Beyond the Cusp

January 25, 2013

Bibi, Poor Election Results, and Making a Coalition

Back when Benyamin Netanyahu called for new elections he was confident and thought he had made a tactical decision which would not only provide him with a strong coalition, but a comfortable coalition where any of the lesser parties which chose to join being unable to threaten the coalition with a vote of no confidence. He made a couple of serious miscalculations along the way, one before finally calling for new elections and the other subsequent to dissolving his relatively strong coalition confident of a better tomorrow. Netanyahu’s first mistake occurred when he first decided to call for new elections rather than face the difficulties of making a new budget and facing Iran and other threats without a stronger and more stable coalition. He then reversed himself when Kadima, facing possible oblivion if new elections were called, offered to join Netanyahu’s Likud led coalition adding an impressive twenty-eight to the coalition which promised to give it the stability Netanyahu desired. Unfortunately, Shaul Mofaz, the recently elected leader of Kadima, replacing Tzipi Livni, and Netanyahu had a falling out within a couple of months and Kadima pulled out of the coalition which drove Bibi to again call for new elections. There was a short period of indecision and within a week Likud executed a vote of no confidence with coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu. This excess drama and indecision likely was just the initial sign of weakness and began his problems. Soon after dissolving the coalition, Netanyahu and Lieberman merged their two parties in the hopes of forging an unopposable center-right consensus party. This was the next step in the undoing of Netanyahu’s plan as the religious parties resented Lieberman and Yisrael Beyteinu. Then came the months of waiting for elections which soon became a long march towards mediocrity for the Likud- Beyteinu super party.

Then came the coup de grace during the campaign. For reasons which will be the raw meat for dissecting what not to do in a campaign, the senseless and viscous attacks by numerous members of Likud aimed at the Jewish Home Party, the one party that most observers would have thought would be a natural fit with Likud, inflicted harm on both parties though it appears that Likud was the greater harmed. There were the claims that the lead of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, was the difficulty as he had once been the Chief of Staff for Bibi which led to a messy split between the two. Some placed the problem with Bibi’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, as the one who had some difficulties with Bennett which drove the spite campaign. Whatever the source, the viciousness and pure undiluted bile heaped on Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home Party drove many away from the Likud-Beyteinu Party as many nationalists were put off and dismayed by the attacks on another nationalist party. The attacks also did result in lower support for the Jewish Home Party as they had been designed to be. The result in the end was a falling off from a combined total of forty-two seats for Likud and Beyteinu in the previous Knesset to thirty-one seats in the new Knesset. This loss of eleven seats not only damaged the power for the new combined party but also will force the Likud-Beyteinu Party to rely on and be susceptible to the whims of even the smallest parties who they will end up depending on to form their coalition. The damage was so complete as to have been just short of the cusp of allowing for a left-leaning coalition being formed blocking Netanyahu from making a coalition and allowing for a social issues coalition instead of what Netanyahu hopes to build, a nationalist and capitalist bent coalition. There are so many good old sayings that could be utilized to cap off this article, but in the spirit of allowing everyone their own freedoms, unlike the mistakes made by Likud-Beyteinu with their limiting attacks, we will allow you to choose your own to finish with your favorite.

Beyond the Cusp

December 6, 2012

Right and Left in Israel, Elections, and What They Believe

The political right and left in Israel are weeks away from the next election and have made their lists for the Knesset seats they may win in the coming elections. What is interesting is both sides actually agree on a number of subjects but still stand at odds on these very same issues. The biggest point of agreement is that they believe that the people of Israel by a large majority want peace and an end to terrorism, conflicts and any need for military interventions. The difference is those on the Left believe that this can and should be pursued through compromise and negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas and cooperation with world bodies such as the United Nations and European Union. They see United States President Obama as an ally with whose assistance the peace process can be resumed and with small sacrifices from Israel and the removal of those “settlers” from the Palestinian lands that peace will logically ensue. They believe that much of the accusations of Prime Minister Netanyahu by many European leaders and liberal progressives in the United States are completely valid and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is at the root of what is wrong with Israel. They also see Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as an uncontrollable person who is bordering on madness and is untrustworthy and his abrasive personality and blunt manner cause additional problems for Israel’s world image. If only sane and worthy people can be returned to the offices of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, then Israel will be accepted by the rest of the world and there would soon be peace with the Palestinians and lead to stability between Israel and the Arab world, especially Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.

The right which is made up largely by the combined Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu Party and the Religious Zionist Parties and Shas also realized that the Israeli people are tired of the endless violence and terrorism but they also realize that much of the population are also realistic enough to realize that the only way to end these threats is through strength and presenting a strong and united front demanding that which will allow Israel to face all threats from a position of strength and from within defensible borders. The majority of the Israeli public has come to the realization that there is no partner for peace from within the current Palestinian leadership, especially Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They are aware that the recent Operation Pillar of Defense that was waged to cripple the ability of the Gaza terrorists to continue to fire rockets into southern Israel was ended prematurely. There were some who voiced disgust with the government for not removing Hamas and retaking the Gaza Strip. Others realize that there are likely considerations, concerns and possibly threats which forced the decision to end Operation Pillar of Defense earlier than possibly even the government or the IDF would have desired. Israelis are getting used to but not necessarily accepting without protest the world’s regular interference with any defensive actions taken by Israel against either the terrorists perched on her borders or the Arab nations should they pose an immediate threat seemingly to deny Israel the overwhelming victory over her enemies which might actually force an end to their attempts to destroy and erase their existence. Still, the majority of Israelis, as the coming election is likely to prove, realize that if they are ever going to live in peace and put an end to the terror attacks that they will require a strong government that is perceived as unafraid to use whatever force is required to prevent the realization of the threats from the terrorists and other threats such as Iran and Turkey. The one position taken by some factions on the right which finds the Israeli more evenly divided concerns the “settler” movement and the communities in Judea and Samaria, deceptively called the West Bank by the Palestinian and Arab entities. There are those who favor a complete retreat to the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice Lines, and cede the rest to the Palestinian authority for their state. Others believe that Israel needs to simply absorb all of Judea and Samaria, world opinion be damned. It is likely the largest groups fall between these two extremes. Many desire retaining the major communities and surrendering the minor “settlements” which are of smaller size than places such as Ariel, Betar Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, and Modi’in Illit. Some that have divided support include Beit El, Efrat, Elkana, Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, Kiryat Arba, Ma’ale Efraim, Itamar, among others. There is also a great amount of support by the IDF, those whose concerns parallel military strategies, and many Zionists who also insist that Israel retain at a minimum a military presence throughout the Jordan River Valley and Jordan Valley Ridge as early warning, radar, and other defensive posts and sensor stations. Despite their differences, most of these groups will vote for the right wing, religious, and Zionist parties while holding to hopes that any coalition made will not require severe compromises made on their conservative values and desires for a strong Israel presence in the world.

The major differences where there is little agreement come into play when we look at social services and the economy. The left support an extensive, all encompassing, massive state safety net which is able to redistribute wealth making for a guaranteed level of comfort for all Israelis even if such requires greater levels of taxation. This was the presiding position for the first decades of Israeli existence as the Labor Party held unchallenged power and had set up a central, state run economy with the expectant socialist monetary policies. This influence was changed significantly by Benyamin Netanyahu when he served as Finance Minister under Prime Minister Sharon. During his term in this position he privatized many of the previously government run industries, companies and service industries. This along with business friendly programs Netanyahu gained recognition for an economic revitalization of the Israeli economy which has never really looked back. These policies were in part responsible for the Israeli economy’s continued solid performance when the economies of Europe, the United States and the rest of the industrialized world were in recession as their economic health faced a financial collapse of a variety of markets simultaneously. Many of the youth, as was evident in the social protests two summers ago, desire to return to the socialist wonder-world which many have been taught by their professors is the panacea to all the ills caused by capitalism. The question is how much economic issues will have on the coming election.

This election, if I have it right, is going to be more about security and who will best protect Israel from an apparently hostile world, which was made hugely evident by the recent vote in the United Nations General Assembly where the Palestinian Authority was granted recognition of statehood. Some political pundits have claimed that the United Nations vote gave the Palestinian Authority the right and permission to set the new state’s boundaries. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman both present the point that the United Nations vote actually was nothing more than a suggestion and granted the Palestinian Authority nothing that they are unable to enforce militarily. Where I would not wish to even attempt to guess how many Knesset seats will go to each of the various parties but will predict that should the parties on the right wish, they will very likely be able to make a conservative coalition. The coalition would likely consist of the merged Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu Parties, the merged Tekuma National Union and Habayit Hayehudi Jewish Home Parties, and likely Shas which might produce a coalition with sixty-three to sixty-five seats in the Knesset. Once more I find myself ending an article with time will tell.

Beyond the Cusp

October 15, 2012

Kadima’s Actions on Election Confusion or Grandstanding?

With the next Israeli elections tentatively scheduled for January 24 of next year, we enter the season where the political parties often take steps just to make the news cycle that just end up leaving most people scratching their heads asking, “What were you thinking?” The first off the mark this cycle appears to be Kadima. First there was talk of maybe bringing Ehud Olmert back to lead the ticket as he poles as the most likely politician to save Kadima from a near death election. Then some suggested bringing Tzipi Livni back as well and returning to their presumed dream team. Then they were going to try to hold yet another primary and find new leadership and finally they decided to instead appoint a committee to select its list for the next Knesset which is very likely to simply go with what they currently chose just a few months back. But this confusing run around the entire gamut of options only to return to pretty much where you started and decide that this was your best hope was far from the strangest actions taken by Kadima members.

In a move that is reminiscent of some of the odd decisions made by Livni when all she ever did was take the opposite side of anything that Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to pursue, there was an interesting display by some Kadima Ministers today. Ms. Livni took the meaning of opposition to heart and possibly a bit too literally and earned the moniker here of Ms. Just Say No. She would even oppose a position she had previously fought for should Prime Minister Netanyahu decide to take the identical actions. It was astonishing and got to be tediously predictable after a while. But a group of four Kadima Ministers of the Knesset, Orit Zuarets, Shlomo Molla, Akram Hasson and Nino Abesadze, took a little trip to the Muqata in Nablus for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabo. It has been reported that all attempts to verify if this meeting was approved by the Israeli Government or the Prime Minister’s Office went unanswered and remains unknown.

Speaking for the group, MK Orit Zuarets stated that the trip was important, “especially now” with the announcement of the coming elections and the situation where the peace talks appear to have completely deadlocked. He stressed that at this time it was “important to highlight that we must not ignore the conflict between us and the Palestinians.” This trip which I would bet was not made with any previously sought permission or even informing the Prime Minister or anyone in the ruling coalition was more likely done in order to garner the top of the news cycle. Such antics begin to look appealing and necessary when your Party is facing elections where polling has indicated you will go from your current twenty-eight seats in the Knesset to very likely eight or less. This will leave most of those currently serving in the Knesset from Kadima out in the cold unless something drastic and epic occurs to change things. With this as their opening volley in what will likely be a string of desperate acts to hopefully stave off irrelevance, Kadima members are likely to be even more amusing than even those joining Yair Lapid in his jump into politics from news casting on Israeli television with his forming the Yesh Atid Party. And, of course, there is always Ehud Barak and his guarantee of misadventures. This is going to be a great follow-up of the United States Presidential Elections in November. That should be just about when the Israeli campaign hits high gear. I wonder if we will see American political advisors assisting those opposing Prime Minister Netanyahu as we saw the last time he was running for reelection as Prime Minister.

Beyond the Cusp

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