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July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Meretz’

Understand Israeli Elections – Here’s a Primer, Part 1

Friday, March 13th, 2015

The Israeli political system is radically different from the one in the United States. The most obvious differences are that Israel is a parliamentary system with more than 20 potential parties in the mix, unlike just the two standard American parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

This year 26 parties are vying for positions in the upcoming vote, 11 of which are likely to pass the threshold requirement for becoming part of the next Knesset.

The first step of this year’s Israeli election to determine who makes it into the Knesset at all, then which parties will form the governing coalition, and finally, who will be the prime minister of the state of Israel, takes place next Tuesday, March 17.

The date was set by a formal meeting in early December, of all the then-current Knesset party leaders. Those leaders chose the date for the election to take place in just four months. While four months is a dramatically short campaign period by American standards, Israeli law permits only five months to elapse between the dissolution of one Knesset and the election for the next.

Election day is a big deal in Israel. Virtually everything, except the polling places, is closed. Free transportation is provided for any voter who needs it to reach their regular polling place.

On March 17,  all eligible voters – every Israeli citizen over 18 years of age – can vote. That includes Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews, men and women, able-bodied and those with disabilities. There is no voter registration system; every citizen is automatically registered once they turn 18. Nearly six million Israelis are eligible to vote in this year’s election.

MARCH 17: THE BALLOT BOX

Eligible Israeli voters go to polling places in their neighborhoods. There are more than 10,000 polling places throughout this tiny country. Most open at 7:00 a.m. and remain open until 10:00 p.m.

Turnout for Israeli elections has been declining for years, but it’s still well over 60 percent. In the U.S., turnout has been in the low-to mid 50 percent zone since the early 1970’s.

Before entering the voting booth, each voter is handed an envelope. Inside the booth is a tray, with different strips of paper. Each strip of paper includes the name and symbol of a party. The voter chooses the slip of paper which has the name and symbol of the party for whom they wish to vote, and puts that piece of paper in the envelope they were handed. After leaving the booth the voter places the envelope with their chosen party slip into the ballot box.

Israeli voters choose parties, not individual candidates, which, among other things, means their national representation is ideological, not geographic, and the vote is proportional, meaning the 120 Knesset seats are divvied up in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total vote. There is a minimum threshold for a party to meet before it can sit in the Knesset. That minimum is currently set at 3.25 percent of the total votes cast, which translates into four seats.

PHASE TWO: HORSE TRADING

Once the polling places close and the ballots are counted, the second phase of the Israeli election begins, the one frequently described as “horse trading.” In order to have the right to form a government and choose the prime minister, a group of parties needs to be able to control a majority of the Israeli Knesset, the single chamber Israeli legislature. The Knesset has 120 seats.

With so many parties competing, no single one has ever attained that magic number of 61 seats, and it is even likely that three or more parties need to agree to work together to form the ruling coalition. Therefore, parties which have been thrashing each other in public now start eying each other as potential dance partners, trying to figure out with whom they can create a functioning coalition to run the government.

This coalition building phase is a little bit like when, after a brutal primary in the U.S., the second place vote getter and the winner frequently kiss, make up, and agree to live with each other as their party’s candidate for president and vice president during the general election. But several different parties and lots of individual members of those parties are all added into the Israeli decision making mix. It isn’t easy.

But first let’s back up. How were the individuals on each party’s list chosen?

     PARTY LISTS

As soon as the Knesset is dissolved, either because it reached its four year expiration date, or because it is dispersed for some other reason (such as happened in the current case, when Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the Knesset to disperse and the Knesset unanimously agreed, on Dec. 8), the parties begin internal negotiations to determine who will be on their official “list,” and in what order. The higher up on the list one is, the greater the likelihood of actually making it into the Knesset.

There are various systems for determining who are included, and where they are placed, on each party’s list, including voting by the party leadership. Additional factors are taken into consideration, such as whether enough women are included, whether there are security experts represented, whether certain ethnic minorities will be included.

     PRIME MINISTER SELECTION

How does one of the party members then become the prime minister? Israel’s president, currently former Knesset member Ruby Rivlin, selects the member of Knesset believed to have the best chance of forming a viable coalition government, given the election results. This can take some time until the parties are able to align so that they can govern together.

Some of the horse trading here involves party leaders with high numbers demanding significant ministry positions in exchange for pledging their party’s support. Compare this to the ability of the U.S. president, once elected, then deciding who will become the various cabinet members.

This phase is incredibly complicated. For example, right now at least five different parties will be needed to join together to create a ruling coalition. And it is not as if just the top five vote-getting parties will join together, because of differences in ideology.

For example, the tiny far left Meretz party, which currently is polling at five seats, thought it would be able to create a power bloc by pairing up with the Joint Arab List. The Arab group dashed those hopes, claiming they would not join with “Zionists.”

Another complicating factor is that certain parties have claimed they will not join in a coalition with Netanyahu, and the Likud has ruled out creating a coalition with other parties, including the current frontrunner, the so-called “Zionist Union.” That party is a joining together of the center-left Labor party and Tzipi Livni and her entourage. Livni has changed parties so many times in the past few years most people just refer to this new party as Labor-Livni.

Once finally selected, the prime minister announces the formation of a new Knesset and the offices each minister will hold.

January 29 was the deadline for all parties to submit their lists of candidates. As of that date, the following parties had the following members in the following order (the parties are listed in terms of their most recent polling status):

ZIONIST UNION (1) Isaac Herzog (2) Tzipi Livni (3) Shelly Yachimovich (4) Stav Shaffir (5) Itzik Shmuly (6) Omer Bar-Lev (7) Hilik Bar (8) Amir Peretz (9) Merav Michaeli (10) Eitan Cabel (11) Manuel Trajtenberg (12) Erel Margalit (13) Mickey Rosenthal (14) Revital Swid (15) Danny Atar (16) Yoel Hassan (17) Zuhair Bahloul (18) Eitan Broshi (19) Michal Biran (20) Nachman Shai (21) Ksenia Svetlova (22) Ayelet Nahmias Verbin (23) Yossi Yona (24)Eyal Ben-Reuven (25) Yael Cohen-Paran. The left-center Zionist Union was forged by combining Labor and Tzipi Livni and her followers, has very recently been polling at between 20 and 24 seats.

LIKUD: (1) Benjamin Netanyahu (2) Gilad Erdan (3) Yuli Edelstein (4) Yisrael Katz (5) Miri Regev (6)Silvan Shalom (7) Moshe Ya’alon (8) Ze-ev Elkin (9) Danny Danon (10) Yariv Levin (11) Benny Begin (12) Tzachi Hanegbi (13) Yuval Steinitz (14) Gila Gamliel (15) Ophir Akunis (16) David Bitan (17) Haim Katz (18) Jackie Levy (19) Yoav Kish (20) Tzipi Hotovely (21) Dudu Amsalem (22) Miki Zohar (23) Dr. Anat Berko (24) Ayoob Kara (25) Nava Boker. Likud has been polling at between 26 and 20 seats, most recently declining.

YESH ATID (1) Yair Lapid (2) Shai Piron (3) Yael German (4) Meir Cohen (5) Yaakov Peri (6) Ofer Shelah (7) Haim Yalin (8) Karine Elharrar (9) Yoel Razvozov (10) Alize Lavie (11) Mickey Levy (12) Elazar Stern (13) Pnina Tamano-Shata (14) Boaz Toporovsky (15) Ruth Calderon. Yesh Atid focuses on social and economic issues and was brand new for the last elections. Yesh Atid has been polling at around 10 – 13 seats.

JOINT ARAB LIST (1) Aiman Uda (Hadash) (2) Masud Ganaim (Islamic Movement (3) Ahmad Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) (4) Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash (6) Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya (Islamic Movement) (7) Haneen Zoabi (Balad) (8) Dov Khenin (Hadash) (9) Taleb Abu Arar (Islamic Movement). The Joint Arab party has been polling between 11 and 13 seats.

BAYIT YEHUDI (1) Naftali Bennett (2) Uri Ariel (3) Ayelet Shaked (4) Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan(5) Nissan Slomiansky (6) Yinan Magal (7) Moti Yogev (8) Bezalel Smotrich (9) Shuli Mualem (10) Avi Wortzman (11) Nir Orbach (12) rabbi Avi Rontzki (13) Orit Struck (14) Anat Roth (15) Ronen Shoval. Bayit Yehudi, the religious Zionist party, has recently been polling between 10 and 14 seats.

KULANU (1) Moshe Kahlon (2) Yoav Galant (3) Eli Alalouf (4) Michael Oren (5) Rachel Azaria (6)Tali Ploskov (7) Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton (8) Eli Cohen (9) Roy Folkman (10)Merav Ben-Ari. Kulanu is a brand new party created by its number one on the list. Kahlon is understood to have destroyed the cell phone monopoly in Israel. Kahlon has not ruled out joining with Likud or Zionist Union. His determination to be the next finance minister is well-known. Kulanu has been polling around 8 – 10 seats.

SHAS (1) Aryeh Deri (2) Yitzhak Cohen (3) Meshulam Nahari (4) Yakov Margi (5) David Azoulay (6) Yoav Ben-Tzur (7) Yitzhak Vaknin (8) Avraham Michaeli. Shas (the Sephardi Haredi party which has experienced severe upheaval since its leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s death in Oct. 2013) has been polling pretty consistently at 7 seats.

UNITED TORAH JUDAISM (1) Yaakov Litzman (2) Moshe Gafni (3) Meir Porush (4) Uri Maklev (5)Menachem Eliezer Moses (6) Israel Eichler (7) Yaakov Asher (8) Eliezer Sorotzkin. UTJ, the Ashkenazi charedi party, has recently been polling between 6 and 7 seats.

YISRAEL BEITEINU (1) Avigdor Lieberman (2) Orly Levy-Abekasis (3) Sofa Landver (4) Ilan Shohat (5) Sharon Gal (6) Hamad Amar (7) Robert Ilatov. Yisrael Beiteinu is identified with the Russian immigrants and is considered right wing, although it does not believe in annexing Judea and Samaria. It has been polling at 5 seats for quite some time.

MERETZ (1) Zehava Gal-on (2) Ilan Gilon (3) Issawi Frej (4) Michal Rozin (5) Tamar Zandberg (6) Mossi Raz (7) Gaby Lasky. Meretz, which is left on social and Arab-Israeli issues, has been polling pretty consistently at around 5 seats.

YACHAD (1) Eli Yishai (2) Yoni Chetboun (3) Michael Ayash (4) Baruch Marzel (5) Sasson Trebelsi. Yachad, only recently created as a split off from Shas, has been polling between 4 – 6 seats.

Other parties which are not expected to reach the threshold number of votes include the Green Party, the Green Leaf (legalize marijuana) Party, Rent with Honor Party, the Economics Party, a Charedi Women’s Party (called Ubezchutan) and even something called the Pirate Party. Gotta love Israelis.

JewishPress.com will post another primer once the elections reach the second phase: assembling the ruling coalition.

Joint Arab Party Rejects “Zionist” Meretz Party as a Partner

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

As part of the election system in Israel, political parties can sign vote-sharing agreements with other parties.

If both parties pass the minimum electoral threshold, then the party that is closer to getting an additional seat will get the leftover votes from its partner that would otherwise be thrown away. Sometimes its enough to get the recipient party another seat once all the votes are counted.

Typically the parties sign vote-sharing arrangements with parties close to them ideologically.

The Likud and Bayit Yehudi have a vote-sharing arrangement. Yisrael Beytenu signed with Kulanu, and Shas signed with UTJ.

On Friday, the Zionist Union signed a deal with Meretz – but they didn’t want to.

The Zionist Union had originally chosen to sign with Meretz, but they really wanted to switch to Yesh Atid, who had no partner at all.

But in order to do that, they needed to find a new partner for Meretz, and another natural partner for Meretz would have been the Joint Arab List – or so they thought.

But, life and politics are funny that way.

The Balad component (Hanin Zoabi’s party) of the Joint Arab list refused to allow the Joint Arab List to sign a deal with Meretz.

Their leadership said they refuse to cooperate with any Zionist party, including Meretz.

Meretz chief Zahava Gal-on said, “The Arab parties let their [Arab] nationalists foundations define their party, nationalism and poverty, rather than cooperation.”

Meretz just doesn’t seem to understand the Arab party and sector, whom they imagine to be their natural partners and allies in Meretz’s battle to destroy settlements and create a Palestinian state.

Election Committee Bars Arab MK Zoabi from Running for Knesset

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

The Central Elections Committee Thursday overwhelmingly against Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi’s eligibility for running for election because of her association with terror.

The Joint Arab List, which includes Zoabi’s Balad party, will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, where Zoabi stands a good chance of a ruling in her favor.

The 27-6 vote in the committee rejected arguments by the attorney-general that banning Zoabi would be an open invitation to the Supreme Court to get involved in the political process.

Weinstein also advised against disqualifying right-wing activist Baruch Marzel, whose candidacy with the Yachad party also has been appealed to the committee, which has not yet decided on his eligibility.

The opposition to Zoabi’s candidacy by the Herzog-Livni-led “Zionist Camp” party cemented her disqualification, which also was backed by delegates from the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and Yachad parties.

Meretz and the Joint Arab List voted in favor of Zoabi.

The vote paved the way for similar action against Marzel, who later on the day also was disqualified.

Both Zoabi and Marzel, who is not a MK, have shown a proficiency for grabbing headlines. Zoabi is known for her nasty language against the IDF and right-wing Jews, and she also was onboard the Mavi Marmara boat in the flotilla led by IHH terrorists nearly six years ago to break the Israeli maritime embargo on Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Marzel has been involved in stunts such as marching with an Israeli flag in the city of Umm el-Fahm, which also serves as the headquarters for the northern branch of the radical Islamic Movement.

Marzel and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, along with the new Yachad party, petitioned the Election Committee to bar Zoabi from running.

The committee hearing was nothing less than a shouting match between Zoabi and hecklers, including Marzel, who jeered when she said Marzel and Lieberman “turned my nation into terrorists,” referring to her nation as “Palestinian.”

Yachad party chairman Eli Yishai shouted at Zoabi that she is a terrorist.

 

V15 Campaign’s Defense is Wrong: Its Positions More Radical than PA

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Opponents in Israel of the American tax-exempt organization-funded V15 campaign effort have laid several complaints against it: one, the foreign funding (including U.S. government funding) of an Israeli campaign violates Israeli election law, and two, an American tax-exempt entity funding a political campaign violates American law.

But even V15’s defenses to those charges make it ripe for lethal criticism.

V15 and its funder, OneVoice, claim to empower the “majority of Israelis” to change Israeli leadership (that’s what their posters say: “We’re Changing the Leadership”) to reflect that majority’s views. In fact, the goals of OneVoice represent neither the majority of Israelis, nor even the stated political views of the Palestinian Authority.

Let’s start with the complaints already on record.

In this corner, we have V15, the community organizing-style political campaign effort which imported the skills and funding of American leftists to Israel. OneVoice has received, under the Obama administration, large grants from the U.S. State Department and various foreign political parties and efforts. Also, the fact that the son of Mahmoud Abbas – the acting leader of the Palestinian Authority, is on its Advisory Council, is difficult to ignore.

The most problematic issue already raised, because it is hardest to explain away, is how an American entity which is tax-exempt can be funding a political campaign at all, let alone one in Israel.

IRSGATE MEETS ISRAEL

The politicization of American tax-exempt organizations was what triggered the Internal Revenue Service’s ugly Lois Lerner scandal. A significant number of politically conservative organizations which applied for tax exempt status were subject to extraordinary scrutiny and other alleged inappropriate behavior, because the claim was, because they were politically engaged, which is prohibited under the IRS regulations.

But the flat-footed targeting and punishment of organizations deemed “conservative” by the IRS was itself a politicization of the IRS process. It led to a huge outcry, congressional investigations, internal governmental investigations and lawsuits, most of which remain unresolved.

In fact, at least one pro-Israel organization which applied for tax-exempt status was given special scrutiny by the IRS which placed it in a Be on the Look Out (BOLO) category created by the IRS for “occupied territory advocacy.”

Just advocating for Israel with respect to the disputed territories triggered intensive IRS scrutiny, without the organization funding or participating in either an American or an Israeli political campaign. That’s hard to square with OneVoice having tax-exempt status, given its focus on “occupied territory advocacy.” The difference between the two entities is that OneVoice unabashedly seeks to turn over the disputed territory to the Arabs.

Young Likud party activists posted on their Facebook page instructions for filing complaints with the IRS against V15, in an effort to encourage the Service to undertake an investigation of the entity, and members of Congress are seeking an investigation by the State Department.

In addition, a complaint was filed with Israeli police against V15 and the Labor-Livni and Meretz parties, alleging violations of Israeli election law which bars campaign funding from sources outside of Israel.

V15 RESPONSE AND COUNTERCHARGE

The response by V15 to the criticisms lodged against it have been inconsistent. It was able to diffuse the State Dept. funding issue by claiming the grants ran out at the end of November, 2014. V15 was not launched until January, 2015, so, they claim, there were no State Department funds in its coffers by then.

The entity’s response to the IRS violations have been less categorical. Although it rigorously denied it is involved in the prohibited “campaigning for or against any political candidate,” statements by its alleged leadership, and the plain letter of their own posters reveal otherwise.

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.

New Poll Bad News for the Left and Bayit Yehudi

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

A new poll published by the Israeli Walla! website Thursday shows that the left and center-left parties are losing support, as is the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party.

If elections were held today, the Likud would win 26 seats in the Knesset, compared with 23 for the Herzog-Livni “Zionist Camp” duo, according to the poll.

The most significant changes from previous polls are weakening support for Meretz and Bayit Yehudi. The left-wing Meretz party will barely win representation, apparently losing voters to Herzog-Livni, a merger of Livni’s HaTnuah party and Labor (The Zionist Union), the poll reveals. Theirs candidates are more much more leftist than before, attracting Meretz supporters but apparently putting off supports who may have flocked to Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and the new Kulanu party founded by Moshe Kahlon.

Bayit Yehudi, headed by Naftali Bennett, is losing ground. For the first time since the beginning of the campaign, the party has dropped to 12 Knesset seats, the same as in the outgoing Knesset but two to four less than in nearly all previous polls. This puts them as the same size as the Arab party, who could end up being the 3rd largest party in the Knesset.

That drop accounts for the increase in support for Likud.

The shifts in supports for Meretz and Bayit Yehudi do not change the left-right balance, but they leave the Likud in a better position.

The Walla! poll gives Yesh Atid 10 seats, one more than in most other previous polls. All other parties are more or less in the same position, except for Yisrael Beiteinu, which was granted seven seats, according to the poll. Previous surveys projected the party headed by Avigdor Lieberman would barely win enough support to enter the Knesset.

The new Yachad party headed by Eli Yishai continues to be on the edge of winning enough votes to enter the Knesset.

 

New Poll: Shows Netanyahu Will Lead Next Gov’t with Haredim

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

A new pre-election poll issued on Monday leaves no option for the next government other than one headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with the help of Haredi parties.

Here is the lineup according to the “Panels” poll conducted the Knesset Channel :

Labor-Livni – 23

Likud – 21

Jewish Home – 16

Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) – 11

Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon) – 9

Yisrael Beitenu – 7

Meretz – 7

Arab parties – 10

Yehadut HaTorah (Haredi) 7

Shas – 5

Eli Yishai – 4

The Labor party, headed by Yitzchak Herzog with his new sidekick Tzipi Livni, cannot form a majority the Haredi parties, which won’t happen unless it can convince two of four parties – Yair Lapid ,Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman and Meretz – to agree, which as likely as snow in July.

The center-right ring camp has less of a problem with the Haredi parties.

Adding up Likud, Jewish Home, Yisrael Beiteinu and Kahlon comes up with the non-magical number of 55, six less than the majority that is needed to form the government.

The three Haredi parties are in the driver’s seat for the time being, and if the results in March will be similar to those of today, they will dictate the terms of the next coalition.

If that happens, Lapid and Livni will rue the day they worked against the coalition of which they were a part.

The polls are not meaningless and actually are a factor in how people will vote. If voters see that the next government will be under the thumb of Haredi partiers, they might start shifting their votes.

Supporters of Yesh Atid and Labor-Livni might shift a bit to Kahlon, possibly enough to give Netanyahu a majority of 61 without the Haredi parties.

Herzog, Livni and Lapid have a problem because there is not much they can take from other parties.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/new-poll-shows-netanyahu-will-lead-next-govt-with-haredim/2014/12/22/

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