In slightly under three weeks, Israel will be holding its 20th parliamentary election, which was declared after a long period of internal power struggles within the ruling coalition. Eventually, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to dissolve the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) after less than two years out of a four-year term. The initial public response to the election was outrage, with the common opinion being that the election is a waste of public funds caused by ego-driven quarrels rather than legitimate policy disagreements. However, that sentiment seems to have withered down as the election became more competitive and surprising.
Political parties in Israel can be categorized into five groups: Right, center, left, ultra-orthodox (“Haredi”) and Arabs. The right consists of Likud, the Jewish Home, and Yisrael Beiteinu. In the center we can find two parties: Yesh Atid and Kulanu. The left parties are the Zionist Camp (a union of Labor and Ha’tnua) and Meretz. In a historic move, the Arab parties decided to unite in the coming election and to run together as one united party. The Haredi (ultra-orthodox) parties also considered the idea of unity briefly but eventually decided to stay as separate parties: United Torah Judaism party (UTJ) for the Ashkenazi Haredis, Shas party for the Sephardic Haredis and Yachad for the hard-right wing Haredis.
The current government was formed by a coalition of center-right parties, in contrast to the right-Haredi coalition who ruled before. However, the coming election might put an end to the Netanyahu regime, which has been in power since 2009. The alternative to Netanyahu is the political couple Issac Hertzog and Tzipi Livni. Together, they lead the Zionist Camp alliance and aim to bring the Labor party back to power for the first time since 2001. Do they have a chance? The polls suggests a complicated answer.
Here are the numbers from the most recent polls (there are 120 members of Knesset):
(Babushka ranks the parties in brackets, not the WP)
Likud 24 [Right]
Zionist Camp 23 [Center-Left]
Jewish Home 13 [Hard Right]
United Arab Party 13 [Left]
Yesh Atid 8 [Center-Right]
Shas 8 [Religious Grifters]
Kulanu 8 [Center Right]
UTJ 8 [Religious Grifters]
Yisrael Beiteinu 6 [Hard Right]
Meretz 5 [Hard Left]
Yachad 4 [Religious Convicted Felons]
The first thing that pops up is just how close the leading parties are, with just one seat separating them. However, what bothers the Zionist Camp is not so much the number of votes it will receive but rather the number of votes that will be cast in favor of the political center.
Is there a state that faces a specific existential threat right now? Yes again. That state is South Korea.
South Korea has no nuclear weapons of its own, though the U.S. has extended its “nuclear umbrella.” Its immediate neighbor, North Korea, does have nukes, which it tested and developed while the U.S. was distracted in Iraq. North Korea’s leaders are peculiar, to put it mildly, and have repeatedly promised / threatened to destroy South Korea in a “sea of fire” in rhetoric as blood-curdling as any anti-Israel rant from Iran. South Korea’s population center is practically on the border with the North, rather than several time zones away as with Iran relative to Israel.
It would be better for everyone except North Korea if it had no nukes, but the South Korean president was not invited to address Congress during the GW Bush years to demand tougher action against North Korea.
Is Israel’s situation comparable to that on the Korean peninsula—or, to use the more familiar parallel, to that of European Jews menaced by Hitler in 1938? It most emphatically is not, if you pay any attention to the underlying facts.
The most obvious difference is that Israel is the incumbent (if unacknowledged) nuclear power in the region, with the universally understood ability to annihilate any attacker in a retaliatory raid. The only similarity between this power balance and the predicament of European Jewry in 1938 is the anti-Semitism. In 1938 the Jews of Germany, Poland, France, and Russia were a stateless minority with no military force of their own to protect them and no foreign power (including the U.S.) willing to step in. In 2015 Israel is a powerful independent state, more heavily armed than any adversary.
Think of this parallel: The full-tilt U.S. slave economy of the 1850s and the police-shooting abuses of 2015 have in common racist anti-black prejudice, but they are not the same situations. One was resolved only by cataclysmic war. The other is very serious but not the prelude to north-versus-south combat. The Iranian rhetoric of 2015 and the Nazi death machine of the Reich have in common anti-Semitic hate-mongering. But the differences between them are far more obvious than the similarities.
The first law of holes is when you find yourself in one, you should stop digging. But it seems that our old friend John Boehner has not only elected to keep digging, but he’s rented a backhoe for the job:
Boehner: I didn't want “interference” from White House in Netanyahu speech http://t.co/G1ef6XFavY
“Haven’t you taken one of the few bipartisan issues in this country — support for Israel — and turned it into a political football?” Wallace asked.
“I have not. The fact is that we had every right to do what we did,” Boehner responded. “I wanted the prime minister to come here. There’s a serious threat facing the world. And radical Islamic terrorists are not going to go away.”
Wallace then pointed out that Boehner asked Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., not to tell the White House about the joint meeting with Netanyahu.
“Why would you do that?” Wallace asked.
“Because I wanted to make sure that there was no interference. There’s no secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu. I frankly didn’t want that getting in the way, quashing what I thought was a real opportunity,” Boehner responded.
Of course, in the same interview, His Orangeness proceeded to show how much of his concern for our national security is a joke by admitting he’s prepared to allow the Department of Homeland Security to go into shutdown, engaged in the same delusion he was in 2013 that voters will blame Democrats for any damage done.
Times like these, I reflect upon the words of the Little Corporal: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Among the many reasons I will not attend are the following:
We know what he is going to say. Netanyahu’s position on the ongoing negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program is not a secret. Like many other members, I have been visited by the Israeli ambassador and understand what they want and how that differs from what U.S. negotiators are attempting to accomplish.
The Prime Minister has plenty of other places to express his opinions. In fact he has done so many times.
Netanyahu will specifically be arguing against the foreign policy of the administration. Speaker Boehner invited the Prime Minister to address Congress specifically to refute President Obama’s position. I will not contribute to the impression that this body does not support the President of the United States in foreign affairs.
It will become a matter of score-keeping as to who stands up and applauds and who doesn’t. Having visited Israel only months after Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2011, I know how much political impact these scenes have in that country. There is pressure to join the applause even if a member does not agree with statements made.
Congress has a broader responsibility than the security interests of Israel. While it certainly is important that we understand the Israeli perspective, the American people will hear only Netanyahu’s perspective, creating a public perception that could undermine a broadly supported resolution to the Iranian nuclear situation.
The Prime Minister’s appearance will be construed by many to infer congressional support for his position as opposed to US policy.
I do not want my respectful attendance to in any way imply support for his position.
HOST: …on a couple of occasions now during the course of this interview, you’ve identified President Obama as a “secular humanist.” Perhaps you want to tell us a little more about what you mean by that, and in the minute that remains, how does the President’s seeming nonchalance about the nature of the anti-semitic attack - how does that affect our relationship with Israel…?
PARKER: I believe that [Obama’s comment] builds the resolve in the American people that Israel’s values are our values, the core fundamental beliefs of America, our exceptionalism, our national allegiance, our limited role of government, our free markets, and our tradition - This is what we have in common, and this is what secularists don’t like, and Barack Obama’s a secularist. And, in fact, it’s what he and the Muslims have in common, the radical extreme of Muslims and this president and all secularists have in common is they hate that biblical worldview, so therefore they hate America and they hate Israel.
The comment she was referring to was this, in response to a terrorist attack on a kosher market in Paris:
Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?
Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. 7 It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.
7 The little-noticed “Feed the Future” initiative has reached about 7 million people already, and introduces farmers in poor countries to more advanced technologies and management practices to boost crop production.
Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that — the same way a big city mayor’s got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive. But we also have to attend to a lot of other issues, and we’ve got to make sure we’re right-sizing our approach so that what we do isn’t counterproductive. I would argue that our invasion of Iraq was counterproductive to the goal of keeping our country safe.
And despite the incredible valor of our troops — and I’m in awe of them every single day when I work with them — you know, the strategy that was crafted in Washington didn’t always match up with the actual threats that were out there. And we need to make sure that we’re doing the right things and doing those well so that we can also deal with future threats like cybersecurity or climate change or different parts of the world where there are huge opportunities, but [that] before I came into office, we had neglected for quite some time, Asia Pacific being a perfect example. Or our own backyard, the Western Hemisphere, where there’s been real progress in Latin America and we’ve got the opportunity to strengthen our relationships. But there are also some big problems like Central America where, with a relatively modest investment, we could really be making a difference and making ourselves safer.
The emboldened part is what Parker was referring to, and it caused an uproar because Obama seemed to be saying that the attack was not motivated by anti-semitism, which the White House moved to clarify.
Israel’s March elections are fast approaching-and still too close to call. Even for devoted Israel watchers, though, it can be difficult to follow the fluctuations of a political scene that features over half-a-dozen parties jockeying for parliamentary position. And that’s before one bumps up against the Hebrew language barrier. Fortunately, Tablet is here to help.
How can one keep track of the many polls released each week-and how reliable are they? Which analysts are writing in English and offering detailed blow-by-blow accounts of the race’s developments? And who makes the best political parody videos lampooning the contest’s participants? Our primer has the answers.
In the era of Nate Silver, nothing carries more currency with political junkies than the latest polls. Israel’s, however, have proven notoriously unreliable. Pollsters have consistently overestimated the support for large parties and underrated smaller ones, often by dramatic margins. These errors are compounded by the fact that over a third of Israeli voters tend to be undecided before they get to the ballot box. With such a large late-breaking swing vote, and a parliament whose seats are determined by vote percentage, it can seem near impossible to predict Israel’s elections with any certainty.
Enter Project 61. Run by analyst Nehemia Gershuni, and drawing its name from the 61 seats required to form a majority coalition in the Knesset, Project 61 aims to be the FiveThirtyEight of Israel’s elections. Drawing on Nate Silver’s own methodology, the project aggregates Israel’s many polls, then weights the average based on the historical reliability of each pollster. Those with a better track record for accuracy count for more, and vice versa. The result, displayed in easily understood infographics, is likely the best look at the political state-of-play possible before election day. For example, at the top of the page is Project 61’s latest breakdown.
Reporting and Analysis
From top political reporters like Channel 2’s Amit Segal to Channel 10’s Nadav Perry, there is no shortage of quality election coverage in Hebrew. But what about in English? Thanks to the proliferation of online English media from Israel, some native and some translated, there’s plenty to choose from among outlets like the Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and many others.
But beyond the usual publications, there are also particular writers well worth following for up-to-the-minute coverage. Lahav Harkov, ace Knesset reporter at the Jerusalem Post, tweets breaking news, polls, photos and analysis from countless rallies and other electoral events.
Just “Lovely.” David Neiwert has more,
While most American-born activists who become involved in defending Palestinian rights avoid becoming overt anti-Semites even while steadfastly criticizing Israel, Kenneth O’Keefe is not one of them.
O’Keefe, a former Marine-turned-antiwar and anti-environmental activist who specializes in what he calls “direct action,” has morphed in recent years into a raving, David Duke-endorsing anti-Semite, particularly in the speeches he gives to well-known white-supremacist groups.
The most noteworthy of these was O’Keefe’s speech to the IONA London Forum, a gathering of academically oriented white supremacists and anti-Semites held last August. The speech was noteworthy for its crude ugliness: the 50-plus-minute-talk by O’Keefe revolved around the repeated phrase “fucking Jews.”
More than a dozen civilians were attacked this morning in Tel Aviv, Israel on a local bus by a knife-wielding Palestinian. 13 have been reported as suffering from stab-related injuries, and four are presently hospitalized in serious condition. The assailant was stopped by Israeli police forces following a short pursuit.
Latest update courtesy of Ynet News:
A Palestinian terrorist armed with a knife stabbed 13 people during rush hour on Wednesday morning in a terror attack on a bus in central Tel Aviv. Four of the victims were badly hurt in the attack.
At roughly 7:15 am, the terrorist, a 22-year-old from the West Bank town of Tul Karem, boarded Dan bus number 40 on Begin Road in Tel Aviv, close to Beit Maariv Bridge, and stabbed the driver and more than a dozen passengers before fleeing the scene. He was quickly tracked down by Israel Prison Service officers present in the area, shot and apprehended.
Of the wounded, four are in serious condition, three sustained moderate wounds and the rest were lightly hurt. People were also being treated for shock after the attack.
Hamas has welcomed the attack as an “heroic and courageous act.”
Yeah because nothing says “heroic and courageous” like attempting to murder defenseless children on their way to school:
Liel Suissa, an 8th grader from Bat Yam, was on his way to his new high school Wendesday morning, when a Palestinian terrorist armed with a knife began to attack people on the number 40 bus in central Tel Aviv.
“The terrorist suddenly began stabbing,” the 13-year-old recalled. “We all ran back. Most people came flying towards me.
“I was sitting on the bus and I heard people shouting. The terrorist had suddenly gone to the driver and stabbed him. He was shouting things, but I couldn’t hear clearly. I saw him stab the driver, and I ran to the back with the others to get away from him. He approached us, I broke the window and got out.”
What else really needs to be said at this point? And yes, this is the very same group that several European countries recently decided to stop classifying as a ‘terrorist organization’..