett. Should Lapid opt for Finance, Bennett would be appointed Minister of Trade and Industry, with extensive powers.

Political circles are estimating that the next government will include only 24 ministers, in addition to the prime minister, which is more than the figure Lapid was pushing for, but a lot less than the previous government headed by Netanyahu, which at one point featured 30 ministers and 9 deputy ministers.

One of the key areas of conflict between Lapid and Netanyahu has been the number of government portfolios. Lapid was arguing that Israel cannot afford the expense of so many needless positions, each of which comes with office suites, staff, cars and security details.

The portfolios are expected to be divided as follows: 8 Likud ministers, 6 Yesh Atid, 4 Jewish Home, 3 Yisrael Beiteinu, 2 Tzipi’s Movement and 1 to Kadima.

Outgoing Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz confirmed in an interview on Israel’s Channel 1 News that Lapid is his likely successor. Steinitz, who holds a doctorate in Philosophy from Tel Aviv University, said: “I remember that when I was chosen there were doubts initially – a philosopher as finance minister? But, in the end, Israel’s economic results are the best in the West over the past 34 years.” He added: “I am convinced Lapid will position.”

Lapid, it should be noted, has not graduated high school.

The number two in the Jewish Home party, Uri Ariel, will get the post of Minister of Housing and Construction, according to the Army Radio, a post Netanyahu previously promised would remain in Likud hands. Yael German from Yesh Atid will serve as Minister of the Interior and Rabbi Shai Piron will be Minister of Social Welfare, although Shaul Mofaz from Kadima is also being mentioned as a candidate for that job.

Likud’s ministries will include Transport to Israel Katz, and Education to Gideon Sa’ar, both of whom held those same portfolios in the outgoing government.

Sa’ar said last week that he wanted to stay in the same office.

It is estimated that coalition talks will be completed by Sunday, and the next government will be presented by mid-week.

Will Sara Forgive Bennett? Will Yair Adopt Mofaz?

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

The weeks between the time the elections committee closes shop and the results are final, and when the president calls in the man or woman who would be the next prime minister are as heady as draft week and as silly as spring break, but without the booze. For the next couple or three weeks, expect to hear—including from yours truly—the wildest speculations and combinations of who’s in and who’s out. Take all of it with a chunk of salt, but don’t ignore the rumors and speculations altogether, because somewhere in there hides the one true prediction.

The problem is, at this relatively early stage of the game, that even the people at the top who are expected to create the perfect coalition don’t yet know where they’re headed. As Ha’aretz revealed this morning, the country’s semi-official king and queen, Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, are doing their darndest to make sure Jewish Home is not in the coalition, because of their “murky personal relationship with the head of the party, Naftali Bennett.”

This is such a classic tale of no good deed going unpunished. Back in 2006, when Bibi Netanyahu was on the matte, beaten and defeated, probably crying in his sleep and wondering if that furniture chain store would take him back – it was Naftali Bennett and Ayala Shaked who showed up and—as volunteers—picked up the fallen politician and infused his dreadful campaign (he had just led the Likud to a 12-seat presence in the Knesset). But Bibi’s third wife, Sara, was interjecting herself into every aspect of the work, until on one harrowing day that forever changed the future of the Jewish nation, Naftali Bennett asked her politely to get out of his way and let him work. Or unfortunate words to that effect.

You don’t say things like that to your boss’s wife, and you certainly don’t say it to Sara Netanyahu. It was epic, it was Shakespearean – and not the comedies. And the bad blood from that encounter is still alive and piping hot.

According to Ha’aretz, quoting a senior Netanyahu aide, Sara has vetoed Bennett, and “if possible in terms of the government, Netanyahu certainly prefer not to include Bennett in his government.”

Incidentally, Bibi’s other ousted chief of staff, Natan Eshel, is considered Sara’s true and trusted friend, and so speculations abound that he’ll be back at the helm in the new government. He’s the guy who was sexually harassing the office help. But he gets along with Sara, which is the most crucial qualification over there.

The other reason Bibi doesn’t want Bennett in is that Bibi is planning to give back something substantial in order to revive the peace process, not just words and pretense, but an actual piece of land, which may or may not involve removing Jewish residents – and he expects that Bennett would walk out at that point. So why empower him further by giving him a stage off of which he can do a dramatic exit?

What is it with Bennett and exits, anyway?

So, if Jewish Home is out, who’s in? Top choice, of course, is Yair Lapid, the most important man in Israel today, the man who could literally decide the country’s future—even more emphatically than Sara Netanyahu, and that’s saying something.

We’ve been assuming all along that the first partner Bibi picks up would be Lapid: combine Likud-Beitenu’s 31 seats with Lapid’s 19, and you got yourself a solid foundation for a government. All you need afterwards are the Haredim—notoriously easy to buy off—and if you don’t want Bennett, then maybe Tzipi Livni, and Kadima which made it in with Shaul Mofaz and another guy. At that point you can even invite Bennett in graciously, but only give him something like Tourism, or the Ecology.

Except that Yair Lapid, who originally was talking about letting the Haredim off for five years before implementing the crucial “equal burden” principle in army service, has had a change of mind. Realizing his own voters won’t forgive that kind of largess—Five years? Might as well go for Eternity—and now he’s been saying he wants everybody in uniform at age 18, except maybe a 400 Torah geniuses (Do we actually have that many? I’m just wondering – how do you farher—test a genius?).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/will-sara-forgive-bennett-will-yair-adopt-mofaz/2013/01/27/

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