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Not So Fast Bibi

The polls were opened on Thursday for a Likud party vote. Party leader, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants to change the Likud constitution so that internal party elections might be delayed up to the three years following general elections.

Bibi said:

“We are a national movement started by Menachem Begin; we are for the state and for the IDF and for true peace, and that is what we have to focus on…If the vote does not go as I want it to, we will have to dedicate months to an internal process in the Likud, and now is not the time to do that…I think most Likud members know that this isn’t the time.”

Isn’t it undemocratic, though, to change a party’s constitution in the middle of a term and in the midst of controversial issues crucial to the future of the state – giving up east Jerusalem?

Netanyahu said in his defense:

“In a democracy, there are legal and agreed-upon ways to make changes. We are one of the most organized and unified movements in the country; our way to do it is with a majority of two-thirds. Believe me – it is very, very difficult.”

Moshe Feiglin, the leader of Manhigut Yudit, a religious political faction accused Bibi during a radio interview of planning to sell-out Jerusalem:

“It seems that Netanyahu thinks that a true Likudnik would split up Jerusalem…This vote is about Jerusalem; not Feiglin, not Netanyahu…If, G-d forbid, his proposal will pass…there is nothing to stop Netanyahu from doing what Sharon did, only not in Gush Katif, but in Jerusalem.”

In addition Feiglin accused Bibi of cheating during the general elections:

“have you ever heard of elections without observers? With traveling voting booths?”

Bibi Postpones Likud Elections

At the request of Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party chairman, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud Central Committee postponed its own election date for another twenty months. This goes against the Likud constitution which mandates that the next committee elections be held on February 10th of this year.

It is clear what the thinking was behind the move. Netanyahu knows that if elections are held now, the committee will come out much farther to the right and perhaps angry about the settlement freeze.

Unfortunately for Bibi, the attempt to buy time has not gone unchallenged. Several central committee members have turned to the Tel Aviv district court to overrule the move. The matter will be brought up on January 25th.

Netanyahu held a meeting with Zvi Cohen, Chairman of the Likud’s Elections Committee, discussing various schemes to exclude the right wing, religious, Moshe Feiglin, who finished a strong third, with 12.5% of the vote, in the race for party leadership.

Feiglin was convicted of sedition in 1997 for his non-violent civil disobedience activities in the Zu Artzeinu (this is our land) movement. His position played a critical role in expressing popular opposition to the Oslo “peace process.” Feiglin and Shmuel Sackett, co-founder of the group, were sentenced to nine months imprisonment and one year on probation. They each served six months of their terms, respectively.

After his election as party chairman, Netanyahu promised to fight “criminal and negative” elements in the Likud, but it was unclear if he was referring to Feiglin, specifically.
Bibi was quoted as saying:

“There will not be room in our party for corruption and extremist lawbreaking,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction. “Our party will work to restore its image to the good old days of Menachem Begin…The path of integrity and clean hands must be returned.”

He went on to defend his opinion and define the Likud as a moderate party:

“We in the Likud made a peace agreement with Egypt, we supported the peace agreement with Jordan without reservation, and I as prime minister conducted successful negotiations with the Palestinians, signing a number of incremental agreements.”

“Come Together, Right Now, Over The Likud”

Bibi evoked John Lennon on Thursday when he sang to Tzipi Livni and other Knesset members, “Come together, right now, over me.”

The invitation for the Kadima Chairwoman to join the Likud government was “in light of the security situation.”

A statement released from the Prime Minister’s office said:

“The prime minister met with the opposition chairwoman for about an hour and a half and briefed her on security and diplomatic issues… after presenting the issues at hand, the prime minister offered Ms. Livni to join a national unity government, in line with the model where Menachem Begin joined the government in 1967.”

The offer is completely “in view of the national and international challenges Israel faces at this time…the prime minister told the opposition chairwoman that the basis for joining a national unity government is the premise presented in his Bar Ilan speech.”

The Prime Minister insisted to skeptics, “I made a serious offer and I expect a serious answer. The outline is clear and no coalitional negotiations will be held.”

Livni’s reply was,

“if this is a genuine offer than, as I’ve said before, it is something to consider…However, this goes beyond the mutual understanding of threats. We have to explore this further and meet again… In any case, the final decision will be made by Kadima and not just by me.”

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar requested that both Livni and Kadima maintain “national responsibility” and comply to Bibi’s summons to form a unity government. According to Sa’ar, the decision must be founded on “the security, social and national challenges facing the country.”

This is a big step for the government, and it will be interesting to see what comes of it, especially given the sometimes obscure agenda of the Prime Minister.

Another Likud Rally Against the Freeze

Last month, September 9th, saw a much hyped, but much deflated Likud rally with a very confused message about whether Netanyahu was being strengthened or rebelled against by attendees of the rally. Nobody could really figure it out, which is why only about 200 showed up to the event in Likud headquarters that was looking to draw thousands. That, and some of the speakers at the event turned back, and others got mysteriously stuck in an elevator on their way up to speak.

danonThis time, a rally is being planned in the settlement of Revava, tomorrow, Oct. 6. It is being put together by Likud MK Danny Danon, who has lately been making waves as a potential leader of the hard right wing line of the party, which evidence suggests has been growing all the more dominant over the past two years.

The point of the rally will be to call upon Netanyahu to clarify his position on a settlement freeze. This seems like a good thing to demand, being that nobody really knows what in the world he’s thinking, nor ever seems to have a clue. There is a good reason for this. If he takes a real position on the issue, then he’ll anger somebody. So he can’t really say anything. So it’s doubtful Danon will inspire him to do so. But here’s to trying, eh?

“Please tell me whether due to Palestinian rejection, the freeze on construction has been canceled,” Danon wrote to Netanyahu. “Right now, the situation is unclear, so please explain the government’s position on the matter.” Netanyahu ignored his letter.

Recently, neoconservative columnist Daniel Pipes has mentioned Danny Danon in one of his columns as “up and coming.” If Pipes recognizes Danon as up and coming, then something might be up here. He has run for Likud chairman in the past, though only garnering a dismal 3.5%, trailing Netanyahu and Moshe Feiglin. My guess is he’ll do better in his next run.

Here’s my prediction with regard to up-and-comingness. For those who follow internal Likud politics, it should come as no surprise. The next race for the Likud throne will probably consist of the following candidates, mainly at least.

1) Danon, who is obviously setting himself up for a run by being so outspoken.
2) Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon, who also has been making waves lately, though the last few weeks he’s been fairly quiet.
3) Feiglin, who has run in every Likud election since 2000 and has promised to run in the next one as well.

There may be a smattering of others, but they will either drop out or get a negligible slice of the Likud pie. The big question is, will Bibi run again? The answer to that depends on how his government ends. If it runs full course, which is doubtful, chances are he probably will. If it falls and he looks bad, he may not. It depends on whether he even wants to have a third round as top man. And if he doesn’t, it looks like it’ll be a fight among those three, all of whom are substantially more right wing than the current sitting Prime Minister.

Will Vote-Buying Return to the Likud?

This is a translation from the front page article in today’s Ma’ariv newspaper. Apparently, Netanyahu is afraid of an internal coup within his own party, and he’s changing the rules of the game, yet again, in order to stave off opposition.
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Changes in the Likud Constitution that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s associates are suggesting would expand the number of party members and allow many of them to vote in the upcoming months – seemingly, with the purpose of strengthening Netanyahu’s position against his detractors.

MerkazThe Likud Knesset “Rebels” and Likud activists against the proposed building freeze in Judea and Samaria have been gathering signatures in the past few days in order to bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan up for a vote in the Likud Central Committee. However, Netanyahu is aware that in the Likud Central Committee as well as among the party members, there is considerable representation for those who live in Judea and Samaria, as well as Moshe Feiglin’s people, the man of the Right. He’s interested in avoiding the type of confrontation that erupted between former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Central Committee during the period the Gaza Disengagement was approved. For this reason, the Prime Minister’s allies are today working in parallel to open the electorate and allow new members to join the Likud.

“If we don’t open the lines right now, Feiglin’s men could start to gain control of the local Likud branches,” a senior cabinet minister and Netanyahu associate said. “We are already very concerned that the Feiglinites will get control of the Jerusalem branch. If they succeed, the pressure on Knesset members will be enormous. Everybody starts thinking about his own primary campaign, and Netanyahu starts to lose control of the faction.”

The reason for the hubbub surrounding the size of the electorate is that elections for the Likud Congress, Central Committee, and party branches are around the corner. Netanyahu’s men intend to open it for a short period of 2 or 3 months, in that way ensuring a wide electorate. Additionally, they intend to temporarily nullify a chapter in the Likud Constitution that a party member may only vote in internal elections after 16 months of membership in the party. That way, Netanyahu’s men can bring new members into the party and dilute the influence of men from the Right, Feiglin, and the Judea and Samaria Council within Likud’s institutions.

They Don’t Belong

As of now, there are about 100,000 Likud members, and it is estimated that 15,000 of them belong to Feiglin and the settlement camp. The decision concerning the Constitutional changes and the cancellation of the 16 month “cooling period” are supposed to be brought for the approval of the Likud Central Committee, which is expected to convene immediately after the holidays in order to set the next elections for the Likud Congress. However, the Likud Secretariat is already convening this coming Thursday. According to several sources, the head of the Secretariat, Yisrael Katz, wants to pass a decision – even if its implication is only advisory – to cancel the clause requiring 16 months membership. Regardless, sources close to Katz are denying that there is any intention to do such a thing, and are reiterating that any change is up to the Central Committee.

Likud activist and member of the Secretariat Yitzhak Nimrodi, who began the campaign for the 16-month clause, said yesterday that Katz is deliberating with other members of the Secretariat to check their positions on the matter. “Where will they open up party membership? Only in poor neighborhoods where they can buy them off,” said Nimrodi, who initiated the clause back then in order to prevent the phenomenon of fictitious voters that blossomed in the days of Sharon. “These people, who don’t belong in the Likud, we won’t be seeing a single vote from them during elections.”

Knesset member Yariv Levine, who belongs to the so-called Likud “rebels,” sent a letter to Katz. “I know that they’re telling Netanyahu that this move will dilute the more ideological wing of the party, but in my opinion it is in his interest to oppose the move,” he said. “The 16-month law cleaned the Likud ranks from corruption.” Netanyahu’s associate, the senior government minister, said otherwise. “Whoever doesn’t support our move wants to be held captive to small interest groups. Those who oppose opening the voting ranks can’t explain it as anything other than a deal with Moshe Feiglin.

Ironically, the forces whose influence in the Likud Netanyahu’s men are currently trying to dilute are the same forces that led the campaign in the Central Committee for a referendum over the Disengagement. Netanyahu led the rebellion back then against Sharon, and enlisted all the political strength he could muster in order to bring the opponents of the Disengagement their victory in that referendum. But back then, Sharon decided to go forward without the Central Committee’s approval anyway.

Netanyahu Under Siege Part Two

Direction 3 from Overseas – The Obama Administration

Certainly, US policy as it stands today will not stop at anything short of massive pressure on Bibi for an immediate settlement freeze, and a Palestinian State “within two years,” as Obama’s plan is reportedly aiming for. This is something that, if Bibi actually tries to implement, his government will almost certainly not survive. Enough said there.

In the end, what you have is a Prime Minister, poked by the left flank of his coalition over unauthorized outposts, pushed by the nationalist right who are just beginning to flood the Likud membership ranks supported by rightist MKs within his own party, and closed in by an American government intent on imposing a Palestinian state, even if it means the crippling of Bibi’s government, which is arguably what they actually want to see in order to get someone more flexible in office.

Netanyahu may have the support of the people, but he can literally go nowhere on any diplomatic initiative without seriously angering any number of essential blocs of his fragile coalition government. The very most he can do is stay cloistered up in a political stalemate, trying to do nothing but remain in power for as long as he can. That is, until he has to make a move.
Check.

Netanyahu Under Siege Part One

While certain pundits, including Jerusalem Post columnist Isi Leibler tend to assume that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s support is as strong as ever, we at OneJerusalem have a somewhat different angle on the situation. While what Leibler writes may be true in the eyes of the public, the truth is that, within his governing coalition, Bibi is being triangulated from three directions into a practical political prison.

In this two part analysis, we will show you exactly how the crunch on Bibi is taking shape, and that, in the end, he will probably be able to do absolutely nothing in the final calculation, save stay in his spot without testing any side of the triangle. If Bibi pushes too far, which at some point he will most certainly have to do he may be toppled at any minute.

Direction 1 from the Left – The Labor Party and Daniel Ben-Simon

Though the Labor Party emerged from this year’s general elections more crushed and defeated than it has ever been in its entire history, Labor continues to be a huge factor in Netanyahu’s policy decisions. Labor is pressing hard for the removal of 23 unauthorized outposts throughout Judea and Samaria, and they’re getting pushy about it. Labor faction chairman Daniel Ben-Simon was quoted as saying this yesterday: “If the outposts are not taken down, I will tell [Labor Party Chariman Ehud] Barak that that we aren’t expressing the will of the voters and [that] I demand that the party’s institutions meet to reconsider remaining in the coalition. If the institutions say no, I would have to decide my future and take a different path than I have taken until now.”

Is that a threat? Certainly. If Ben-Simon joins the four current Labor rebels, that would constitute enough to create a legal split in the faction, reducing Netanyahu’s coalition by at least 5 seats, if not all of Labor’s 13 if Barak goes with them. According to Ben-Simon, Barak has until October, when the Knesset reconvenes, to evacuate the outposts. Otherwise, Ben-Simon will take action. This is just the beginning. In the other direction, we have…

Direction 2 from the Right – A Polarized Likud Party

There are two serious things happening here. First, Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), just last night had the guts to organize a conference inside the Knesset for the heads of the Judea and Samaria settler communities with the objective of forming a united front against Bibi’s plan to order a settlement freeze. 20 leaders attended the high level conference, where it was agreed that over the next month more pressure should be placed on Netanyahu to ditch a plan to freeze construction.

Ben SimonHotoveli is not the only one behind this, however. Together with her and of like mind are Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and world Likud head Danny Danon, among others. A much more dangerous prospect than the Labor party getting all hot and bothered is having the right flank of his own party turn its back on him. Even Bibi’s close associate, MK Ofir Akunis, said that “There will be no freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria and we will not disrupt the lives of people there.”

Labor will certainly not be happy with any negotiations with the PA going on while settlement construction continues, so who knows where they’ll go once they begin complaining that negotiations have no import without a settlement freeze, which is what they will most definitely cry out if and when Bibi and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas get together and talk.

With Vice PM Bogey Ya’alon recently taking a turn to the Right and openly advocating a return to the evacuated town of Homesh, destroyed during the Disengagement of 2005, Bibi’s room for maneuvering here is small indeed.

The second, and arguably even more important phenomenon going on here is Likud’s right flank openly calling for nationalists to join the Likud and strengthen them. These include, along with the above mentioned Hotoveli and Danon, Deputy Minister of Negev Development Ayoub Kara, and MK Yariv Levine. With the objective of enlisting hundreds, if not thousands of supporters from the otherwise politically unaffiliated Nationalist Camp, they are looking for the necessary backing to be able to counter Bibi’s shifts to the left in order to appease the Labor Party.

If they succeed, Bibi’s hold on the party loses much of its potency, that is if he doesn’t entirely lose it altogether just as Ariel Sharon did, forcing him to take a swift exit from the Likud and form Kadima only a few years ago. Word has it that the coalition, calling itself the “Movement for the Strengthening of the National Camp” has already succeeded in bringing aboard several hundred new Likud members just in the past few days. Members who, most likely, are not all that interested in a settlement freeze.

(And let’s not forget Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s likely imminent indictment for corruption and money laundering, which could have untold effects on Bibi’s coalition agreement with Lieberman’s Party, Yisrael Beiteinu.)

OneJerusalem Exclusive: Vice Premier Bogey Ya’alon Meets with Moshe Feiglin & Followers

YaalonThe calm of the event and how normal it felt belied how unprecedented it actually was. The place was packed from front to back. There weren’t even enough chairs for everyone in attendance. Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon, Minister of Strategic Affairs and Vice PM, took time out of his day to sit down with a fringe group of Feiglinites working inside the Likud, and speak with them about his vision. Bogey showed guts in sitting down with Feiglin and his supporters since his boss, PM Netanyahu, is known to loathe this man, and fears him like the plague. To be caught sitting with Feiglin – you’ll take quite a media beating if you get caught. This may be why Feiglin sent no official word to the media about the event. Bogey’s lambasting of the Israeli media during his 40 minute speech to the group could have been another factor.

He spoke about Zionist history, about days past where hope was prevalent, about what he perceived as the failure of the Oslo Process, about how Israel thought that by giving up land she could get peace, about how there is no one to talk to on the other side and therefore negotiations are impossible for the time being. Basically, the standard Likud talk, agree with it or not. Though, with all due respect to Bogey, a true patriot and hero of the State of Israel who fought in every war since Yom Kippur of ’73, there was something missing. The frustration in the room was palpable. It was a frustration that I understood immediately: Moshe Ya’alon does not really understand who Feiglin is, why his following is growing, what he really stands for, or what he is trying to do. Like so many others, he thinks Moshe Feiglin is just another right winger in Likud with a big support base – a base he wants to get in with and win over, so repeating the standard Likud refrains will make them happy.

Moshe FeiglinKeep in mind that Moshe Feiglin is probably the strangest politician in Israel. He is quiet, doesn’t talk much, he’s always smiling for some reason, an almost eerie ambience of calm constantly surrounds him as his rail-thin body slowly sways through a room, and he just won’t leave the Likud no matter how hard his enemies attack him. The man operates, and has always operated on the fringe. His house sits at the very end of his block, at the edge of a hill. When he walks into his Synagogue on Shabbat mornings, he sits at the end of the row. And aside from people constantly approaching him and starting conversations, asking questions and the like, he doesn’t hang around to schmooze up the crowd after services. Instead, he heads straight home, a quiet introvert, back to his house at the very end of the block, back to his wife and children.

At the meeting, Bogey spoke about how peace is impossible for now, since the other side has not recognized Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. What he seemed to miss, however, is that to Feiglin, this is completely irrelevant. Whether the other side is ready for peace, willing to make compromises or anything else, plays no role in Feiglin’s thought. “Peace is not my objective,” he replied to Bogey. He continued, “There is no country on the entire planet, except us, that has peace as its national objective. The minute that peace is your national objective, you lose it.” The Zionism of old doesn’t interest him either. “Zionism has reached the end of its road,” he says. “It is time for the next level – the one based on faith and the God of Israel. If we don’t build the second level, we will lose the whole thing.”

Then what is Feiglin trying to do? He wants nothing less than a total revolution at the core of Israel’s consciousness, to redefine the purpose of her existence, to change everything at the very core, and he wants to do this by winning the Likud leadership, and then the leadership of Israel. The objective of peace, according to him, demonstrates that Israel’s current leaders want her to be a nation among nations, to simply be left alone to her own development, to live without having to launch a defense war every 3 years. Feiglin’s idea is much more basic than an absence of conflict. It is to be a uniquely Jewish nation through a national Jewish revival. Not a religious revival, as he is against coercive religious legislation and is actually a proponent of civil marriage, for example. He even wants to see the end of religious parties entirely and the entire National Camp in the Likud.

Jewish revival, for him, begins with the most basic common denominator – Jewish identity. With the sectoral mentality prevalent among pretty much every Israeli today, this type of unity is impossible. This is why operating within the Likud is much more than just a simple tactic for him and his followers. It is, rather, a statement of taking responsibility for the leadership and future of the country and the Jewish people, rather than the leadership of a sectoral party and the funding of your sector’s economic welfare.

Whether Feiglin will succeed in taking over the Likud is anyone’s guess. He began with 3% of the Likud vote in 2002, 12% in 2005, and 24% in 2007. He is constantly recruiting new Likud members for this purpose, swelling his support base in the party. If he actually does it, then whether the country as a whole is ready for someone like him is a totally open question. But his fight and doggedness in not backing down despite any challenge, fair or unfair from Netanyahu and the Likud leadership, reminds me of a quote from the movie the Terminator.

“He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever.”

This is something his political rivals should take to heart, and Bogey’s arrival at Feiglin headquarters just brought him one step closer to his objective. So if you want the status quo to keep stable, if you don’t want things to change too radically too quickly, then Feiglin is the man to fear. And what happened last night should be cause for alarm, because if history has proven anything, it has proven this. Revolutionary leadership – it always begins on the fringe.

Disengagement: Success or Failure?

Moof MoofWho stands for what, exactly? PM Netanyahu, even though he voted for the disengagement back in 2005, and then resigned from the government because of it (he’s always so consistent) came out today saying that it was, in fact, a catastrophe and it won’t happen again. On the other side, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, along with her number 2 Shaul Mofaz, reiterated their support for what they both termed a “historic process.”

The good thing about this is that we can start to see clear differences between Likud and Kadima now, whereas Kadima’s ideology has always been a point of ambiguity. With Labor quickly dying out and splitting in the meantime, Kadima may be basically the new Labor. Livni even went so far as to say that Netanyahu was implying a return to Gush Katif in the strip. Realistically speaking, it is doubtful whether Netanyahu actually meant that. As a matter of fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb here (it’s a fairly sturdy limb) and say that Livni was just trying to paint her former Likud party as “Extreme Right Wing” and herself as the pragmatic centrist that, what the heck – she’ll gladly go for another round of unilateral withdrawals.

Mofaz came out indirectly in support of future disengagements as well. He called it, an “historic process that helped keep many Israeli citizens out of harm’s way and gave the army the freedom to act against the terror organizations and the Iranians’ hold on Gaza.”

Uhhh….OK then. Do you think Mofaz is going to break away and join Likud now, with the Mofaz Bill all done and passed (which would allow him to break away from Kadima with 6 other legislators)? With those kinds of positions, I doubt Likud members would vote him in at primary time next round.

So then what will the Mofaz Bill accomplish, if not bait him to join Bibi? Splitting Labor and hurting his own coalition seems like a reasonable possibility.

Lieberman “If I’m indicted, I’ll quit all my political positions”

Avigdor LiebermanIs Avigdor Lieberman the big bad wolf, or really a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Following a number of allegations being made against him by the police for crimes that include money laundering, and accepting bribery, Israel’s Foreign Minister now appears to be ready test his popularity among his own party, Yisrael Beitenu, as well as the Likud led Netanyahu government. By threatening to leave political life, including heading his own party, his cabinet post, and even his Knesset seat, Lieberman hope to get his constituents to rally around him and in the end make him even stronger politically. This supposition became apparent when he stated yesterday that he believes that he will no only win out over the legal case that is built against him, but will even garnish more Knesset mandates (as many as 20) in the next election.

“I reviewed everything I said in the questioning sessions, and I am at peace with all of my actions,” he said. “If I had the opportunity to do things over again, I would do the same.”

The question a lot people are asking, what “things” is Lieberman talking about? Obviously, the F.M. still has a number of issues to work out concerning his activities, both business and political, which seem to be mounting up against him. Since being chosen for the second highest cabinet post behind the Prime Minister’s, Lieberman has not exactly won over most of the world as well as many people here in Israel. Only perhaps in Russia has he been able to find a bit of respect, as he sees eye to eye with people such as Russian P.M. Vladimir Putin. But in the rest of Europe, as well as the USA, his manner has been not well received by virtually everyone he has come in contact with.

Political circles in Jerusalem are already speculating as to who would replace Lieberman should he step down. Most likely, Deputy F.M. Danny Ayalon (a former ambassador to the USA) would temporarily replace him, which makes a lot people happy as Ayalon was very well liked during his tenure in Washington. As to who would replace him in his own party, right winged No. 2, Uzi Landau, would be a likely candidate; although his personal political views are a bit on the extreme side.

Kadima Party head Tzipi Livni doesn’t appear willing to join a Netanyahu led government, so her likelihood of again assuming the post is not likely at present. But in the game of Israeli politics, anything is possible, however.

But the police appear to be putting a case together against Lieberman, and are being backed up by former Police Chief Inspectors, and other high police officials. But Lieberman has managed to keep himself ahead of his accusers before, and could very well be successful again. It all depends on who really is running the police.

Nakba taken out of curriculum – does it matter?

PoliticiansWhich one of these people doesn’t fit with the other two? On the left is Yuli Tamir of Labor, education minister under the Olmert administration just a few months ago. She thought that state policy should be to educate its citizens about how the very existence of the state is a catastrophe and, and put Arab “Nakba”” studies into the elementary school geography curriculum for the Arab sector. On the right we have current Education minister Gideon Sa’ar of Likud, who decided yesterday that that isn’t such a good idea, and the state should refrain from teaching its citizens about how catastrophic it is.

In the center is Limor Livnat also of Likud, education minister under Ariel Sharon, who introduced the whole idea of putting the Nakba into the curriculum in the first place. Surprising? She’s in the Likud, a right wing party, but as the political saying goes, “Only the Likud can.”

What that generally means is that when the Left is in power, the Right tries to stop any Left wing policy such as Nakba Studies from coming into fruition. However, when the Right is in power and actually does implement Left wing policies as Limor Livnat did with the Nakba, the Left votes with them and it gets passed. Hence the saying, “Only the Likud can.”

Aside from Nakba studies being an initiative of the Likud under Livnat, the bigger question is, Does it even matter what’s in the Arab curriculum? Israel suddenly thinks it can stamp out Arab consciousness of Israeli independence as catastrophe by removing it from a textbook? Who enforces the curriculum, and how does it work? Will the Arab Israeli public suddenly come to a cathartic realization that, “Hey, the Nakba isn’t in the geography books anymore. I guess we shouldn’t teach it?”

It is difficult to say what the effect of this reversal will be, if anything. What can be said for sure though is that at least the State will no longer be spending money teaching its citizens that it is, essentially, a catastrophe. Most States can get that done for free, no money down even.

And in these unstable economic times, it’s good to get what you can for free. Even if it is a catastrophe.

Bibi gets a C on first 100 days in office

Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu has just completed his first 100 days in office, and judging on who’s score card you’re looking at, Netanyahu’s second go-around as Israel’s head of government hasn’t been very exciting – so far at least. The right-of-center Likud Party chairman and “spin-master” for creating his version of shaping future events in Israel and the Middle East, has overall not been given high marks by those who have rated his performance to date – including fellow right-wingers who expected something more concrete from the man who’s election campaign rhetoric spoke of much higher ideals and agendas than what has been demonstrated so far by him. Netanyahu’s recent trip to Washington, and his meeting with US President Barack Obama, did not turn out to be what he had hoped; and Bibi’s wife Sarah Netanyahu was completely snubbed by Obama’s wife, Michelle.

Bibi meeting Obama - check out the body language..Although Bibi finally did agree to the “two states for two peoples” idea, and to follow the road map that had originally been put forward by the Americans during the Bush Administration, the idea of a Palestinian State alongside Israel did not turn out to be positive enough for the Palestinians to accept outright (the West Bank Palestinians, that is – forget about the Hamas ones in Gaza) and was too “concession minded” to be accepted by most Likud party members, as well as other right-winged Israelis.

Trying of set right the economy, with the help of Bibi’s good friend Yuval Steinitz, who the Prime Minster chose to be his finance minister, has not worked well at all; and several proposed economic reforms had to be either canceled or altered following strong protests by the general public. What finally did get drafted appears to have been less than beneficial to those sections of Israeli society who are now the worst off in the current world economic slow down. Although he did succeed in getting a 2 year budget draft passed, his ‘flip-flopping’ on a number of financial issues was in sharp contrast to promises he made during the recent campaign. A good example of economic mind changing was in regard to first imposing then canceling the VAT on fruits and vegetables. His greatest critics have been Tzipi Livni and her Kadima Party, now in opposition.

And finally, there are the two prominent issues of the Iran nuclear problem (to attack or not to attack – that is the question) and the one dealing with captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, for whose release Netanyahu had said would be the government’s top priority. This too has so far turned out to be “all show and no go” as the “separation” between Israel and Hamas is still too wide. “The Israelis dwelled too much on who would be released in the exchange and who would not; and this in the end killed the deal” said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had tried to lend a hand in broking the latest negotiations to free Schalit. This means that Schalit’s father, Noam, will most likely give bitter remarks about Netanyahu as a leader, as he did concerning the previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

So taking all of the above into account, the Prime Minister only gets a C on his First Quarter report card.

Bibi Sinks Deeper in The Mud

Binyamin NetanyahuThe rock group Depeche Mode has come and gone, and so has the Lag B’Omer wiener roast and marshmallow toast. But P.M. Bibi Netanyahu and his so-called Chancellor of the Exchequer, Yuval Steinitz, continue to sink in the financial quagmire, they seem to have created by trying to be clever with the Israeli public.

As their popularity reaches the point where they can both crawl under a snake’s belly, these two guys, especially the one supposedly in charge of the country’s purse, seem to find themselves literally pinned against the wall, from the side of public opinion.
To make matters even more pressing for Bibi and Co., the Finance Ministry’s budget planner, Ram Belinkov, announced his resignation today. Are the “rats” beginning to leave the sinking ship?

Meanwhile, talk of more firings from work places will mean even more people applying for unemployment benefits – if they are even entitled to receive them.

The more affluent people will have to pay more, and those earning NS 80,000 or more per month will have to pay a higher amount of National Insurance contribution. Purchasers of luxury cars, especially gasoline guzzling SUV’s, will have to pay higher purchase taxes. But these changes won’t affect the poorer classes, who will have to pay higher prices for fruits and veggies in open air markets, due to the government asking for VAT to be paid now on all fruit and vegetable purchases. VAT will be increased one percentage point to 16.5% which will apply to all purchases, from basic commodities to cars and new real estate sales.

How the new rate of VAT , and the requirement for it being paid for stuff bought in the shuk (open air market) is going over with the people manning the stalls there, a visit by a Channel 2 news reporter got it “straight from the horse’s mouth”. One vendor, who has had a stall in the Menahem Yehuda market in Jerusalem for years, summed it up this way: “I am a loyal Likud-nick – always have been. But if these changes go into affect, then all them (the Likud hierarchy) including Ruby Rivlin (the Knesset Speaker) are not welcome here”.

And we’re sure those shuk guys mean business!

Political Shakshuka the new Israeli Government

Israel finally has a new government, 30 ministers and 7 assistant ministers in all. It appears that the new prime minister (or should I say renewed P.M.) and none other than Bibi Netanyahu, had to give out a lot of new jobs to a lot of new people just to satisfy them, including those from political parties whose overall platforms Bibi and his Likud Party doesn’t usually agree with.

Liberman GladiatorThe new government, when sitting for their first photo session on Wednesday April 1, which was also April Fools Day, looked more like that Middle Eastern tomato and egg dish known as Shakshuka. In fact many observers are calling the new government just that – a “political Shakshuka” of people who ordinarily are screaming at each other during parliamentary sessions, or just ignoring each other at best. Bibi had to really throw a political bone to his new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Our Home Party managed to get 15 Knesset seats in the February 11 election. Lieberman didn’t waste any time in announcing that he would not allow any of the West Bank to be given away to the Palestinians, and does not agree to a peace deal with them. I’m not referring at all to that bunch of low life’s in the Gaza Strip, but to that “other bunch” who sit in Yassir Arafat’s old headquarters in Ramalla.

For those of you not aware, Shakshuka is a tasty dish made by throwing red peppers, tomato sauce, eggs, an a number of spices into a pan and cooking them together for about half an hour. This mixture of ingredients has caused the dish to be named as such; Shakshuka, meaning a mishmash of things thrown together.

Poor Tzipi Livni, now Head of the Opposition, has to sit this one out like Bibi did the last go-around when the Likud only managed to get 11 seats. Now it’s her turn to pout, and many are wondering if her Kadima Party might wind up going into melt-down like Tommy Lapid’s Shinui (Change) party did a few years back. Golda Meir she isn’t, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her, and she may even wind up getting the last laugh, when this new government of strange bedfellows finds out they really can’t function as a team. Her image as foreign minister was surely a lot better than this Russian guy who has given Israeli Arabs an ultimatum to “shit or get off the pot”, meaning they better start packing if they aren’t prepared to give a loyalty oath to the Jewish State in which they live.

Other new cabinet members, especially those “good old boys” who have been intensely loyal to Mr. Netanyahu in his darkest moments, have been rewarded; especially Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who appears to be about as qualified for his post as Amir Peretz was as defense minister under the first part of the Olmert regime. But that’s the spoils system for you as has often been the case in American politics as well.

We’ll all have to see whether this new “shakshuka” aspect of Israeli political life will work out. At least one silver lining is already apparent in this possible cloud: a guy named Ehud Olmert is no longer presiding over the entire mess.

Tzipi Livni womanhood in Israeli politics

Livni in The Uman in Tel AvivA little while ago the US showed the world that it can reinvent itself just when we thought we knew everything about them. A black man was elected to president. I still remember the Eddy Murphy comedy show Delirious where he makes fun with the notion of a black president. A president that would have to make his speeches while running to avoid getting shot… And yet, there he is. Obama is the President.

Now in Israel it seems like we are not quite there. Yes, this is a generally forward thinking society BUT (insert big but here..) there are actually political figureheads/political parties that feel that politics is no place for a woman. This is to the extent that if you were to look at the election posters in Jerusalem where all three candidates are showing, the face of Tzipi Livni has been erased.. To remind you the year is 2009!

Now this goes beyond the religious parties which like there Iranian counterparts are fanatics. This extends to the mainstream. When it comes to discussing the issues and facing a woman in the race, the gender card will ultimately be used by any of the “modern thinking” leaders as well. It will just be better disguised.

Given that we are a testosterone driven society. We are faced with 10 flavors of death in any direction, but still. Wouldn’t the job of a good prime minister be putting together the right team? Would it not be possible for a woman to run Israel?

Livni recently went for the young vote with her campaign. She did the Tel Aviv bar/club circuit trying to get the young vote. She recently has invested more in getting the undecided women vote and sounded good in front of the women’s conference in Herzelia. I heard some of the speech and she sounded comfortable and energetic. I didn’t like the way she sounded when she was in some of the other venues and in Knesset. She got a heavy, old political guy tone to her that just sounded tired and almost forced. Like someone who has to make them sound like an old experienced political horse, something she isn’t and shouldn’t be. I think sounding like a modern, smart, leading woman in this election is the way to go.

I don’t think Tzipi Livni will win this election although she seems to be moving forward in the poles. The assumption is that Bibi and the Likud will take it and then form a coalition with one of the top three mainstream parties, maybe the religious as well. I would like to see her in there though and wish her the best of luck. It would be nice…

This is Livni on the Lior Shlein show (Night Show)



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