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Monday, January 19, 2009

Back to the salt mines for the politicians

With the war in Gaza over, it's back to the salt mines for Israel's politicians. With Knesset elections three weeks from Tuesday, foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipora Livni had a bad hair day over the first post-war poll results.
The first polls taken after the cease-fire took effect indicated that the Right in general and the Likud in particular had been helped by the war.

A Channel 2/Ma'agar Mohot poll predicted that the Right-Center bloc would win 65 seats and the Left-Center bloc 55. A Channel 10/Dialog poll put the divide at 64-56. The first poll predicted a 31-23 Likud victory over Kadima, while the latter said Likud would win 29-26.

The Channel 2 poll found that 36 percent of Israelis wanted Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu to become prime minister, 21% preferred Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and 14% Labor chairman Ehud Barak.
There are two issues that should be addressed here. First, the poll results were obvious to and expected by everyone outside Kadima. As David Hazony points out, Kadima managed to completely miss what the people of Israel wanted (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Where I was wrong, of course, was to assume the government would both understand and act in its own political interest. Despite all their efforts to lower expectations, and the much-touted “learning from the experience of 2006″ in waging both a diplomatic and military campaign, Israel’s leaders have, once again, completely misread the demands of the Israeli public. Israelis are willing to go to war on exactly one condition: That it bring peace, or at least safety and security of its citizens. Right now this does not seem to be happening. The government has done a lousy job of convincing average Israelis that leaving Hamas in place, preventing arms smuggling through another international agreement, currying the support of world leaders, and abandoning Gilad Shalit to his fate are indications of Israel having gone in and done the job. And now, the much-delayed election campaign begins in earnest.
Hazony is completely right. So how did the government so totally miss what Israelis wanted?

The government's two main components are Kadima and Labor. In Labor's case, Ehud Barak had already gained all that he could from his role in the war, and was only risking his gains by going further - both because of the possibility of failure in a third phase, and because Labor is still a party of the left and risked alienating parts of that constituency.

In Kadima's case, however, one must understand that the government thinks that it is a nanny state and that it knows what's best for us. This attitude pervades in many areas (particularly economic). Kadima seems to have decided that it knew better than anyone else what the country needed now. Recall that Ehud Olmert did not want to end the war (for his own reasons), but he was outvoted by Barak and Livni.

The other point that has to be kept in mind here is that given the opportunity, Netanyahu prefers to go into a coalition with Livni and Barak. If the results of the coming election are Netanyahu as Prime Minister instead of Olmert, Livni remaining as foreign minister and Barak remaining as defense minister, is there really any hope and change for Israelis? While Netanyahu is clearly the front runner for Prime Minister, I believe - and have said so many times over the past couple of months - that we Israelis must do all we can to force Netanyahu into a right-wing only coalition. I have also said that (although I remain a card-carrying member) I could not vote for the Likud after what they did to Moshe Feiglin.

Today, I received an invitation to a reception for Anglos with Yisrael Beiteinu. The invitation came from Danny Hershtal, who is a candidate for the Knesset on the party's behalf. The reception is being held Thursday night at 8:00 at the Shalom Hotel in the Bayit Vegan section of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, I have two prior engagements Thursday night. Among those expected to be present at the reception are Dr. Uzi Landau (formerly a Likud MK), former Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon and Attorney David Rotem. Recent surveys show Yisrael Beiteinu with as many as fifteen Knesset seats, and the opportunity to be the third largest party (ahead of Labor!) in the next Knesset.

As I said, I cannot be there. But this post is going to be forwarded to Mr. Hershtal and any of my readers who are in Israel are invited to show up (they asked me to publicize it, so I am). Here are the questions to which I would seek answers if I were there:

1. I'm not keen on the idea of a 'Palestinian' state reichlet with or without the population exchanges backed by party leader Avigdor Lieberman. Is that part of the party platform?

2. Before I vote for a party that is not a religious party, I would need to know where it stands on issues of concern to the religious community.

3. Lieberman is notorious for his autocratic style. Is this still Lieberman's party or does it belong to its MK's (I won't even ask if it belongs to its voters - unfortunately, no party in Israel does)?

As I said, I am open to voting for just about any party to the right of the Likud. Stay tuned to hear about more of them.


At 7:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I'm not keen on a Palestinian reichlet that does not get rid of Israel large Arab Fifth Column minority. I want a homogeneous Jewish State. Not one where the Arabs can breed and eventually outvote Jews and democratically bring an end to the Jewish State. So yes, all of them over there and all the Jews over here is a workable formula. Israel should leave the Arabs to manage their own affairs - it will be her problem only if they don't leave Israel alone.

Israel needs to be a distinctively Jewish State. Not a post-Zionist state - not a normal nation but a Jewish State in the full sense of the term. Obviously, if Israeli politicians no longer have to pander to the Arab vote that will be easier to achieve and to defend. So that logically flows from the first premise.

Keeping both objectives in mind, the immediate task of Land Of Israel voters is to vote for parties to the right of the Likud. Make sure they hold the balance of power in the next government so Bibi cannot go into his preferred coalition with Kadima and Labor.

That brings me to my final point. Disentangling the Arabs from Israel and creating a truly Jewish State is a mammoth undertaking. The problem is today's generation of marshmallow politicians in Israel do not have what it takes to ensure Israel's survival. By that I mean measures that keep Israel Jewish both by adding more Jews to the population mix and ensuring the Arabs fulfilling their dreams of ruling themselves elsewhere. It would be ideal if Meir Kahane's vision of transferring the Arabs out of the complete Eretz Israel could be realized but the world would never allow it... the best that can be done is to sort out the two peoples within Eretz Israel and hope things work out down the road for the best.

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Carl,

I see you intend to forward me this post. It looks like I found you first! Thank you for the kind mention.

I do encourage everyone to attend AND to challenge the speakers (respectfully of course).

To address your points:
1. The plan you describe is in our platform as our requirements that if Israel were to give the arabs some autonomy, we would INSIST that they take Israeli Arabs with them. It is also explicitly stated in our platform that we will not allow any deal to take place with any terrorist entity, including HAmas, Fatah or any member group of the PLO. I think that this safely guarantees that no land swap will be made in the foreseeable future. A vote for us in this election will help end the "Land for Peace" catastrophe and increase building in Yehuda (Lieberman lives there!), Shomron, the Golan and Eastern Jerusalem. Lieberman has already demanded that Stas Mesizhnekov receive the construction and housing portfolio so that we can begin the approval process for as yet unauthorized new towns.

2. Yisrael beytenu is not a religious party but has a religious MK (David Rotem) and myself on the list. We believe that (a) State religious institutions should be in the hands of Religious Zionist Rabbis (such as Tsohar Rabbis). (b) That an accomodation must be reached between the religious and secular public. It cannot be argued that Israel is ready to be an halachic state. King Hizkiyahu tried to force studying in Batei Midrashot and every kid in Israel new the intricate laws of purity. However, the very next generation turned to the ashera of King Menashe and by the time Yoshiahu was king (less than 60 years later) no one recognized a Torah! We believe that every Israeli child must be aware of his or her heritage of both Judaism and Zionism, but we feel that allowing for differences will prevent the type of backlash whioch spawned Menashe, Shulamit Aloni and Tommy Lapid.

3. Lieberman has firm control in the party - is that bad? All of the people on the list take my phonecalls. We do each other favors and no one is ostracized like Moshe Feiglin was. Lieberman's unchallenged leadership gives Yisrael Beytenu clear direction to accomplish its goals. However, Uzi Landau is highly respected - he has rebelled against his leader on principle before (as has Lieberman, regarding the Hevron agreement). I led a charge of party activists to force Lieberman to resign from Olmert's government, but instead of being branded a "rebel" I was promoted on the party list.

I am sorry you will be otherwise occupied, but feel free to e-mail me at beytenuanglos@gmail.com if you (or other readers) want to continue thsi line of conversation. And to repeat, This thursday, 8pm at the Shalom Hotel in Jerusalem, our candidates will speak and take questions without shying away!


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