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September 4, 2015 / 20 Elul, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘israeli elections’

US Orchestrated Anti-Bibi Bomb May Bite its Backers

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Remember Al Capone?

He was the notorious American gangster who met his downfall by the inelegant and unexciting – but sometimes deadly – U.S. tax code. So, too, may be the ultimate fate of the ubiquitous and well-funded Obama-style campaign machine gunning for Netanyahu, known as V15.

That entity and its creators are barred under US tax law from attempting to achieve its two stated goals: defeating Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and changing Israeli law in order to create a Palestinian State.

For some reason the fact that V15 is an avowed effort to oust Netanyahu did not raise enough eyebrows when it was first announced.

The lack of sustained attention back in January caused some to scratch their heads. That V15 was run by the same folks, and in the same style, as U.S. President Barack Obama’s notorious street theater, in your face, take no prisoners-style campaign director, Jeremy Bird; that its financial, emotional and political source received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the U.S. State Department; and even though that same source is an entity which has tax exempt status in the U.S. – which means it cannot fund projects to either support or defeat a political candidate in the U.S. or anywhere else, did not lead to a long media shelf life.

The first two issues should have drawn attention to V15 not because political operatives are barred from selling their strategic skills – that is, after all, the nature of their job – but because it was so odd for someone like Bird to come all the way to Israel to sell his skills. Bird is not Jewish, and his only apparent connection to Israel was working for an anti-Israel American radical activist back in his graduate days.

But who was paying for Bird? Campaign funding is very strictly regulated in Israel. The strategist who managed Obama’s two U.S. presidential campaigns – in which billions of dollars were spent – was likely to have a very high price tag.

Then there was the matter of the U.S. State Department grants to OneVoice, V15’s “creator.” The airy dismissal that all State Department funding ended at the end of November, so there was no U.S. government money being used for the election — which was publicly announced in early December — was, incredibly, accepted without any further interrogation by the American (and most of the Israeli) press corps. Former Naval Intelligence officer J.E. Dyer  pursues that angle with the kind of tenacity one should be able to expect from the seasoned press corps members who show up nearly every day at State Dept. briefings.

But the least interesting angle, at least to most, is the one that involves the Internal Revenue Service. Before your eyes glaze over, recall that the U.S. actually had what could almost be called a juicy scandal beginning nearly two years ago, that involved the IRS.

Quite a few politically conservative (and one pro-Israel) organizations claimed that the IRS was treating their applications for tax-exempt status in a discriminatory fashion. The initial response from the IRS was that many of those groups were not really entitled to tax-exempt status, because they were engaged in political, not educational or charitable, work.

That seemed to many like a reasonable response. The Internal Revenue Code states that even a non-profit organization cannot be exempt from paying taxes, and its donors will not be entitled to tax deductions, if the organization is involved in politics or lobbying.

But while much of the IRSGate attention has since focused on where are Lois Lerner’s emails and whether they are really gone forever or just deleted, hidden or irrelevant, the fact that tax-exempt organizations cannot engage in raw politics seemed to be one tiny aspect of American government that many people learned.

Livni Feints Right, Liberman Fumbles, and Everyone Thinks It’s Purim

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

There’s something appropriate that the upcoming Israeli elections are being held so soon after the Purim holiday.

I would venture to say it’s the only explanation for the mishaps, mistakes, and clown-like behavior.

Let’s start with Tzipi Livni (Hatnua).

The polls showed that Livni was unlikely to pass the electoral threshold, yet both Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) courted and chased after Livni as if she was the last girl on Earth.

Like King Achashverosh of Shushan, Herzog offered Livni half his kingdom, though unlike Achahverosh, Herzog doesn’t actually have a kingdom to offer, but then again, Livni doesn’t have anything to offer in return either.

And when these two sycophants agreed to merge with one another (to the dismay of most of the MKs in the Labor party), Livni and Herzog’s “brilliant” campaign strategy to gain votes was to change the merged party’s name into “The Zionist Camp”, a name selected solely as an attempt to outwit the campaign slogans of their competitors and the Right – and not because it has much connection to reality.

(But that’s typical of the Left, hijacking normal words and phrases, corrupting them so badly they can no longer be used in their proper context – just look how they’ve corrupted the term “Freedom of Speech” — now it means shutting down newspapers.)

The two can only hope they don’t confuse and turn off their Left-wing voters who don’t want to vote for the Zionist camp.

And then we have Aryeh Deri. Like on Purim, Deri is drunk on power.

Deri is so afraid of Eli Yishai, as Yishai is considered the better, more honest, the more popular, and the more capable politician, that Deri did everything to push Yishai down and out – even though polls showed that Shas with Yishai at its head would win 2 seats more than Shas with Deri in charge.

As a result, Shas is likely to crash, and whatever new party Yishai forms will do well – which is good, because we know where Yishai stands and what he’s capable of, and his record doesn’t include jail time.

And then we have our friends in Bayit Yehudi – both sides standing up so hard for their principles that they’re just going to split the party that has the potential to become the second largest in the Knesset.

It’s right out of a Purim Shpiel, or maybe just a Greek tragedy.

And finally, there’s Avigdor Liberman.

Yes, Avigdor. The man who claims he is the most responsible adult in the room.

The man, who after the 2009 election, disappeared overseas for days, right in the middle of the February coalition negotiations, forgetting his cell phone at home, and leaving the country stuck in neutral, as he played power games and kingmaker with Netanyahu and Livni.

And yes, here is Mr. Responsible Adult, once again, playing the same childish games.

Once again Liberman won’t say if he will support the Right or Left. In fact he came out yesterday and explicitly said he might very well support Livni and Herzog for Prime Minister.

It sounded earily similar to what Liberman told Radio Kol Yisrael in 2009 (via A7), before disappearing:

“Our position is already clear and I know exactly what I am going to tell President Shimon Peres. In order to know whom we are going to recommend, we will wait six more days. I think it is too early and there is no point saying whom we support. I have met with both Livni and Netanyahu and with additional people in the political system but my position is already clear and solid. When we go to the President we will say very clear things.”

Jeremy Man Saltan on the New Israeli Coalition Part 2

Monday, March 25th, 2013

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Jeremy Man Saltan (“Knesset Jeremy” – blogger and political analyst) joins Yishai to breakdown the newly minted government coalition in Israel and to explain Naftali Bennett’s proposed basic law defining Israel as the “national state of the Jewish people”. How can such a fundamental concept stir-up so much controversy? Listen in and find out why!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Bennett’s Unholy Alliance with Lapid

Friday, February 15th, 2013

I’m not going to pretend I was satisfied with the Likud’s election campaign, or even all of Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s policies/positions over the last four years (e.g., Bar Ilan, the freeze, etc.). But in the past four years, we’ve had, first of all, a government that lasted  just about four years, which is quite an achievement in and of itself in Israel. And we’ve managed to stave off international pressure while getting sanctions in place against Iran. At the same time we’ve had modest domestic achievements, keeping the economy stable despite a global crisis and lowering the monthly cost of living.

Yet, leading up to the elections, I was shocked by how many people were so ready to abandon the Likud and Netanyahu, despite the fact that they knew only he could be Prime Minister and would need a strong showing for the Likud-Beitenu slate in order to have a stable center of gravity for his coalition.

On the day of election, I argued that weakening the Likud-Beitenu, even if by voting for the Jewish Home, to Netanyahu’s right, will actually strengthen whatever left-of-center party will join the government. That’s because even if “the right” has a majority of the Knesset, even 65 seats, a stable government requires more than that. Netanyahu will have no choice, just as he did after the last election, but to bring at least one party from the left in to stablize the coalition. Otherwise any coalition partner could bring down the government.

As the Likud-Beitenu dropped in support, that became more and more true, since the less seats it would have the more vital each coalition partner would be. While that would make Jewish Home more vital to the coalition, it would also have a similar affect on the other parties. The only method Netanyahu has of neutralizing that problem is by bringing in more parties. Practically, the weaker Likud-Beitenu was, the more necessary a left-wing party would become to the coalition. That party was Yesh Atid, which seems to be the most centrist of the sizable left-wing parties.

That prediction, or actually warning, came true with a vengeance. Not only did the Likud lose seven mandates worth of votes to Jewish Home (Jewish Home got 12 and Power to Israel got two, for a total of 14 – seven mandates greater then these two parties represented in the prior Knesset), but Yesh Atid almost doubled in size, going from a predicted 10 to 19 mandates.

So, predictably, Netanyahu’s first post-election call was to Yair Lapid.

At that point Netayahu had two realistic possibilities for a right-of-center coalition: Likud-Beitenu-Jewish Home-Yesh Atid+Shas (with a moderate Haredi-draft plan) for a 72 seat coalition OR  Likud-Beitenu-Jewish Home-Shas-UTJ-Livni-(Kadima) for a 67-69 seat coalition without Lapid (unclear draft plan, but relatively decent foreign policy positions).

(A Likud-Beitenu-Jewish Home-Shas-UTJ coalition would amount to 62 seats, would result in do-nothing government, with a bad budget, and might even fall by the time the next budget came up).

When it became clear that Lapid’s demands were too inflexible, making Shas unwilling to join the coalition, meaning the first option was not going to happen, the second option became more necessary. So Liberman went about trying to make it happen, meeting with the Jewish Home. Talks began with Livni as well. But then Bennett and Lapid formed an alliance:  Bennett would not join the government, unless Lapid also joined.

Practically, that means that Netanyahu can’t form a government without Lapid. It also means that Lapid will be strengthened in his demands, specifically his universal draft plan (which sees lowering the amount of yeshiva-exemptions to a mere 400, lower than it was in the early years of the state) and Shas and UTJ will not sit in the government. Lapid will be doubly strengthened in his demand for a renewed focus on the peace process (he still clings to Golda Meir’s non-sense slogan of, you only make peace with your enemies), because not only does he have more leverage with Netanyahu, but also because Netanyahu will need to bring in more left-wing partners to stabilize the coalition, such as Tzipi Livni who demands that she lead a renewed negotiation effort.

Netanyahu tried to break the alliance by offering Bennett virtually everything he wanted prior to elections – greater say over government guidelines and ministries – in exchange for being the first party to join the coalition. That would have weakened Lapid’s position and forced him to moderate. But Bennett refused.

Post Election Thoughts from Yishai and Baruch Widen

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

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Yishai is joined by alternative peace activist Baruch Widen to discuss the outcome of last week’s elections in Israel. They start by contrasting the results of the election to what many were expecting due to polls that were carried out. They move on to talk about and compare Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid, both new parties that broke out during the campaign. Are they more same than different? Listen in to find out!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

A Nation’s Search For Meaning

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, renowned psychologist Victor Frankel attributed his survival in the death camps to his feeling that his life had meaning. Those who lost that feeling of significance died.

It is not only people who need a sense of meaning; nations also need it – particularly the nation of Israel.

The search for meaning was the undercurrent that inspired last week’s elections. It wasn’t the economy or security. It certainly wasn’t the universal draft issue.

“Zionism has nothing to do with religion,” declared the First Zionist Congress. In a way, the Congress was right. Religion suits the community or family structure. It is a type of mobile Judaism that can be packed into one’s knapsack after the inevitable pogrom. Return to sovereign statehood requires much more than religion: It requires a return to an all-inclusive Jewish culture.

What content has filled the renewal of Zion in our days? We all know that without some common vision, society disintegrates. What meaning will there be to our national renaissance without the foundations of our shared faith?

All the debates at the start of Zionism revolved around that question. The Socialists won in a knockout. It was the Labor Party that presided over the establishment of the state of Israel and led it until the mid-‘70s. The Right never put forth an alternative vision. It adhered to the practical aspects of Zionism – settlement and security – without ever attempting to infuse meaning into its actions. Socialism collapsed along with the Soviet Union in the ‘80s, and when the Left was elected to lead Israel in the ‘90s, it rode the wave of “international brotherhood” alone. The socialist vision was replaced with the peace vision.

Twenty years later, we are at the end of the Oslo era. Israeli society has suffered a bloody awakening from the peace illusion, the public arena is void of any vision, and our national soul thirsts for meaning. It turns out that our national existence has no meaning if it is detached from its foundations in Jewish identity and faith – interwoven with modernity.

The Likud – the nationalist party with the glorious history, Jabotinsky’s teachings, and the popular connection to Jewish tradition – has all that it needs to infuse our society with meaning. But all of those important components were tucked out of sight in last week’s elections. The fact that the Likud did not even publicize its platform was no mistake: “We’re going to win anyway, so why get into arguments?” was the dubious logic behind that decision. And the nationalist ruling party turned itself into a party of suit-wearers with a negative campaign and no message or meaning.

On both sides of the Likud, parties that proposed a new agenda flourished. They have not yet infused their messages with real meaning, but at least one of them, Jewish Home, provided the scent of Jewish content as it quickly climbed to a projected 18 seats in the polls (it won 12 seats in the elections) – almost half of its support coming from non-observant voters.

Initially, the public was surprised when polls showed that a large number of voters were debating between Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Likud consultants expected the base attack on the Jewish Home to bring six secular mandates back to the Likud – but that didn’t happen. The Likud, which had fled from its own message and did not provide society with any type of meaning, did not garner those votes. If the Jewish agenda was suddenly unacceptable, those voters could easily vote for lack of meaning in more attractive packaging. No need to go back to voting for the lack of meaning offered by the old suits.

That is how Lapid’s party became the second largest party in Israel, while the Likud found itself shrunk and hunkering down between two fresh-faced parties advocating a new national agenda: one a civil agenda, and the other a Jewish-oriented agenda. Neither party provides meaning at this point. They are both too preoccupied with the “how” and not the “why” or “to where.”

If we in the Likud will understand the deep reason for our party’s decline; if we will refresh our ranks and provide the public with a new vision and a national answer to the “why” and “to where” – we will retrieve the votes that went to our younger sisters, and continue to securely lead Israel with our national vision.

Lapid Concedes: Haredim Have Won (Video)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

If one listens to or reads the transcript of Yair Lapid’s address to Haredi law students at Kiryat Ono College, one can see why he won so big in the last election.

For those who don’t know, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party won the second largest number of seats in the Israeli Kenesset (19) after Netanyahu’s coalition party of Likud/Yisrael Beitenu (31).


After reading it, I think I may have actually voted for him too, if I lived in Israel. Lapid won because he is apparently a very wise man who recognizes the truth and is unafraid to speak it.

And yet Lapid scares Haredim. So much so that they have united with Shas to try and form a political block with an equal number of seats as an alternative to Lapid in a coalition alliance with Netanyahu . They fear they may lose out and not become a part of the governing coalition – and therefore not have the power they have enjoyed in recent years. And they may be right.

Why does he scare the Haredim? There are probably many reasons for that. For one thing his father “Tommy” Lapid formed an anti-Haredi party whose purpose was to battle Haredi influence in government. Haredim might think, “Like father like son”. After all where does a person mostly learn their attitudes about others if not from the home?

Another thing they see is his uncompromising demand that Haredim be subject to the draft. This they fear with a vengeance. To Haredi rabbinic leadership, supporting the draft of Haredim into the army is tantamount to supporting the destruction of Yiddishkeit. This has been made clear time and again by their public statements on the matter or in one public protest after another. That alone is perhaps enough in their minds to consider him a Rasha.

In fact it wouldn’t even surprise me if they dismissed his speech at Kiryat Ono entirely even if they did hear it, because of his support of drafting of Haredim. Not that any of them would even bother listening to – or reading the transcript of his speech. Their leaders have spoken and he has been dismissed as a Torah hater – or something akin to it. End of discussion!

Which is kind of the problem with Haredi leadership in Israel. If anyone has an all or nothing approach to things it is them. If a secular Jew says one thing in opposition to their views about Judaism, he is evil.

Which is too bad. Because what Lapid says makes eminent sense. In fact if I didn’t know he was a secular Jew I would say that he was very much a part of the Dati Leumi camp. (Although he does refer to himself as secular several times during the course of his speech.) Much of what he says could have been said by me… and probably has been at one time or another.

What is remarkable about this speech is not only that he pushes for the same things I do. But that he recognizes that Haredim have won! He recognizes the error of Israel’s founding fathers in rejecting Talmudic Judaism in favor of biblical Judaism. He recognizes that the complaint by Haredim that seculars too often believe in “Kochi V’Otzem Yodi” is a valid one. That is the view that all of Israel’s successes in war are due solely to their own military prowess. Lapid says that this belief is a mistake and he recognizes that there is a God in the world. And he says that even secular Israel is now more religious than ever. The majority of Israelis even believe in Torah MiSinai!

He fully admits that the founding fathers not recognizing the spiritual component of Israel was a mistake.

Haredim won the battle between the forces of secularism and socialism that guided its founding fathers. They should therefore no longer consider themselves just a small party – one of many – seeking whatever it can for its own constituents regardless of what’s good for the country as a whole. Instead Haredism is increasingly defining the mainstream by virtue of its exploding demographic and perhaps more importantly by the very nature of Judaism itself: its spiritualism.

Without the spiritual component Israel has little if any real attraction for a secular Jews. Who wants to live in a place where all of your neighbors that outnumber you in geometric proportion want to annihilate you? Why would any human being want to live like that? Without the spiritual component that Haredim stand for, no normal person would want to live in such a hostile and dangerous part of the world.

He acknowledges that Israel cannot exist without Haredism but says that Haredism cannot exist without Israel.

The bottom line for Lapid is that he seems to have done some soul searching and discovered some of the eternal truths of Judaism, its history, and the requirements for Israel’s survival. In a very real sense, this secular Jew is a very spiritual person. And a very honest person. Which makes me wonder how he ever became a politician!

But then again, if ever there was a time for an honest politician in Israel, that time is now. I truly believe that this man is a patriot who is both honest and who has a clear vision for the future. A vision that is inclusive of all!

I don’t know what a new governing coalition will look like, whether it will include Lapid or not. But I hope it does. And it would be nice if Haredim gave him a chance to prove himself to them. He is their friend whether they realize it or not.The full video presentation of Lapid’s speech (Hebrew with English subtitles) follows.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/lapid-concedes-haredim-have-won-video/2013/01/29/

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