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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘party’

Will the Likud Remain Democratic?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

One piece of political news that probably went unnoticed to most, especially among all the coalition-negotiation rumors, was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering cancelling the Likud’s primaries.

An article about this was first published on Jan. 28th,  just after the Knesset election on Israel’s Walla news site. Then, over the last few days it sprung up again in Ma’ariv/NRG and Yediot. Another Feb. 10 article in Ma’ariv claims that the Prime Minister intends to have the primaries cancelled before ministers are sworn into the government – that is, potentially in a matter of weeks.

To most people this is just internal party politics, but it’s really not. It directly affects the democratic nature of the State of Israel. In Israel, voters do not choose individual candidates, they choose slates. In effect, there are 120 legislators, but not a single representative. The candidates themselves are chosen via internal party processes – sometimes by a committee – a larger “central committee” or a smaller secretariat or selection committee – sometimes by the chairman, sometimes by the membership in an open primary. Those primaries are the only opportunity a citizen has to vote for an actual legislator, the only time a legislator directly faces a citizen and is held accountable for his record.

Unfortunately, only a few parties hold primaries. Likud and Labor do. This past election cycle, the Jewish Home held primaries, but only half of its list was chosen in the primaries, the rest by the central committee of T’kuma/the National Union. Kadima held primaries for its chairman, but cancelled its primaries for its list because it was expected to only get a maximum of 3 seats (in the end it got two). In total, about 42-3 Members of Knesset were chosen in primaries, meaning about  1/3rd of Knesset Members were chosen by actual people and not by party bosses. Even more unfortunate, is the fact that only a small percentage, something like three percent, of the public is eligible to vote in a party primary, and even less actually do vote.

But still it’s a start. If Israel won’t change over to a district-based electoral system (one representative per district), the only hope for the Members of Knesset being chosen by the people is through the primaries.

The alleged reason for cancelling primaries is, reportedly, that there are those who believe that the Likud’s list was too right-wing and that cost it votes and at the same time, not all party members voted for the party. Or in other words, the “settlers” registered to the party to push candidates like Tzipi Hotovely, Danny Danon, Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin and Moshe Feiglin. The problem with that allegation is that there are many factions within the party who behave this way (like unions and members registered by vote contractors); there probably was a higher voting rate among settlers who were registered for the Likud then those who weren’t;  and of the 11 seats the Likud-Beytenu list lost from its prior standing the Knesset, seven mandates worth of votes went to the right. Any internal party player, especially the Prime Minister knows all this.

It is true though that the primaries are intensely manipulated – by the various factions/MKs/branch chairmen/vote contractors (vote contracting, as I have explained elsewhere refers to the practice of registering people to the party and then kind of bargaining with their votes for personal gain). This is a huge problem. But this manipulation can only take place because so few people are registered to the party. Many of them are registered by internal players, who can trade on their votes.

If, on the other hand, a million or 500,000 people  instead of 120,000 were registered to the Likud, and those people were registered by the party itself and not for any specific internal party player, it would be too hard for any vote contractor or even group, such as a union, to register and control the numbers necessary to manipulate the system. Vote contracting in its current powerful form, would be a thing of the past.

That would require an immense registration effort by the party over several years. That is very possible. In Israel, however, long term solutions, are not the preferred solutions. It’s easier and more seductive to maneuver one’s way to power, which in this case may mean canceling the primaries and concentrate power in the hands of an even smaller group of people.

The Likud’s Alleged Rightward Shift

Monday, December 10th, 2012

On the night the Likud’s top 35 candidates for the Knesset were announced, the Israeli media immediately came to several conclusions about the Likud, which it did not even attempt to veil: the Likud had decisively shifted rightward, Moshe Feiglin had conquered the Likud, and the Likud could no longer be the true Likud as Benny Begin, Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor, who did not win secure spots on the list. At best these conclusions were sensationalism and at worst Leftist bias.

A Right-Wing Takeover?

The Likud’s list today is very similar to what it was in 2008 and the next Likud Knesset faction will be very similar to the current Knesset faction. Of the first 25 spots on the Likud’s list (prior to the merger of the list with Yisrael Beitenu’s) 20 are part of the current Likud Knesset faction. Several more would have been part of the first 25 (like Begin) if not for the fact that the Likud reserves about 15 spots on its list for new candidates, in this case spots 22-37.

True, some new Likud Members of Knesset like Danny Danon, Yariv Levin, Ze’ev Elkin and Tzipi Hotovely who comprise the party’s right flank did much better than expected and it was true that Moshe Feiglin finally earned a secure spot on the party’s list.

But Feiglin ranked only 14th in the primaries. That’s hardly conquering the party. He had already ranked 20th in the 2008 primaries and was only moved down on the list after district and demographic spots were moved up by virtue of an internal Likud court decision which changed the rules of the game after the game was over. So in a way he had already succeeded in the 2008 primaries and was simply re-elected. He is also incredibly active politically and has been for twenty years.

Elkin was previously number 20 on the list, having been elected on the first “oleh spot” (immigrants spot) on the party’s list in 2008. This time he won spot number nine. While Elkin takes pride in the fact that he lives in a caravan in Judea and Samaria he is also very close to Netanyahu. He is currently the coalition/Likud faction chairman. The 21st spot on the Likud’s list for an oleh candidate (not necessarily a “new oleh”) this time around was a safety net for him, having been put in place by Netanyahu.

Levin won in a district spot in 2008 (number 21). This time he ranked 11th. While he is a very trusted friend of settlement-based factions in the Likud, he never publicly challenge Netanyahu. He was also a member of an internal Likud committee and in the Knesset was the chair of the House committee which  controlled the flow of legislation. He was hardly an outsider to the party.

In addition to the more nationalist MKs who succeeded, many others also did well who are not ideological: Silvan Shalom (previously number 7, now number 4) supported the Disengagement. Tzachi HaNegbi was a member of Kadima, now he is number 17. Yisrael Katz (then 11, now 5), Haim Katz (then 14 now 13), Carmel Hashama Cohen (then district spot number 25, now 21) are not considered ideologically motivated Likudniks.

Miri Regev (then 27, now 14) is considered one of those extremist young MKs and she also did well, but my impression of her is that she isn’t very ideological. She was the IDF spokesperson during the Disengagement and a very ideological person would have resigned from such a position when the citizens’ army was turned against about 8,000 citizens in Gaza and the Shomron. My feeling is that she realized after the Central Committee elections in January that the settlement-based groups controlled a large bloc of votes and were well organized, so she made a decision to pander to them.

Many other more middle-of-the-road Ministers ranked high: Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan were the top vote-getters in 2008 and today, ranking 2nd and 3rd on the list; Moshe Ya’alon ranked eighth in 2008, and now seventh; Yuli Edelstein remained at number 12; Yuval Steinitz and Limor Livnat retained secure spots, despite dropping on the list (Steinitz dropped from nine to 16, and Livnat from 13 to 18).

Rivlin: Knesset Must Regulate Politicians’ Ability to Switch Parties

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin (Likud) criticized the practice of switching between parties by various Members of Knesset and Knesset candidates , calling on the next Knesset to regulate such behavior, Israel’s Channel 10 website reported.

“We need to ask ourselves what is transpiring in our political culture,” Rivlin said. “To my regret, what was in the past an exception, has in recent days become routine and accepted behavior.”

“The next Knesset must answer to the constitutional and democratic question: can a candidate that competed in the primaries of one party join soon after in another party?”

The latest candidate to switch parties was former Labor Chairman Amir Peretz who just resigned from Labor and will be joining Tzipi Livni’s party, “The Movement,” as the second candidate on that party’s list after Livni herself.

Peretz claims that one of the reasons for his leaving the Labor party was that its new chairman, Shelly Yachamovitch has not publicly ruled out the possibility of joining a government with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Many members of Kadima have either resigned or have also left their party for Livni’s new party in recent days.

In the Israeli political system, to be elected to the Knesset a candidate must win a secure spot in a party slate or start a new party himself.  Running with a party on a spot below the number of seats polls show that party will receive is political suicide.

Many polls show that Kadima will not pass the voting threshold and will not have any seats in the next Knesset.

Channel 10: Liberman Dropped Ayalon for Leaks

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, was ousted from the Likud-Beiteinu Knesset list because party chairman Avigdor Liberman suspected him of leaking information to the daily Maariv.

A leak in Liberman’s world, commented the Channel 10 news reporter, is tantamount to betrayal, and so Ayalon did not get the graceful dismissal the two other dismissed members, MK Anastasia Michaeli and tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov received, when Liberman gave them the opportunity to resign on their own.

It should be noted that even after his quick and completely unexpected dumping (according to his Facebook page he heard about it  just moments before the rest of us did) – Ayalon would not say anything negative about his soon to be former boss. That kind of loyalty is rare in Israel’s volatile, dog eat dog politics, and attests to the love and warmth Liberman’s subordinates share for him.

By the way, this was not Ayalon’s first instance of being fed some humble pie by his boss — about a year ago Liberman was so upset about something his deputy had released that he made sure the public knew that he, Liberman, rebuked Ayalon for his conduct.

If you love him, let him go…

Bittersweet Chanukah For Aging Lehi Fighters

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

They are in their 80s and 90s now, but when the British ruled Eretz Yisrael they were teenagers, or maybe in their 20s. Their faces were on “wanted” posters and those who were caught went to prison or were exiled to Africa. They are the remnants of the most feared Jewish militia that fought the British – Lehi, commonly known as the Stern Gang. Every Chanukah they met in Tel Aviv, lit candles, shared some doughnuts and watched their numbers dwindle.

They chose to meet on Chanukah because it commemorates the victory of the few against the many. They, too, began as a group of a few dozen “extremists” in 1940 – and even in 1948, when they all joined the Israeli army, they numbered under one thousand.

Since 1932 Abraham Stern, their future leader, had been writing songs about “anonymous soldiers” who would “live underground” while fighting to liberate the homeland. By 1941 his followers were killing officials of the British regime that had promised to make the holy land a Jewish home but more or less reneged, and bombing the British offices that were preventing Jewish immigration. By then Stern was on the run and many of his men were in jail. His imprisoned troops crafted an olivewood Chanukah lamp and smuggled it to him with a note: “To our day’s Hasmonean, from his soldiers in captivity.”

Chanukah was a special time for the fighters. Stern wrote, “We are a handful of freedom fighters, possessed with a crazy desire for sovereignty, and according to our detractors of little strength. But this is not so. The little strength is much greater than it appears. Like the Hasmoneans’ oil, the fire of zealousness and heroism burns in the temple of our hearts, a divine flame. The day is coming soon when we will use this flame to light the candles of our Chanukah, the Chanukah of the Hebrew kingdom, in a free Zion.”

Stern was captured by British police in a rooftop apartment in south Tel Aviv and shot to death. The veterans held their Chanukah gatherings in this hideout, now an Israeli museum. They were joined every year by Stern’s son, Yair, now 70. He was always the youngest “veteran” in the room. Though he was six years old when the British left and Israel was established, he paid the price of being his father’s son.

During the War of Independence, an Israeli army unit drove past his house on its way to battle. The commander jumped out of a jeep and ran to Yair, who was playing in the yard. “We have an army and a state thanks to your father,” he said, then drove off.

“If I hadn’t heard that, I don’t know how I would have turned out,” Yair said recently. He became a sports reporter and ultimately the director of Israel Television. Now retired, he promotes the memory of his father and the 127 Lehi members killed by the British or in the 1948 war with the Arabs.

Over the years the number of fighters attending the party dropped and the number of grandchildren rose. One regular was Hanna Armoni, now 87. In the 1940s she brought food to the underground’s prison escapees and blew up bridges. Her husband, Chaim, helped blow up some British oil refineries and was one of 19 Lehi fighters sentenced to death for the deed. Hanna took out an ad in a local paper to inform Chaim that he’d become a father, but before he could meet his daughter he was killed while trying to escape from Acco prison. The daughter attended last year’s party with her own children.

“Lehi was violent,” Hanna says, “but in all the years of our war with the British, Lehi never targeted a woman or child. Our targets were British police, soldiers, and government officials.”

Tuvia Henzion, 92, was a synagogue choirboy who had studied auto mechanics. He fought with British Colonel Orde Wingate’s raiders before joining Stern’s militia. When Stern was killed, Henzion reorganized some of the remaining fighters into secret cells of three or four members; Lehi kept this structure for the rest of its war. One of the young people he drafted into Lehi was Armoni. In recent years, the two organized the Chanukah parties.

Stern himself liked parties; he was considered the life of any he attended and usually led the guests in songs and dances. When he died he was hated by the British and almost all of Palestinian Jewry, which did not understand his insistence on throwing the British out of the homeland, especially during a world war. Today, Stern has been honored by the Knesset and has streets and even a town named for him. His followers, once “the few against the many,” are today the consensus in Israel.

But every year fewer of the original “few” met on Chanukah, because fewer survived. This year they decided not to spend the time and money on invitations and refreshments. Instead, they appealed for contributions and have hired someone to put their literature online and revamp an old website. They haven’t given up hope and plan on having a party next year.

Perhaps Judah Maccabee’s troops gathered on Chanukah to celebrate their victory, too, until finally none of them was left and their stories and legacy were left to history.

Israel’s Political Map As Confusing As Ever

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

JERUSALEM – While it is almost certain that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next Israeli coalition government, the country’s confusing electoral system has created another medley of instant political parties headed by a variety of media celebrities and scorned politicians.

After a six-month absence from politics following her ouster as Kadima Party leader by former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has returned to the political fray as head of a new centrist party, Hatenuah (the Movement). She is in line to win up to nine seats in the upcoming elections, according to the latest polls.

Livni is likely to compete for support within the ideologically middle political ground with the revamped Labor Party, led by former journalist Shelly Yachimovich, and former TV talk show host Yair Lapid’s new Yesh Atid (There’s a Future) Party.

For its part, the Mofaz-led Kadima, with the current Knesset’s largest faction (28 seats), is not expected to win any seats come January, according to the latest surveys.

Netanyahu’s mounting economic and foreign policy problems have impacted his united Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu electoral faction, as many nationalistic and centrist voters are leaning toward supporting some of the overhauled or new political factions. The latest Smith Research poll, conducted for The Jerusalem Post and the Globes business daily, found that the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list will receive no more than 37 Knesset mandates, down from their current combined total of 42.

But the newly constituted Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Party, which absorbed the National Religious Party/National Union and is now led by former hi-tech mogul and Yesha Council executive Naftali Bennett, has the potential to secure 11 Knesset seats (up from seven), according to the Smith Research poll. The nationalist, pro-settler Bayit Yehudi Party will almost certainly be a key member of Netanyahu’s expected new coalition government.

Another key coalition member, the Sephardic Shas Party, could be hampered by the return of party leader Aryeh Deri after a 13-year absence due to a bribery conviction and jail sentence while serving as interior minister and the emergence of current Shas MK Rabbi Chaim Amsalem’s breakaway Am Shalem (Entire Nation) Sephardic faction. Rabbi Amsalem has publicly said that he would like to participate in forming the next government, even though his fledgling party is anticipated to receive only three or four Knesset seats, as per most polls.

Lapid, claiming that his Yesh Atid party is not “leftist,” is reported to have put out feelers to Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader, in an effort to portray his party as a potential coalition partner as well. Yesh Atid is projected to capture 10-12 Knesset seats.

Yachimovich’s revitalized Labor Party appears to be in line to become the nation’s opposition voice, as the center-left faction could receive 20 or more Knesset seats.

According to all polls, there will be almost no change in the number of seats (currently five) now held by United Torah Judaism. Despite the fact that the haredi community represents the fastest-growing segment of Israeli society, infighting between the various Litvish and chassidic courts have soured many frum voters from the idea of voting for United Torah Judaism.

Nita Lowey Gets Appropriations Top Dem Spot

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives elevated Rep. Nita Lowey of New York’s 18th congressional district (Westchester and Rockland counties), to their ranking member on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Lowey, a leading pro-Israel lawmaker who is Jewish, had been the top Democrat on the committee’s foreign operations subcommittee. She announced her bid for the party’s top slot on the Approriations Committee last April after Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) announced he was retiring.

“It is especially gratifying to be the first woman to lead either party on this powerful committee,” Lowey said in a statement Tuesday after her election by the House Democrats’ steering committee.

Lowey defeated Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) for the top spot. Kaptur had seniority but was seen as problematic because of her sometimes frosty relations with the House Demcoratic leadership and her relatively conservative views on abortion.

Lowey won by a vote of 36-10, sources told The Hill newspaper.

“Throughout her service on the Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Lowey has acted as a fierce advocate for the best interests of the American people, at home and around the world,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader. “As the first woman to hold her new post, she will continue to fight for investments that strengthen the middle class and spur our prosperity.”

Pelosi emphasized that Lowey and a top Democrat on another committee, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), of the Financial Services, were women — an implied jab at House Republicans, who elected only white men to committee chairmanships.

On Politics and Circumcision

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Late Tuesday night, December 4, 2012, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, also iron fisted boss of Yisrael Beiteinu, announced his slate for the January 22 elections, a slate he’ll be cohabitating with PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. It’s going to be a “ritchratch” (zipper) list, with Likud 1 coming first, followed by Yisrael Beiteinu 1 in second, Likud 2 in third place and YB 2 in fourth.

I’d like to see Nate Silver crack this one…

And, as iron fisted leaders often do, Liberman (who doesn’t like his name spelled Lieberman, like Joe’s) decided to shed a few celebs from his current list of candidates, including MK Danny Ayalon, his deputy foreign minister; Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov who resigned from political life (Driver, take me to your finest Gulag); and MK Anastassia Michaeli, the lady who never met an Arab she liked and became world famous for emptying a glass of water on Labor MK Raleb Majadele.

In light of all of the above, here’s the reason for making this the photo of the day. It has to do with the curious connection between the Hebrew word for “word” – Milah, and for “circumcision” – also Milah (brit milah means covenant via circumcision).

Liberman’s election slogan, Milah Zu Milah (A Word Is a Word, meaning you can count on my word) can also be interpreted to mean Circumcision is Circumcision – and so it came in handy on the night a fifth of the old party list was cut off.

Siman Tov U’Mazal Tov…

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/on-politics-and-circumcision/2012/12/05/

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