Expert at what precisely?

Expert. What does it mean? When it comes to USA presidential election predictions, it appears to mean clueless, or wrong. Dead wrong.

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Will the media stop and take stock, and try and understand how they (nearly) all got it so gloriously wrong? Shades of the Brexit experience for sure.

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The good old USA

statue-liberty

That’s what I pine for. I don’t think I like the USA that has been on show during this election campaign. It’s not only the two candidates who have been somewhat lacking, and that for sure is being charitable.

I want the good old USA back. Unfortunately, I do not think either of the candidates could possibly come close to that, and neither seems to have the potential to unite the nation.

So, here I sit on the sidelines, neither a USA citizen nor voter, but with a vested interest in the policies and practices of the USA. Worried and concerned.

I hope that whoever wins the presidential race surprises us all, but only in a good way.

G-d Bless America.

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We have a government!

Netanyahu has done the deal. We have a 61, er, strong, coalition government. Onwards.

Except that, as David Horovitz points out at the Times of Israel, this new government isn’t an improvement over the last one.

Previously, Netanyahu went to the country, calling for elections saying:

“You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a new, better, more stable government, a broad-based government that can govern.”

And now he points out:

The 61-strong coalition Netanyahu finalized 90-minutes before his time ran out on Wednesday night can be called many things. Narrow, fragile, and right-wing-Orthodox come readily to mind. “Stable” and “broad-based” it certainly isn’t.

I suppose, while it may not be better, at least it is new!

Briefly, the key points are as follows:

  • Whatever the real reason for calling the election, Bibi blundered. He may still be in power, but he is in a worse position.
  • In theory, he could improve matters by adding to the coalition. But Yesh Atid will not (in my opinion, rightly) tolerate the retrograde policies of Shas or United Torah Judaism., so they are not joining. And Labor are unlikely to do a complete about turn given their voters are those who expressly did not want Bibi in power. In short, it’s not getting better.
  • A single seat majority means the whole edifice could be brought down by one or two rebels on some presently unknown issue. The government’s chances of a long term  in power do not look good.
  • The oft criticized Lieberman deserves credit for sticking to (at least some of) his principles. While Bennett was always intended to be a Likud partner, it is a poor show that they his party will sit with those who will roll back the efforts to “share the burden”.
  • Bibi is not daft, and can see all of this. You may be assured that at least part of his thoughts and planning are already directed towards the next elections. If – when – they happen, do not rule out Bibi. Why? The last results show that, by a wide margin, Bibi is still the favored candidate to lead the country. Until there is a realistic alternative, future governments may just be a variation on the theme we are faced with today.
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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.

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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!

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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.

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Last throw of the dice

For me, it’s the last blog post about the 2015 election – after this, posts will be about the election result. (Scary, man.)

However, there’s just time to follow up the Ynet post (here) with a look at the opposing press faction, the resolutely pro-Bibi Israel HaYom.

Frankly, I’m underwhelmed by today’s front cover. Maybe there will be a real attempt to motivate voters tomorrow. But this is almost neutral, and quite pedestrian:

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The translation of the main headline is:

Right – or left

Not exactly stirring stuff.

And while I am here, note Israel HaYom‘s electoral coverage banner, and how it relates to the Ynet version (seen in this post):

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You can click the picture to see a larger version.

Interesting approach.

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Slap bang in the center

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

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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:

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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).

Curious.

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

 

 

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Principles

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.

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

Update

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!]

 

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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:

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