Beyond the Cusp

June 18, 2019

Election Roller-Coaster Taking Abrupt Turns

 

There have been a few spins and fast turns of late. Some revealed opportunism while others clarified the politics of others. Some were potentially expected and known while others leave one scratching their head as two leaders of one party appear to be heading for different goals. There are some facing an upwards climb in order to remain at the top while others see them simply dancing on in and taking whatever position they desire making any demand they wish. Some of the above may be hyperbole, but it has been a fun and interesting ride this past week leaving much to ponder. Where it will all fall out is anybody’s guess. Likud still expects to form the next coalition and the United Right plans on retaining what they fought over so desperately to put together. Blue White Party is working on damage control on two fronts. First, they are seeking to tone down the anti-Haredi messages and are requesting that Yair Lapid not be so out front and take a quiet seat allowing the all-knowing generals to lead. This is their, as one writer put it, “Rolling out the Generals.” This was a left-wing tactic which has been used before with the most memorable being Ehud Barak, who as having been a general would know every right move. Well, that one did not pan out as prescribed in the campaign and he was soon voted out of politics, then in, then out again and so on. One person not toning down the we give the Haredi too much so it is time for them to serve in greater number in the IDF is Avigdor Lieberman, who has created his own loop-de-loop, more on this later.

 

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Let’s start with Likud, the party expecting to put Bibi Netanyahu back in as Prime Minister. The reality is that they are very likely correct in their supposition unless the unexpected should befall us. Please do not take this as supporting Bibi Netanyahu. What must be granted is that Bibi Netanyahu has fulfilled the expectations that he invented himself. He has made the Likud believe that only he as their leader can lead Israel safely. This has allowed the Likud Party to remain as the mainstay of right-wing political expectations and prevented any mass exodus supporting anyone else. Bibi Netanyahu has also seen to the fact that nobody within the party is permitted to challenge his position. Those who do are often politically decimated or given a position which removes them from contention but also is such that one would be insane to refuse the appointment. This has led to Bibi Netanyahu leading his party for an unprecedented amount of time and as his party is the most prominent on the right, he will be the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history and will remain as such for the foreseeable future as his accomplishments politically are unprecedented in a democracy. Netanyahu will remain as the Israeli Prime Minister into the future until he, or Sarah Netanyahu, decide that it is time for him to retire and probably seek the position as President, something he is very likely to be given.

 

Meanwhile, there has been a call for a unity government with Likud Joining the Blue White Party along with the rest of the left-wing parties including Yisroel Beiteinu, where we are to expect their leader, Avigdor Lieberman, to be given the Ministry of Defense. This call was made by Avigdor Lieberman who was responsible partially, if not largely responsible, for the collapse of the last Knesset coalition. Lieberman has been suspected of socialist leanings and only joining right-wing coalitions simply to receive those guarantees of positions and monetary support for the Russian immigrants he represents. He is doing exactly that which party members expect, he is supporting the interests of his members. His problem is that his constituents are slowly decreasing as a percentage of the voting population. Avigdor Lieberman knows that any renowned achievements he might still be able to make have to come sooner rather than later as he might not have a later politically. One thing we know is that he desperately wants to be given the Ministry of Defense as from there he believes he can force Haredi into serving in the IDF. What is not being noticed by the media and others when covering Lieberman and this issue is that the Haredi are entering the IDF and National Service in record numbers without anybody pressing the issue. Reality is that the more the Haredim are pressured, the stiffer and more widespread their resistance becomes. Simply leave things to progress naturally and there will be little difference between the Haredi and the rest of the population when it comes to IDF and National Service entrants. People are very much a liquid of some unknown sort which will naturally flow more easily than being pushed which is immediately pressed back against and resisted. The Haredim entering the rest of society when it comes to working, IDF service and National Service volunteering, will probably be more easily attained the less aggressively it is pressed upon them. Sometimes, simply leaving it all up to Hashem and the problems often cure themselves. If only the entire world would take that very same approach.

 

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett

 

Now allow us to discuss the variations for the future of the New Right Party. This was the effort by Naftali Bennett for him to establish a secular and accepting of religious Zionist party. His efforts appeared to many to be as if he was forming a party which would be Likud Lite, the slender and more flexible Likud which would annex most of the major settlement communities in the Shomron. They formed this party by taking the top two people and another of the Ministers from the Jewish Home Party leaving their former party lurching as it sought new leadership. The New Right rocketed immediately to twelve to as much as fourteen mandates in polling. We warned people that this was not going to last and their future would be better invested in remaining with Jewish Home. We were almost universally ignored. Well, Jewish Home anchored a three-party coalition and cleared threshold comfortably while the New Right floundered and failed to reach threshold by the slimmest of margins. Now at one extreme we have Ayelet Shaked, or at least people claiming to represent her, making moves to bring the New Right into the United Right providing that they replace Rafi Peretz at the top of the ticket with Ayelet Shaked. This has not sat well with Rafi Peretz who after being wrestled from retirement with little desire if any to enter politics into leading Jewish Home and their rebuilding after Bennett and Shaked bolted to form their own party. Now that he has taken over this responsibility, the retired General, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF and combat helicopter pilot, he is not the type to leave a job half finished. Rafi Peretz has stated that he intends to remain as the head of the United Right. But wait, there’s more.

 

At the same time there have been reports that Naftali Bennett has been trying to attract Moshe Feiglin to form a coalition of his Zehut Party with the New Right as the almost two mandates which Zehut received would easily put the New Right over the threshold to enter the Knesset. This begs the question as to how one party will be capable of making deals with two separate parties. Perhaps there is some trouble brewing in the New Right leadership. They have apparently forgotten rule one of a partnership, communication. Then there is the other possibility; they may have decided to attempt separate paths taking whichever one proves to show the most promise. In the interests of Zehut, the offer by the New Right would guarantee Moshe Feiglin making his way into the Knesset without having to compromise on any positions as they would go their separate way after the election. This might not work as well for Moshe Feiglin should there be a greater coalition of the United Right including both the New Right and Zehut which might gain the United Right an additional five or possibly as many as seven additional mandates and allow for Likud and the United Right along with the Haredi Parties, potentially they might be able to choose only one of the Haredi Parties forming a coalition without any need for Avigdor Lieberman. This possibility of a right-wing and Haredi coalition without Yisroel Beiteinu being required to clear the sixty-one mandates to form a coalition. This would be the intrigue of the pre-election machinations except for the one known, the real suspense is what ploy will Bibi Netanyahu use in the closing days to agitate and awaken his base and the other question is at whom will Bibi target with his coming emergency, all hands on deck call which we are expecting. Bibi would not let us down, would he?

 

The Labor Party is also running around with much of a frenzied emergency. One of the most successful parties in Israel history and the sole leaders of Israel politics are now facing with the distinct possibility of not clearing threshold for the first time. They are looking both to the right and the Blue White Party and to the left to Meretz Party to find anybody to throw them a life-preserver and help pull them across threshold and back from oblivion. This is one of the major results of the Israel public moving to the right as well as becoming more Zionist and religious. Labor, a secular left-wing party has been left behind. Add in the Blue White Party and the excitement they cause with their four generals and their claim that as generals they are far more suited to lead the nation than Bibi as he never reached such high rank and thus must not be as prepared to face the security threats facing Israel. We predict that Blue White might not be favorable to any approach from Labor Party as it would not provide sufficient number of votes to make the surrender of two or possibly three seats on their party list. Labor and Meretz merging would be a more natural fit and could potentially lead to a permanent merger forming a somewhat stronger far left party. They would bridge the entirety of the left between the Arab lists and the Communist party to the Blue White Party. A Labor Meretz merger would garner them likely two additional seats in the Knesset and is the only means for Labor to guarantee to get anybody into the next government. This has a potential to change in favor for the Labor Party as they are choosing new leadership and with change there is always the possibility of the unexpected.

 

Lastly, one last means of solving the apparent confusion between the two leaders of the New Right, Naftali Bennett who is wooing Zehut and Ayelet Shaked who is making approaches to the United Right and still make Rafi Peretz happy as well. First thing is to set the record straight that Rafi Peretz is and will remain at the top of the United Right with Bezalel Smotrich occupying the second position. Then simply dangle having Ayelet Shaked reappointed to the Justice Ministership as part of their criteria for joining the coalition. This would make many within the parties of the United Right somewhat more motivated, Ayelet Shaked would be receiving something she covets far more than a top slot on the ticket and possibly not becoming Justice Minister to finish her work there and Naftali Bennet could continue to take the remainder of the New Right, those who would not follow Ayelet Shaked, and he could join with Zehut. Making any offer to either Ayelet Shaked or Naftali Bennett after their disgraceful bolting from Jewish Home and almost destroying the party has to be seen as generosity seldom found in politics. The only reason we advise that this is a decent idea is due to the work Shaked has already performed at this post and it would be of benefit to Israel for her to complete her vision. Any further tweaks could be made along the road. The only other item is we bet that this election Bibi Netanyahu emergency get out the vote last minute revelation will target Avigdor Lieberman and might be sufficient to prevent his party from clearing threshold, and providing Bibi with what he believes is justifiable revenge.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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July 25, 2018

Modernizing the Israeli Haredi Community

 

The modernization of the Israeli Haredi community is not simply an objective but an absolute necessity. The problem comes down to simple mathematics. As the Haredi community has grown, they have become a larger and larger percentage of the Israeli population. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that there is a critical point beyond which the rest of the population becomes unable to produce sufficient wealth that they can take care of another portion of the community. Those numbers differ depending on numerous variables, but once the dependent populations clears 40%, let alone reach 50%, they become an overt and unbearable burden on the remainder of the population and other government services such as defense begin to suffer catastrophically. For this reason, the Haredi community needs to be pulled, voluntarily or kicking and screaming, into the mainstream working population. For a model of such one need look no further than the United States where the Haredi communities not only work, pulling their own weight, as well as studying Torah and are amongst some of the wealthiest and most productive Jewish communities. The same model can be duplicated in Israel and still permit for the top and most promising Torah scholars to study Torah as their work financed by the charity of others or the government, something which can be hammered out once the Haredi show their promise to have the majority join the normative society.

 

The initial step in this direction comes by including the Haredi in military service. This would begin by passing a draft law which would make Haredi men eligible to be drafted with a small but relatively sizable percentage allowed being exempted as Torah scholars. This percentage should not exceed 10% though initially it could be set as high as 25% and brought down from there. For those Haredi not exempted but adamantly opposed to service in the IDF, they can be given the standard option of National Service. This will require the IDF remain hospitable to religious soldiers and reverse the somewhat recent trend to impose secular standards upon religious soldiers. This has apparently come about as the high command appeared to be attempting to break the will of the more religious soldiers, something which should never happen within the Jewish Army. There could be combined religious-Haredi brigades or even a complete division. The catch is currently the religious Zionists when enlisting often request longer service periods in order to serve in the most prestigious special brigades such as the Nahal Brigade, the Paratroopers Brigade and the Sayeret Matkal as well as the other Special Forces units. It is unlikely that the entirety of the Haredi would desire to enter such units and their percentages in each area of service are more likely to mirror the rest of Israeli draftees.

 

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and the Jewish civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

 

The difficulty in bringing this concept to fruition has been the simple political fact; the Haredi Parties within the coalition have the numbers to bring elections and thus can resist any draft law which requires Haredi service. This is one of the difficulties with parliamentary coalition governments; they are only as strong as their most disruptive link. The coalition system has presumed advantages though when scrutinized, the disadvantages appear to crop up far more prominently than any advantages. The Haredi parties demand as their entry into any coalition that their population remain deferred from service in the IDF or National Service because they must be free to study Torah twenty-four-seven otherwise peace will never come to the world. We really hate to break this to them, peace does not appear any closer with them pursuing only Torah study, perhaps some of them might be going about their studies with less than the required serious concentration necessary to bring world peace. This has been the problem as some of the Ministers of the Knesset have pointed out, they can drive through the Haredi neighborhoods, largely in Tel Aviv, and they see tens to hundreds of young Haredi men standing around on street corners smoking cigarettes and not apparently pouring over Torah manuscripts and the related commentaries deep in study and thought. The claim is these numbers are too large and persistent and are found almost any hour of the day to be laid on the excuse that these young men were taking a break. This may weaken the Haredi parties’ arguments, but it does not dilute their ability to force elections.

 

There is another means of slowly forcing the incorporation of the Israeli Haredi to join into the workforce, which is the actual reason for including them into the IDF and having required STEM and other basic courses be taught at the Yeshivas. As stated above, such is the norm for the Haredi in the United States and they support their own Torah greats in their studies from within their community and do not demand that the United States government support their Torah studies as the Haredi have done historically here in Israel. The other persuasive means is to not increase, or actually decrease, the amount of government support provided to the Haredi communities thus eventually forcing them to realize that their game is up. Again, this will run afoul of the Haredi parties who can threaten to force new elections. Eventually there will be a government coalition not requiring the Haredi parties to reach the required sixty-one Ministers, a majority of the one-hundred-twenty in the Knesset. For the Haredi’s sake, they had better pray during their Torah studies that such a coalition not be made up of the secular-left as they will have no pity and feel absolutely no guilt in cutting the Haredi communities off their support leaving them to beg and scratch to survive. At least if such a coalition is from the right-Zionist-religious-nationalist parties, then the Haredi will be cared for more gently but the writing is on the wall and they are going to by necessity be joining the normative society. Of this need there can be no rational argument as their numbers and percentage of the Israeli population continue to increase.

 

The truth is there are some very successful Haredi run companies within Israel. What makes these companies all the more outstanding is that they have nary a man in the building. These are companies started by and populated with Haredi women. To read about a select group of these companies we would like to provide links to the following this article, this article, this article, this article, this article, this article and this article. These are proof that the Haredi believe in working and if the men desired, they could very probably follow their women’s example while adding a difference where each department within the company was given special time in which to devote themselves solely to Torah. This would serve two purposes. The first is that it would permit every Haredi with time to study Torah and second, we would not be deprived of a miraculous contribution to the commentaries on Torah coming from the most unlikely of former students. People always bring up the fact that Albert Einstein did not do well in his early studies, especially where speed was required in answering any question. Thus, the claims that even the most brilliant diamond is but a lump of rock when pulled from the earth is an analogous comparison. The countering argument is equally valid in that not every Haredi is a real and treasured brilliant Torah scholar and thus every Haredi is not necessary for the advancement of Torah and the Law going forward, a percentage including the most promising students should be permitted deferment from IDF and even joining the workforce and possibly receiving a stipend from the government. But the teachers at their Yeshivas and their participants in immersive Torah studies should ideally be supported by the Haredi community just as they are in other countries. Most of the synagogues and especially those attending regular services provide sufficient charity to the Haredi to pay for much of this work being performed in a most serious manner. Finally, working and supporting oneself was ideally meant to provide additional insight into the human condition and thus deepen one’s ability to understand Torah and the Commandments and allow for a deeper interpretation of Torah relevant to the lives of the people.

 

This is all well and good but it does not get us past the Haredi parties blocking, or attempting to block changes in the current system by threatening to force new elections. The Haredi parties do not fear elections because their voting block supports their candidates because their rabbis tell them to do so and thus their representation remains rather constant between nine and thirteen seats. This often makes them the kingmakers as their numbers can make for a stable coalition capable of having four or even seven Ministers not vote with the coalition and still have their legislation be passed and prevent new election crisis. Often they are required to form a coalition and in these instances their power is greatly increased, making changing the rules very difficult. This requires that the Haredi be persuaded to accept these changes which lead to painfully slow progress in these areas. One can only hope that the Haredi leadership, preferably their leading most rabbis, will simply state what is true; Torah scholars are meant to also work as a means of remaining humble and appreciative of how those who depend on them to interpret Torah such that it is made meaningful for them are served. Even the prophets of old were required to work for a living with only the most brilliant and righteous having as their position to advise the Kings. Otherwise, the prophets in antiquity would have starved to death and along the way become too weak to think straight. We understand that some of them did not particularly think straight all the time even with food and good employment. The fact they were required to perform something of monetary worth in addition to their relating the desires of Hashem is the important point. Surely, the Haredi do not place their Torah study above the revelations which came from the prophets, or do they?

 

When the day arrives that the Haredi see the light of day or are not required and a coalition is formed without their participation, then the Haredi will know what it feels like to be depending upon the kindness of others exclusively. On this day, the future of the Haredi community will be decided free of their input and this fact alone should place the fear of Hashem into the leaders of these Haredi parties. They would be far better served to be participants in a logical, acceptable and understandable transition towards reaching a final goal and in defining that final goal. Should the Haredi continue to endlessly demand that the system not be altered, they run the risk of when the system is altered that they will receive absolutely no special privilege from the government. Would it not serve them far better to receive support for 10% or at most 20% of their adult population being permitted to spend their time as Torah scholars producing the standards of Torah for the whole of the community? This is the overbearing question which they should be thinking and not plotting to force no change taking place because doing so will soon lead to their being resented by the population at large, and that would spell danger for the Haredi as a whole. There is a final bit which requires addressing, and it involves the fanatics within the Haredi community. They must be brought within control of the greater Haredi community. Their attacking other Haredi because they serve in the IDF is behavior which should be treated as being beyond the pale and unacceptable. The same goes for their riotous reaction when people not meeting their ideal dress code for modesty are seen within their neighborhoods. The Haredi need understand that other people with different standards exist and have equal rights to be respected and not become the victims of a self-professed modesty police. Such actions are part of societies which are ruled by a theocratic dictatorship. This is nowhere near the ideals of the State of Israel where we cherish equality and that there are differences between people. The principle problems concerning the Haredi community and its incorporation into mainstream Israeli society will come at some point in the not too distant future. The final reality strike will come when there will be no means of supporting the Haredi within Israel and also budgeting for the IDF and other necessary government services such as road repair, utilities and all the other necessities which people rely on the government to provide. This brings up the concept that perhaps everyone need be reminded that the government should be limited and not providing services to the people which the people can provide for themselves, and that goes for all people.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 18, 2015

Long Night Births Hard Questions on Israeli Election Results

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With virtually all the votes counted we have the preliminary picture but the lines are fuzzy and the results produce more questions than answers. Likud is leading the pact with 29 seats with the “Zionist Camp” of Labor and Hatnua following with 24 and the Joint Arab List has 14 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 11, Kulanu with 10, Jewish Home has 8, the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism tied at 7, Yisrael Beytenu has 6 and Meretz closes out the list with 4 seats and unfortunately Yachad party will be left out. The raw numbers would indicate a huge win for Netanyahu and loss for the “Zionist Camp” falling well behind due to Likud exceeding its lower polling and Labor-Hatnua equaling expectations. A closer look reveals where the Likud came by its higher numbers and it appears that Likud gains came at the expense of largely Jewish Home and potentially prevented Yachad from making threshold. The other obvious change has been that instead of preventing the fragmentation and reducing the number of minor parties the raising of the threshold only served to drive the smaller leftist, anti-Zionist Communist and Post=Modernist parties into a single block under the name of Arab Block and given them two to three additional mandates making Zoabi and Tibi appear all the stronger. These raw results are meaningless until the different parties, unions and blocks make their desires and support clear to President Rivlin producing a clearer picture who should be given first shot at forming a coalition.

 

The raw data would make Likud out to be the victor and to the victor go the spoils, but what spoils? The name of the game is coalition making and hopefully doing so with in kind minds and supporters of your positions. This means that any seats gained by Likud at the expense of Jewish Home makes the resultant total possessed by the two presumed to be allied parties no different and all the Likud gains from Jewish Home losses as simply rearranging the chairs on either a cruise ship or the Titanic. The truth is that Netanyahu does not really want the religious, Zionist, nationalist allied parties to be the base of his support when forming his coalition. Netanyahu wants to have as much political leeway allowing him to go in whatever direction provides him with the easiest path in the new government. By Netanyahu weakening the standing of Jewish Home, when forming any coalition now would make Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu parties more important and carrying a greater influence than Jewish Home and making Naftali Bennett’s voice virtually powerless and squelched while Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon will be the roaring lions in the government and also place them ahead of Jewish Home in choosing the Ministerial position of power in the cabinet. This will give Netanyahu the leftward freedom to ignore the demands of the Religious Zionists as he desired. Netanyahu’s ploy of assailing Jewish Home voters laying any loss he might face to Hertzog and Livni at their feet just as he had done previously except this time he did so with no apparent loss in voter totals that he faced in 2013.

 

So now we wait and see who will be chosen to form a coalition first and then suffer through six weeks of excruciatingly boring power plays which we already see Jewish Home and the Zionist and nationalists being mostly sidelined while the personal aggrandizing Yesh Atid and Kulanu parties empowering Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon loudly impressing their demands and thus control over the most critical areas in the next government. Lapid may demand Treasury Minister for himself and two other high position Ministerial position for his main people with Kahlon likely to demand Foreign Minister or Defense Minister and two other major Ministerial positions for his list leaving Jewish Home with second pickings of the scraps for the supporting members and a middle level leftover for Naftali Bennett. The one certainty is that the governing coalition will not be the nationalist, Zionist government that Netanyahu once again ran on but will once again claim he is prevented from pursuing due to the lack of support from, you guessed it, a weakened and ineffectual Jewish Home. As long as the religious Zionists fall for the Netanyahu cry after running a weak campaign making the certainty of his returning to the Prime Ministership a definitive possibility from the polls and then turning to the supporters of Jewish Home and the other ardent Zionist parties to vote Likud to stave off the leftist challenge then Jewish Home will be forever the bridesmaid and never the bride. Eventually the leader, be it Bennett or be it his successor or beyond down the road, assuming there is a down the road, decides to challenge and present Jewish Home as the new leadership for Israel, Netanyahu will continue to utilize this ploy of siphoning off the votes of those more Zionist than Netanyahu desires to govern with and neutering those Zionist parties from where Netanyahu glides to victory with the stolen support, then the real Zionist political power will remain neutered and voiceless in the future Likud Party led governments. For now we must wait and see what develops but be warned that the expectations of the ardent Zionists have once again been sacrificed to the Bibi and thus lower expectations are their feed in the coming government. The other reality is that it appears that Netanyahu will require Yair Lapid and his treasonous backstabbing to permit a coalition to be cobbled together, so expect new elections again in two or so years when Lapid again sees a wounded Netanyahu for his actions such as the silent building freeze or whatever other sacrifices made presumably in response to a powerful United States President Obama in order to salvage continued friendship from the White House. Anybody else notice that it is only Israel who needs to obey and bow to the will of Obama? Can bowing to golden calves or worse be far behind?

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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