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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Meretz’

Un-Caged Knesset Beasts Claw Each other as Election Bait

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Virtually every Knesset party went wild Monday to claw the coalition government to near-death, leaving enough oxygen for resuscitation before forcing elections that, if held, should focus on blaming all the beasts for leaving their cages.

Israel’s establishment media, especially the center-left electronic and print outlets, always use a day of quiet from riots and rocket attacks to whip up the winds to blow apart the collation headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister that it hates because he is so successful.

The coalition’s main partners are the Likud, headed by Netanyahu; Jewish Home, headed by Naftali Bennett; Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman; Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid; and HaTnua, headed by Tzipi Livni.

Not one of the parties really loves the other, and more accurately, everyone hates each other. Bennett and Lapid started out the coalition as the oddest of odd couples, but its life span was pre-destined to be short.

Lieberman for years has said that he will be Prime Minister one day, and Netanyahu looks over his shoulder so often that he is under constant medical treatment for a stiff neck.

Bennett, the most unseasoned of them all, swings back and forth from tree to tree, depending on whether he wants to please the settlers or Lapid’s voters.

Livni, whose party has only six seats in the Knesset and which will barely squeak into the next Knesset, according to polls, throws around borrowed weight that hides her hapless political performance and destiny.

In the background, the Haredi parties are breathing fire through their nostrils, begging to be begged to help Netanyahu form a new coalition or possibly Lapid to form an alternative coalition.

Don’t worry. The lion is not about lie down with the sheep.

Left-wing Meretz and center-left Labor want new elections because they have nothing to gain by their somewhat weak standing as opposition parties that roar like a mouse.

So will new elections be held soon?

Here are three of several rules in Israeli politics:

First, there are no rules, even the one that says that there are no rules.

Secondly, if elections were held every time the media reports that a coalition will not survive, Israelis would be going to polls twice a week.

Thirdly, since only Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman probably would gain from new elections, the beasts probably will be back in their cages by next week, if not by this evening.

It is questionable whether the issues are the reason for the current crisis or whether they simply symbolize the need of the beasts to escape once in a while for exercise.

The big issue for months has been Lapid’s proposal to eliminate the 18 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on the purchase of new homes. The bill for zero VAT has so many holes in it that it could not pass as Swiss cheese, but no one in Israel likes to confuse the circus – or jungle – with facts.

Under the bill, if it is ever passed into law, the lucky buyer who won’t pay the tax will have had to serve in IDF – 18 months for a man and 12 months for a woman. The home must not be larger than 140 square meters and cost no more than 1.6 million shekels.. The buyers must be employed – bye, bye Haredim – and must not have owned another home in the past 19 years and must be at least 35 years old and have at least one child.

All of these conditions whittle down the potential buyers to a small minority, but the noise over the proposal has been enough to shake the nation to its foundations.

Bennett’s Jewish Home and Labor Up in the Polls

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

A poll by the Knesset Channel released on Thursday confirms the trend of increased popularity for the Jewish Home party, headed by Naftali Bennett, and lesser support for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

Unlike recent polls, strength in the Likud-Beiteinu party dropped a bit. Labor and Meretz gained backing at the expense of Yesh Atid, and the other parties drew more or less the same support as in recent polls.

If elections were held today, according to the new survey, Likud-Beiteinu would win 30 seats in the Knesset, one less than it has today. Labor, which recently elected Yitzchak Herzog to replace Shelly Yachimovich as its leader, would replace Yesh Lapid as the second largest party, with 19 Knesset Members.

Third in line is Jewish Home with 17 seats, five more than it holds today.

Yesh Atid would drop from its current 19 to only 12. Meretz, as in previous polls, would be the biggest winner in terms of percentage gains. The survey gives the left-wing party 12 seats, double its current strength.

Shas would drop to seven seats, the Ashkenazi Haredi United Torah Judaism would hold its own at seven, and Tzipi Livni’s party continues to be in the dumps, this time with four projected MKS. The remainder of the Knesset seats would be occupied by Arab parties.

Polls Show No Chance for Obama to Wreck Netanyahu Coalition

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Two new polls show that Israel is marching rightward and that the nationalist and religious parties would even be stronger than in the current coalition if elections were held today, mostly at the expense of Yair Lapid

The Likud Beitenu party, which reflects the merger of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu that still may be dissolved, would increase its strength from 31 in the current Knesset to 34, according to a Channel 1 poll, and 40 according to a survey by Geocartography. The second poll also showed that if the two parties were to split, they would win a combined number of 55 mandates

The Jewish Home party, headed by Naftali Bennett, would hold its own, with one poll showing a gain of one seat and the other a loss of one seat. If Likud and Yisrael Beitenu were to split, the strength of Jewish Home would sink to seven.

The left-wing Meretz party, which now has six Knesset Members, would gain one or four seats in the next Knesset, depending on which poll is accepted.

The increased strength of Likud Beiteinu comes at the expense of Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party, which was the star of the last election by winning 19 seats. The Channel 1 poll gives it only 9 seats and the Geocartography survey came up with 13.

Despite the difference in the results, the trend is clear – a sharp rise for Likud Beiteinu and a punch in the pace for Lapid. The “champion of the middle class” has lost its luster as the truth quickly emerges that he represents the upper middle class.

He has an ace up his sleeve if he can bring down the price of housing, but that is not about to happen tomorrow, next month or even this year.

The gain of Meretz and Likud Beiteinu at his expense indicates that Lapid’s charisma attracted leftists and center right secular nationalists.

As for the other parties, Shas still is around and will stay or more at less with 11 seats, according to the polls.

Labor, now under the lead of Yitzchak Herzog instead of Shelly, Yachimovich, would drop from the current 15 to 11 or gain one seat.

Both polls reveal that Tzipi Livni’s HaTunah party would be cut in half in the Knesset, from the current six MKs to only 3.

One surprise result is that former MK Aryeh Eldad, Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, all of them to the right of the right, would win three seats.

Pro-Marijuana Views Unite Feiglin and Lefitsts

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

On the bustling bourgeois avenue of Tel Aviv’s Ibn Givrol Street, beneath a portico and next to a high-end hair salon, it smells like college.

Aside from a small green sign, the clinic is unidentifiable, its one window blocked with a sheet and covered with chains. A single metal door is guarded by a man with a large knit kippa, fringes from his tzitzis and a holster hanging below his belt.

Behind the door is the main distribution center of Tikun Olam, Israel’s principal supplier of medical cannabis. Some 11,000 Israelis take the drug legally to treat ailments ranging from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder. But activists say the approval process for marijuana prescriptions is cumbersome, requiring patients to appear before a committee on cannabis use to determine their eligibility.

“We believe that you need to expand access to it,” said Ma’ayan Weisberg, Tikun Olam’s public relations director. “The government is taking a long time. Not everyone who needs it gets it.”

Leading the charge to change is an unlikely figure, the Likud party’s Moshe Feiglin, a resident of the Ginot Shomron community in Samaria and best known for his solid advocacy of a Jewish presence in all of Judea and Samaria.

His political views kept him of the Likud’s list of Knesset candidates for years and also caused Britain to ban him from entering.

Feiglin finally won a a relatively top spot on the Likud list and was elected to the Knesset in this year’s elections and promptly proposed to broaden access to medical marijuana by allowing any family physician to prescribe it. Eventually he hopes to push for full legalization.

“I support freedom, especially when we’re talking about something less dangerous than cigarettes or alcohol,” Feiglin told JTA. “People can be healed, and [current laws] are denying that.”

He considers himself a libertarian, albeit one with a religious bent. His opposition to a plan to issue biometric identification cards to Israelis and his longtime support for unfettered Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria  are, Feiglin says, of the same cloth as his support for marijuana use.

“The root of freedom is the belief in one God,” he said. “We worship him and therefore we can’t be enslaved to anyone else. An eternal nation doesn’t work against natural history, and our return to our land, to national sovereignty, means we’re connected forever.”

Feiglin’s push for legalization has landed him with some strange bedfellows. He considers Tamar Zandberg, another first-time lawmaker from the far-left Meretz party, one of his strongest allies on the issue. Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich also supports loosening restrictions on medical cannabis, though she opposes outright legalization.

“Feiglin and I don’t agree on almost anything,” Zandberg told JTA. “But on this we have a shared goal.”

Feiglin’s support for liberalizing the marijuana laws in Israel derives, in part, from personal considerations. His wife suffers from Parkinson’s disease and uses cannabis to alleviate her symptoms.

Not everyone who supports increased marijuana access backs full legalization. Hebrew University professor Raphael Mechoulam, a leading cannabis researcher, believes the drug should be decriminalized to prevent excessive arrests, but draws a line at full legalization.

“I wouldn’t want to be in a taxi or a plane where the driver is high,” Mechoulam said. “There’s a certain limit. You need the backing of the people. I’m not sure the people in Israel are ready and in favor of legalization.”

Feiglin also harbors reservations about full legalization, noting that he doesn’t want to turn Tel Aviv into Amsterdam on the Mediterranean.

“I don’t see Amsterdam as a bad thing,” he adds quickly. “There’s no chaos, there’s more freedom for citizens. [Legalization] didn’t upend the way of life.”

And though cannabis is consumed in his house due to his wife’s illness, Feiglin says that at least for now, he chooses not to inhale.

“I don’t take aspirin,” he said. “I don’t like putting things in my body. I like leaving the vessel of God as it is. But I would be happy to know that I could use it if I wanted to.”

This article was written by Ben Sales for JTA

Ha’aretz Survey Shows Lapid Crashing, Jewish Home, Meretz, Soaring

Friday, October 18th, 2013

The single most important finding of Friday’s Ha’aretz survey, which will be the subject of discussion here for some time to come (maybe not as intense as the Pew survey, but close), is how unsurprising it is. Yair Lapid’s meteoric rise from zero to 19 in under 3 months is proving to be identical to the rise and fall of every single “center” party since 1977. As of that year, practically every election sees an attractive newcomer, secular, free-marketer, usually with little past political track, who captures an astonishing slice of the vote only to fizzle out of existence in the very next election, as Israel’s special, and uniquely annoying crowd of “undecided” discovers a new, shiny star.

Poor Shaul Mofaz, chairman of Kadima, experienced this drill in January, coming down from 28 to 2 seats, while most of his voters headed for Lapid’s smile and amazing promises. And have no fear, there will be somebody just as promising come next election, to scoop up Yesh Atid’s votes and put them in a totally new, promising and trustworthy bucket. Because, were the vote to take place today, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and his merry band of total- and near-unknowns would be dropping from 19 to 10 seats. And that’s today, without a seductive, yet untested alternative.

The Ha’aretz survey was conducted by Dialogue, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs from Tel Aviv University’s Depart. of Statistics, one of the country’s most reliable numbers guys. It questioned 501 Israelis with a 4.4 percent margin of error. So, take it or leave it, it’s a snapshot.

Likud-Beiteinu stays exactly the same, with 32 seats. This means Bibi stays on as the permanent Israeli prime minister, mostly because folks have no idea who would be better at this. It also means that MK Aryeh Deri should probably shelf his plot to yank Avigdor Lieberman out of his pact with Bibi. That dog ain’t hunting.

In fact, Aryeh Deri should be very concerned that mere days after all the sympathy and pomp his party received from the public, following the departure of their spiritual leader, Shas drops from 11 to 10 seats. It may just mean that the voters do not necessarily see a connection between the great leader, who they loved, and his party, about which they’re cooling down.

That one seat most likely went to Jewish Home, which probably also siphoned off 2 seats from Lapid, to grow to 15 seats in this survey. That’s a 25 percent growth for a party that’s in the government and isn’t particularly delivering big time on its campaign promises (no major housing spurt in Judea and Samaria, and don’t forget the loss of the Chief Rabbi’s post).

Srugim suggests this is because Jewish home has been aggressive in its campaign for local municipalities, with the vote coming next Tuesday. The public sees the Jewish Home brand, day in and day out, and it’s becoming more comfortable and acceptable. Maybe the Bennette marketing approach, stressing nice feelings and broad, generalized ideas, does attract the Masorti-traditional crowd in the middle. Who knew?

The other very big winner is left-wing Meretz, which doubles it seats from 6 to 12, while Labor, like Likud, stays the same – 17 seats.

UTJ stays at 6, Tzipi Livni 5, Kadima still at 2, and the Arabs still with 11 seats.

I have no idea what Yair Lapid’s marketing consultants are telling him he should do to avoid the one-term-flash syndrome that befell his own late father a decade ago. I doubt they’re telling him to go even harder on the Haredim – it’s a very tired horse. If anything, he should mend fences with the Haredim, if he’s looking to grab anyone’s attention.

He could unite with Bennett, you know, in a kind of mildly traditional coalition. It’s never happened before in Israeli politics, but of all the things that seem to be getting positive marks from Israelis, the friendship between those two successful leaders is still way up there.

Finally, the survey asked the voters which politician fulfilled his or her promise and which was a disappointment. Most of the responses cancelled each other out, with about the same percentage fulfilled and disappointed. Two stood out: Bibi had 6% disappointed vs. 19% fulfilled; and Lapid had 4% fulfilled vs. 51% disappointed. That’s off the chart letdown.

Good luck retooling that one…

Latest Poll: Netanyahu and Jewish Home on the Rise, Lapid Down

Friday, October 11th, 2013

The Likud-Beiteinu party and the Jewish Home parties would collectively win six more seats in the Knesset if elections were held today, according to a new poll conducted by Smith Institute for Globes business newspaper.

Labor, headed by Shelly, Yachimovich, would gain one more seat, while Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid would sink form its current 19 seats to only 12.

The left-wing Meretz party would gain significantly, winning  10 seats in the projected Knesset, four more than the current six.

The Shas party would remain constant. As in previous polls, Tzipi Livni’s party would be cut in half to  three seats, and Kadima, headed by Shaul Mofaz, would disappear from the political map.

An Even More Centralized Israel: Cashless and Criminal

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Centralization in Israel is a two-headed coin (or perhaps a two-headed monster).

There’s no doubt, that so many bureaucratic activities go much smoother in Israel than they do in America, because we have ID numbers and our cards are inter-linked to everything. Of course, sometimes that doubles the frustration when obvious things need to be manually duplicated over and over for no reason.

On the other hand, that centralization provides no flexibility or a safety net. Having problems with one government office can easily spill over to an unrelated one, since you’re linked together everywhere on record.

Then there is the basic issue of personal privacy and civil liberties.

And now, the Israeli government is attempting to implement two extreme decisions that threaten civil liberties more than ever.

They’re testing a biometric ID system. God forbid that should ever become mandatory.

Right now, even though your personal bio-data is out there with different organizations, there is still some semblance of privacy and protection because of the separation that naturally exists between your health fund, the army, the government, and so on.

But once that goes away, there goes your privacy. You will have no control over your personal information at all, and you’re reliant on the government, which as we know, is not the most effective of protectors of personal data.

The other move is even scarier.

The Israeli government is actually considering trying to find a way to abolish cash.

There was a unanimous cabinet decision to explore how to do that (Hey Naftali Bennett, I didn’t vote for you to lose my civil liberties – remember that come election time).

They want to get rid of cash, and give everyone rechargeable “cash cards” that will allow the government to track every single transaction you do. EVERY. SINGLE. TRANSACTION.

I can’t even begin to describe the civil liberties and privacy violations that implementing this system will create.

And if they actually believe this will get rid of cash, or the black market, they’re even stupider than I thought.

Bitcoin, gold, barter… you name it. Smart (and dumb) people will find their way around it. Not to do illegal transactions, mind you, but simply to protect their privacy away from the government’s snooping eyes.

And then we’ll all be criminals, because of a dangerous legislation which is an intrusive attempt to suck more tax money out of us and spy on us, and not just spy directly, but with data mining too, to study our purchase and transaction behavior, and find every last penny they can suck out of us and understand what we do with it.

I guarantee one thing. If this legislation passes, if the party I voted for, and the ones I didn’t, don’t stop this in its tracks, I will do everything (legal) to make sure those people do not get elected again, and be replaced with people who do care and understand the importance of civil liberties and fear the tyranny of government.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/an-even-more-centralized-israel-cashless-and-criminal/2013/09/18/

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