Honest Avi

“I have a feeling (I did not count, I admit, but every Israeli journalist is quite familiar with this gloomy state of affairs) that the large majority of the journalists is of Ashkenazi background, resides in Tel Aviv and lives in a left-wing bubble. We like to listen to the same radio programs that nobody in the periphery listens to, watch cool current events programs that have next to no viewers, and read the so-called “thinking people’s” newspaper (Haaretz) even though all relationship between it and the State of Israel is purely coincidental. We will sit in a cafe in downtown Tel Aviv and go on and on about Bibi and his wife without realizing that most of the country admires them.

Maybe that is because we are cut off from the State of Israel and tuned in to the State of Tel Aviv. We have no clue what is happening in Bat Yam, Holon or Ashdod, not to mention Netivot, Sderot or Kiryat Shmona.

To Likud’s joy, Labor and Meretz also have barely a clue what is happening there.”

All credit to Avi Issacharoff for his honesty, for it is his post at the Times of Israel (here) from which the above quote is taken. It’s a piece offering another explanation about why Bibi won. I think it’s a highly important piece of information that helps understand, not only why Bibi won, but the dynamic within Israeli society – or at least one of them.

We have, in the main, a media that is disconnected from the population. Sound familiar?

Foreign media, in the main, connects with Haaretz. That’s the only media establishment in town. (I suppose the UK equivalent would be the Guardian.) No wonder Israel gets a crap deal at the hand of these people.

So far as our own media is concerned, maybe that’s why they are so hateful of Israel HaYom and its pro Bibi stance? It’s a mile away from the Tel Aviv perspective.

I’d like to pretend that I can work out what this will mean in the future, but I don’t know. I suspect that the so called Yedioth Achranot (Ynet) law – effectively banning free newspapers like Israel Hayom – is dead and buried. I happen to think that’s a good thing. But what else will be impacted? I wonder how these coalition negotiations are progressing…

Many think it. Lapid says it.

From the Times of Israel:

Lapid calls on PM not to appoint Shas leader as interior minister

Yesh Atid head says Aryeh Deri not fit to handle public coffers given criminal record; Netanyahu gears up for tough coalition talks

In a post on Facebook on Saturday, Lapid wrote: “Are you comfortable with the idea of giving a senior ministry (I understand it’s the interior ministry) — which oversees billions of shekels in budget funds — to a man in whose conviction the judges wrote? This is not an isolated failure on the part of a young politician who was recently exposed to power, but a person who consistently led a life based on corruption.”

“Do not abandon the public coffers to [such] a man, Mr. Prime Minister, this money belongs to all of us,” Lapid wrote.

On Thursday, a petition posted to the Internet called on Netanyahu to refrain from accepting Deri into his government and to prevent him from reassuming a ministerial position, owing to his criminal record.

Deri was the head of Shas until he was convicted in 1999 of accepting $155,000 in bribes while running the Interior Ministry, and served 22 months in prison. He returned to the party in 2012 and challenged then-party head Eli Yishai for the faction’s top spot.

A power-sharing agreement that created a leadership troika of Deri, Yishai and Ariel Atias was short-lived, and Deri returned to lead the party in 2013.

Yishai quit the party in the lead-up to the 2015 elections, but his rival party Yachad failed to achieve the minimal number of votes in Tuesday’s elections to enter the Knesset.

Shas, meanwhile, garnered 7 seats and Netanyahu seems set on forming a six-party right-wing/ultra-Orthodox coalition, comprising Likud (30 seats), Kulanu (10 seats), Jewish Home (8 seats), Shas, Yisrael Beytenu (6 seats) and United Torah Judaism (6 seats), giving him 67 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

As Netanyahu gears up for negotiations to build a ruling coalition, speculations abound on who will get what ministry or chairmanship.

It’s been suggested that Deri would be offered the interior ministry.

I don’t like that Deri is allowed to be involved in politics, far less be the leader of a party, even worse as a potential minister. To give him, a man labelled as leading a life based on corruption, access to public funds, that is more than a mistake. It’s also criminal.

Read the whole thing, here.

Why Bibi?

This is inevitably directed to non Israelis. Those of us living in Israel know why Bibi won. The following selection may help understand what happened.

First, a key quote from a fine, if somewhat sharp edged, piece by Haviv Rettig Gur at the Times of Israel, pointing out why the turnout for Bibi was so high:

“Why did turnout rise so dramatically? Simple: the majority of the Israeli electorate continues to distrust the left’s judgment. It is a trust deficit rooted in a more general distrust of Palestinian intentions, of the Obama White House and other touchstones of left-wing policy. In hindsight, it may be one of the bitter ironies of this campaign that Labor’s own slogan, “It’s us or him,” may have done as much to guarantee Netanyahu victory as anything Netanyahu may have done.”

Read it all, here.

Blogger Treppenwitz‘s analysis includes this:

“Israelis don’t like to be told what to do (and what not to do). From traffic laws to the laws of physics, Israelis delight in finding creative work arounds… largely (IMHO) so they can say say, “You’re not the boss of me!”.

So, predictably, the carefully orchestrated smear campaign from the left-leaning Israeli media… the well planned snub campaign by the Obama adminstration… the relentless blamestorming on the part of nearly every Israeli politician who would stand to gain by Netanyahu’s defeat… all had the opposite of the desired effect.

In fact, it is my firm conviction that many of the people who voted for the Likud (and by extension, Netanyahu), might not have done so had they not been incessantly scolded for the ‘sin’ of having tolerated this monster for so long. And many others, who in a less charged atmosphere might not have even voted; having opted to go shopping or hiking on the election day holiday, took a sudden interest in what they were reading in the press, and decided to find out for themselves.”

Read it all, here.

Jonathan S Tobin‘s contribution at Commentary, concludes as follows:

“Even some of Israel’s friends in the United States may be asking themselves how is it possible for the Jewish state’s voters to give a majority to parties that are unlikely to agree to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. The answer is that unlike most Americans, Israel’s voters have been paying attention to the history of the conflict over the past 20 years and know that Herzog was no more likely to create a Palestinian state than Netanyahu. Nor is it fair to brand Netanyahu, who did not denigrate the right of Arabs to vote, a racist. There is no comparison between the efforts of minorities to vote in Western democracies or the United States and the desire of the Arab parties to destroy Israel. That’s because the Palestinian leadership, split between Hamas and Fatah, has consistently refused peace offers that would have given them independence. Most Israelis would like a two-state solution to happen but they know that under the current circumstances any withdrawal from the West Bank might duplicate the disastrous retreat from Gaza in 2005. Though Western journalists mocked Netanyahu’s comments about wanting to prevent a “Hamasistan” in the West Bank, the voters in Israel largely agreed.

That doesn’t make them racist or extreme. It means they are, like most Americans, realists. They may not like Netanyahu but today’s results demonstrates that there is little support for a government that would make the sort of concessions to the Palestinians that President Obama would like. They rightly believe that even if Israel did make more concessions it would only lead to more violence, not peace. Israel’s foreign critics and friends need to understand that in the end, it was those convictions have, for all intents and purposes, re-elected Netanyahu.”

Read it all, here.

Finally, my own perspective.

I’ve already said I did not want Bibi to win. I don’t think he has handled the situation with the Palestinians (or the Americans) well. He has not done enough to confront the socio-economic issues that the less well off face, daily. I don’t think he is corrupt, but he doesn’t do enough to clean up politics. And, I fear he is going to undo the sharing of the burden and give the cowardly, parasitical haredim a free ride.

However, much of the bile and venom directed towards him, whether toned down in sneering editorials or opinion pieces at the Guardian, the Economist, or the New York Times, or given full vent elsewhere, is flat out wrong. Much of it is an ancient hate, redecorated; there are many out there who hate Bibi precisely because he has been so good at protecting the people of Israel and fighting for them. Bibi does not play the game the way others want him to. (Bibi sometimes overdoes it, for sure.)

And it appears to me that many Israelis do not see an alternative to fight their corner. (I might see Bennett or Lapid as being well able, but I am definitely in the minority!) So, if your country is constantly under attack, who are you going to want to be your representative? A unity government doesn’t do it in such circumstances.

Here’s a hint for Obama. As much as Bibi sometimes get it wrong, you have got it wrong much worse, and much more often. While Bibi is partly to Blame, you Obama have been the one spreading fuel on the flames. Instead, you should have reined in Kerry and Indyk, and worked to get Bibi onside. It could have been done, but you blew it. Your compromise is seen as weakness. In this part of the world, that’s fatal.

[As an aside, I regret that I have difficulty in seeing much of what Obama does and says towards and about Bibi and Israel as other than immature, petty, and irresponsible. But maybe that’s just me. I wonder if Bibi will be invited to Obama’s retiral party…]

So, Bibi won because there was no credible alternative.

If the Left are to win next time around, or have any prospect of getting Bibi out, they have to promote a meaningful alternative. Probably someone younger, slicker, and sharper.

Alternatively, they have to hope that Israel is not still seen as fighting a hostile outside world.

Hmmm. If I was on the left, I’d be looking for that young alternative!

In the blue corner…

“President Obama? It’s me, Bibi. I thought you’d appreciate a personal call to let you know what happened in the election…”

It was said this was a test of Bibi’s popularity. He won that contest.

It was said the choice was between Left and Right. The Right won that contest.

It was said there was nobody better than Bibi to stand up for Israel in the international arena. That appears to be a widely held opinion.

I didn’t want Bibi to be forming the next government, but the voters have spoken and that is our democracy in action. It remains to be seen, however, what kind of coalition Bibi can assemble. And, it also remains to be sees how long a new coalition can stay in power without appearing like total sell-outs.

The story has just begin a new chapter. It is not yet over.

Slap bang in the center

Here’s a graphic from the Ynet site (the Hebrew language version) relevant to their election coverage:


Look who is slap-bang in the middle of the picture, looking directly at you. Ynet haven’t been shy about their promotion of Herzog, Labor, the Zionist Union, and above all – anyone but Bibi! – but it remains interesting to notice these small, subtle, psychologically sound, reminders.

Incidentally, as of now, the English language version of the Ynet site has this form of the graphic:


There are differences, though it’s not immediately clear to me why there should be.

Why change Bibi‘s picture? Must he snarl for Hebrew speakers, and look doubtful for English speakers?

It looks like Lapid has had the reverse treatment: he smiles for Hebrew speakers, and goes somber for the English speakers.

Where did Eli Yishai (Ha’am Itanu) disappear to in the English version?

Hebrew speakers get Ayman Odeh (Hadash and head of the Joint Arab List), and English speakers get Ahmad Tibi (Ra’ama Ta’al, one of the Joint Arab List parties).


But Ynet‘s favorite remains right there in the center.



Intellectual dishonesty of Israel’s critics

[This is a selfish post – more so than normal! – as one aim is to save links to a crucial report and commentary bound to come in handy in future discussions.]

JINSA is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. They commissioned a report to assess Operation Protective Edge, asking several retired generals for their opinion. (You know, people who know the odd thing about real combat, and the laws of warfare – as opposed to the crap espoused by the media.)

The Elder of Ziyon’s excellent post about the report (here, including a link to the report) has some great extracts and commentary.

A limited selection follows:

Elder: The authors know the Laws of Armed Conflict far better than the NGOs do. They recognize Hamas’ unique tactics of cynically putting their own civilian population in danger in order to add a public relations dimension to what they call “unrestricted warfare.”

What does the report say? Continue reading


Current political joke in Israel: Tzipi Livni recently announced that in preparation for the election, she had considered her position very carefully, and was prepared to present her principles to the public. However, if the public didn’t like them, she did have some others…

With that in mind, here’s the front cover of a Bayit Yehudi flyer given out at last night’s hustings. You will note it has been prepared in English for the expected English speaking audience.

Who would these people be?

Who would these people be?

I read this, and thought to myself: there are two possibilities here.

One: I am going to open this up and read about the principal individuals involved in Bayit Yehudi. That makes sense. I really only know Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. It would be good to know more about the others.

Two: I am going to open this up and read about how the principal individuals in Bayit Yehudi (and their campaign people) may have principles, but a good standard of English communications is not one of them.

So, without further ado, here is what was inside on the first page.


Yes, a language fail. I see no principals! Shame.


Here’s an update from last night’s hustings, from a co-conspirator who stayed longer than me:

“…seriously the best stuff was after you left…Yisrael Beytenu showed how Bennett’s lot (Bayit Yehudi) sided with the haredim on all Jewish issues, and Lieberman (Yisrael Beytenu) with the more dati leumi view (rabanut, conversions, agunot etc)…”

[Thank you, Sharon!]


Election promises

Susan and I went to a hustings in Ra’anana tonight, held at Ohel Ari shul.

Put on by the Jerusalem Post and the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana (aka Rabbi Stewart Weiss), the hustings featured candidates from (in alphabetical order):

  • Bayit Yehudi
  • Labor
  • Likud
  • Meretz
  • Yesh Atid
  • Yisrael Beitenu.

The Kulanu candidate did not turn up, but sent apologies.

Rabbi Weiss was responsible for chairing the proceedings. The proceedings began with a question (about peace negotiations) that every candidate had five minutes to answer. Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) was the only one who stayed inside the limit.

Proceedings continued with a second question – this time about whether it was right to encourage aliyah from France in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks – and again, it rather seemed as if the ability to mark the passage of time was lacking in the candidates and the chairman.

Then Rabbi Weiss started taking questions from the audience.

OK. So this is what I learned from tonight:

Bank on that memory loss

It’s generally accepted that to be a good liar, you need to have a good memory. You cannot rely on records of events, so you need to remember what you represented happened, or was said, or whatever.

Based on the episode of George Galloway, the charge of antisemitism, and the actions of the lawyers acting for him, it seems that practitioners of BDS need a good memory too.

First, a recap, from the Times of Israel:

“A phalanx of lawyers is coming forward on Twitter to offer free legal help after the controversial anti-Israel MP George Galloway threatened to sue upwards of a dozen people over allegations of anti-Semitism. In a letter sent by his lawyers, Galloway has demanded £6,000 ($9280) per person upfront for legal expenses, a threat which one lawyer described as “outrageous.”

Galloway’s lawyers, Chambers and Co, in Bradford, where he is MP for Bradford West, have written to people who used the social media site in the wake of his appearance on BBC’s Question Time last month. The program, which was filmed in Finchley in the heart of north-west London’s Jewish community, erupted when a member of the audience accused Galloway of bearing some responsibility for the rise in anti-Semitism in the UK. Galloway strenuously denied the accusation.

But the fallout from Question Time continued on Twitter with many people attacking Galloway. One was the Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman, who deleted her Tweet on February 10 when Galloway threatened to sue her. However, he is apparently proceeding with his lawsuit and she is now being advised by her newspaper’s lawyers.”

So, Galloway is taking action against those he perceives have called him an antisemite. (I wonder why that might be?) Chambers, his lawyers, rather heavy-handedly (to put it mildly) demanded £6,000 (or possibly £5,000) as expenses. The approach has been drawn to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and it’s going to be very interesting to see the defense put forward.

Meantime, Private Eye has a piece in its latest issue:


Buy the magazine or get a subscription to read the whole thing! For example, there you will see this cracker of a postcript to the article:

“All should boycott the drug launderers HSBC,” Galloway tweeted furiously last summer, during a campaign against the bank for its closure of certain Muslim groups’ accounts and its financial involvement with Israel. The account into which Chambers wants tweeters to pay Galloway’s “costs” of £5,000 is, naturally… at HSBC!

  1. George says boycott HSBC.
  2. George’s lawyers say pay George damages – to HSBC!

Ha bloody ha!

While this episode is not exactly doing anything to enhance the reputation of George Galloway, it may be that the big losers will be his lawyers. It’s difficult to be sympathetic. I may need to rethink that last sentence. Let’s try again: it’s impossible to be sympathetic. Much better!


Earlier this week, I had a close encounter with the emergency services aspect of the Israeli health service. The details are not important, especially as I emerged intact, relieved, and happy to be out. However, it was an up close and personal perspective that brought home how badly the politicians need to sort out the management of, and funding of, front line medical services. It’s a whole world away from Washington, but this is still an important issue. In fact, it’s an emergency.