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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Coalition’

Gafni Says UTJ Will Only Go with Right

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Moshe Gafni, the co-chairman of the Chareidi UTJ party said, “Rav Shach would never let us go with the Left, Degel HaTorah [Gafni’s faction in UTJ] has never gone with a leftwing government.”

The statements were made at a Degel HaTorah party meeting to party leaders and activists, according to a Bechadarei Chareidim video and report.

Actually, in July 1999, UTJ (and Moshe Gafni) sat in Ehud Barak’s leftwing government, side by side with Meretz (along with Shas, Liberman’s Yisrael B’Aliyah and the Mafdal).

To their credit, UTJ left the coalition in September of 1999, due to an open breach of Shabbat by the government when it ordered the transport of a large turbine generator for the electric company on Shabbat.

Gafni said that Degel HaTorah would have no problem going with the Left, in fact the Left would make sure the Chareidim receive even more money from the government.

But, Gafni said, Rav Shach [Degel HaTorah’s late spiritual founder] said the party needed to worry about the children of the non-religious who are learning in the public schools, over a million of them, who don’t know what is “Shema Yisrael,” implying that a Rightwing government helps in that area.

After the UTJ party became excluded from the current coalition, Gafni became an extremely vocal and enraged voice against the “Dati-Leumi” sector, even going as far as threatening to destroy Hesder Yeshivas and dry out the settlements in revenge when he gets back in power particularly in response to the Shaked Enlistment Law.

It appears Gafni’s pronouncement regarding the Left was made in reaction to Aryeh Deri’s recent statement that the Shas party would not join a leftwing government, which then put pressure on UTJ to also declare their allegiances for their rightfully concerned voters.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman Finally Declares His Allegiances [video]

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Wow. It took a long time, but Yisrael Beiteynu chief, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman finally declared his political allegiances without the semantic games and ambiguity.

In a YNET TV interview, Liberman clearly stated he will only join a right-wing led coalition.

Liberman said it could be a right-wing coalition, or a right-wing led national unity coalition, but he won’t join a left-wing coalition.

On the other hand, Liberman specifically clarified that these two options are the only realistic coalition configurations that seem possible.

From that statement, one might choose to interpret his allegiances to a right-wing led coalition as a practical response to what’s actually available as opposed to ideological considerations. He believes that The Zionist Camp (Labor) will join a right-wing led national coalition government.

Liberman is down to the low single digits in the polls, but he believes that on election day the voters will bring him back to double digits.

Latest Election Polls

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Israel Channel 1 has released its weekend poll.

Likud pulls ahead in this poll. Eli Yishai continues to not pass the electoral threshold. Unbelievably, Shas is actually making a comeback.

Regardless of the minor variations, the fundamentals remain the same, and forming a coalition still remains dependent on the small parties who have refused to declare allegiance to either side.

Likud (Netanyahu): 26

Labor (Herzog / Livni): 24

Bayit Yehudi (Bennett): 15

The Joint (Arab) List: 11

Shas (Deri): 9

Yesh Atid (Lapid): 8

UTJ (Gafni / Litzman): 8

Yisrael Beyteynu (Liberman): 7

Kulanu (Kachlon): 7

Meretz (Gal-On): 5

Understanding and Fixing the Real Problem with the Israeli Political System

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Politicians love to blame the plethora of small parties for the electoral mess we’re in, and their solution for the past few decades has always been to raise the electoral threshold required for a party to get into the Knesset.

But what if they’re wrong? (And they are.)


The Misconception Two legislative revolutions happened that radically changed the Knesset’s makeup and voter habits, which brought us this mess we’re currently in.

But first, let’s clear up a common misconception — that there are suddenly too many parties in the Knesset.

Historically, the number of parties in the Knesset has ranged from 10 to 15 parties. The average since 1949 has been 12.5, and the last 3 governments have only had 12 parties in the Knesset. That’s less than the historical average.

So blaming the problem on the number of parties is incorrect.

But there is something significantly different about all the parties currently in the Knesset, it’s just not about how many parties there are.


The History Before 1992, the Knesset consisted of a big party, generally a second medium party or two, and a lot of small one to four man parties.

In fact, between 30% to 50% of voters voted for small parties – presumably because Israelis want a closer and more responsive relationship with their elected officials.

So what changed?

Before the 1992 elections, Israel had a low electoral threshold (1%). One man parties were common.

That threshold was raised to 1.5%, then to 2% in 2003, and now to 3.25% in 2014.

The big parties keep trying to kill the small parties, thinking it will help both the big parties and the coalition’s stability.


The Unintended Consequence

Voters got cheated in the 1992 election, after the small one-man parties failed to pass the threshold. This resulted in the Right losing control of the coalition and Rabin getting in, even though more citizens voted Right than Left.

But there was a more significant unintended side effect.

It was also the first time since 1977 that the Knesset had more than two parties with more than 10 seats.

Before 1977, it was common, but back then, the leading party always had a very significant lead over the next largest parties.

Since 1992, with more than one medium-sized party, as well as larger “small” parties with 6 to 8 seats, we begin to see that these medium-sized parties having more influence and power than their size should allow.

Individual parties begin to become key to coalition building, and political extortion became the name of the game.

In 1996, there was second change — in the right direction, but not radical enough.

Instead of both direct elections for Knesset members and the Prime Minister, Israel only voted directly for the Prime Minister.


The Second Unintended Consequence

Direct Elections allowed voters the freedom to choose the party they wanted, separate from the Prime Minister – which they eagerly did — but for the first time ever in history, no party had more than 40 seats.

And ever since 1996, no ruling party has even came close to approaching the 40 seat minimum, except Sharon in 2003, who had 38.

This one-time experiment was enough to influence voting behavior ever since.


Voters Fight Back

Legislators had hoped to game the system against the will of the voters, but the voters realized that with proper voting strategies, they could game the system in return and perhaps get the government they wanted.

Voters learned that even without direct elections, they could get the Prime Minister and policies they desired by voting for the medium sized coalition partners they wanted – a wise choice for voters looking for more influence in the political process.

Thus leaving us with lots of small-medium to medium sized parties, and without any large ones.


The Lesson

The lesson is incontrovertible, the higher the electoral threshold, which removes alternatives to choose from, the “smaller” parties become more and more indispensable to any coalition, and the more desirable it becomes to vote for a medium sized party — and not for a large one.


Understanding the Voter

What can be done to fix the situation, to create a more stable government?

First of all, it needs to be recognized that Israelis want to vote directly for their politicians, and not for parties. This is why small one to four man parties were so popular until the big politicians banned them.

Lots of small parties may be unruly, but they don’t result in the exaggerated influence of the midsized parties to disrupt or control the government.

But, even if the threshold laws were canceled, which they should be, I don’t see voting patterns rushing back to their pre-1992 formats, though to a limited extent it will, just not enough to be useful.

After all, voters now understand the power of medium-sized parties.

Increasing the threshold won’t work either, as we’ve seen, each increase just gives more power to the third-tier parties.

And finally, forcing a two party system down the voter’s throats with (for argument’s sake) 45% thresholds, would just leave the voters feeling very cheated.


An Initial Proposal

One solution is to disconnect the executive and legislative branches.

Separate votes, separate powers, real check and balances – basically the American system.

That, tied with direct elections for Knesset members would be the optimal solution.

Only, I don’t see anyone implementing it in the foreseeable future.


A Solution Within the Existing Framework

So what can be done now with what we have? (Not that this is the best solution).

If Israel wants to stay with the parliamentary system, the solution is not as as complex as you might think. It requires two steps.

First of all, remove the minimum electoral threshold. Let people vote for whom they want.

The second is, let the head of the largest elected party become the Prime Minister, automatically, with no requirement at all to assemble a coalition to form the government.


The Intended Consequences

What do I foresee happening?

Only the die-hards will vote for the small parties. Most everyone else will want to make sure the Prime Minister comes from the biggest party that represents them the closest.

We would see a lot of parties consolidating automatically.

There will be a natural push to make sure the Likud or Labor becomes the biggest party.

If the Prime Minister wants to appoint ministers from other parties, he (or she) is welcome to (for instance, if he thinks it will help pass votes in the Knesset), but it won’t be needed.

It could even result in Israel getting professional and not political ministers.


Would It Work?

Would this system be governable?

I believe so.

It would probably require better delineation and definition of powers, and it admittedly could result in a Likud Prime Minister facing off against a large Labor + Arab ad hoc coalition in the Knesset, but if each branch had checks and balances against the other, it would either force them to work together, or create an absolute stalemate.

Resolving the stalemate issue could be done through direct elections of at least some of the Knesset members.

Creating direct electoral accountability means that at least some of the MKs would vote across party lines.



There is a valid concern that one party could win 61 seats. And even though that could happen now, it would be more likely under this system.

A possible solution for that is requiring mid-term elections for half the Knesset in such a case – without affecting the sitting Prime Minister’s government.

Another issue it that Israel is a mosaic of very different sectors.

Having such wide and disparate representation in the Knesset is a good thing. This idea might hurt that, as it’s not clear how well the two big parties would represent the smaller sectors – though I suspect they would court them very nicely.

And of course, its unlikely the MKs would vote for a system that would minimize the size of their own parties. But with all the party talking consolidation right now, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.


Bottom Line

This isn’t the only solution and not the best solution, but it does accurately explain the problem we’re in and how we got there.

I’m throwing this idea out there to hear what you think.

So — what do you think?

Israel May Call Early Elections Next Month

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will likely call early elections next month as controversy continues over the Jewish nationality bill and other measures — and as the second-largest political party, Yesh Atid, fights for control of the government.

The prime minister has slammed the 2015 budget proposal advanced by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, chairman of Yesh Atid, saying the budget would hurt the IDF and jeopardize Israel’s security.

A bill proposed by Lapid to drop the VAT (sales tax) to zero was also criticized by Netanyahu, who said the plan would “waste billions, won’t lower the cost of housing and will help only contractors who are close to Lapid advisers.”

More to the point, Netanyahu maintained Lapid is blocking him from governing the country effectively — and said new elections were preferably to the “back room deals” he said were sabotaging his leadership.

“The coalition will only survive if I can govern,” he said Friday. “I’m not sticking to my chair. I was chosen to run the country and the nation as I see fit but I cannot run the country this way. If Yesh Atid and Lapid continue their irresponsible behavior it will be right to go back to the voters.”

In response, Lapid told an audience at a cultural event in Tel Aviv that Netanyahu had not spoken to him in the past month. “Housing reforms are stuck, the budget is stuck, our international relations are deteriorating. Insteading of passing the budget and dealing with these issues [Netanyahu and his advisers] are dealing with petty politics,” he complained.

Other politicians are also gearing up for what appears to be an inevitable drive towards early elections.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, has released a diplomatic plan to Hebrew language dailies — but Liberman had started his political posturing already during this past summer’s counter terror Operation Protective Edge.

Former social services minister Moshe Kahlon also held a rally as part of preparations to form a new political party and he too has been making statements to media in what clearly appears to be preparation for elections.

Hareidi religious political parties are holding talks with all sides in order to see who will give them the best deal, as usual; United Torah Judaism has long had a handshake with Yisrael Beytenu, trading local votes for favors in small towns and cities throughout the country. In return, it is likely a similar deal will come into play at the national level when early elections are held.

Shas: For 0% VAT on Basic Goods, We’ll Join Coalition

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Shas head Aryeh Deri said this evening on Radio Kol Chai that if Netanyahu met his two non-negotiable conditions, Shas could join the coalition.

The first condition is removing the VAT tax on basic items [editor: such as bread, milk, fruits and vegetables], instead of Lapid’s plan to remove VAT on select apartment sales.

The second is raising minimum wage to NIS 30/hour.

The implication of the first condition is that Yair Lapid’s party would no longer be part of the coalition.

ISIS ‘Prince’ of Iraq’s Anbar Province Killed

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

The “prince” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Anbar Province is dead, according to a report by Al Arabiya.

Senan Meteeb, the so-called ISIS “emir” of western Anbar, was reportedly killed early Wednesday in a coalition air strike.

At least 24 other ISIS fighters were also allegedly killed in the attack, and numerous others were wounded.

The strike came one day after ISIS terrorists slaughtered 25 people from the Albunimr tribe in Anbar, Al Arabiya reported. Hundreds from the Sunni Muslim tribe have been murdered by ISIS.

Tribal fighters are demanding more air support from the U.S.-led coalition and Baghdad. The tribe’s cooperation with the Iraqi government — which is Shi’ite-led — is seen as key in order to defeat ISIS in the province, where the terrorist group has made considerable gains.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/isis-prince-of-iraqs-anbar-province-killed/2014/11/26/

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