Sunday, February 26, 2012

On the threshold of greatness: who speaks to Israel?

Today, five voices speak to Israel: Edom, Yaacov, Yishmael, Persia and ONE. Each voice is distinct. Each reveals a truth. Do you understand these voices? More important, can you see the truth revealed?

Edom, whom we commonly identify as Europe and America, calls upon Israel to abandon ancestral Jewish homeland. Edom speaks with a singular voice. She is firm: Israel must give land to the Arab. Edom knows what she wants. She wants peace.

Yaacov, whom we commonly identify as the Jew, has two voices. One voice agrees with Edom: we must give away land. We have no choice.   We must do as Edom demands. The other voice says we cannot do that. We cannot obey Edom. We cannot give land away, this voice says, because that land does not belong to us. It belongs to the LandLord—G-d.

Edom hears these two voices of Yaacov. She grows angry: give land, she demands, so we can have our peace.

The third voice which Israel hears belongs to Yishmael, whom we commonly identify as the Arab. Yishmael, like Yaacov, also speaks with two voices. But his voices are consistent. They do not conflict. They are like music--two melodies within the same song. The first voice of Yishmael agrees with Edom. Yaacov must give to Yishmael. That is justice. Edom says there must be two states between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. This first voice of Yishmael, speaking in English, tells the world that Edom speaks the truth.

Edom hears the first voice of Yishmael. Edom is pleased.

But Yishmael has a second voice. It is a voice, in Arabic, that says there cannot be two states. There can be only one state-- ‘Palestine’. There is no place for Yaacov. This voice calls for only one people to populate the land between the River and the Sea—the Arab people. Yaacov, this second voice of Yishmael sings, must be cleansed from the land.

 Edom hears this second voice. She remains silent. She turns to Yaacov and says, ‘Why do you delay? Who do you think you are to say no to Yishmael? Because of you we have no peace.’

The fourth voice that calls to Israel is the voice of Persia, whom we commonly identify as modern Iran. Today’s Persia is angry.  Yaacov, she says, is a cancer. He must be removed.  Persia will excise this cancer--with an atom bomb.

Edom tells Persia she cannot have a nuclear weapon. Persia laughs. She threatens. Yishmael hears the threat. He fears Persia’s wrath. Yishmael asks Edom for help. Edom understands. She sends Abraham Lincoln—one of the world’s most powerful warships—to sit at Persia’s shoreline. In response, Persia threatens Edom. She will cut off Europe’s oil; she will drive oil prices so high as to destroy Europe’s already weak economies; and she will send suicide ships after Abraham Lincoln. Her rockets can reach Europe. They will soon reach America.                            

For Yaacov, Edom threatens. Yishmael threatens. Persia threatens. Nations with hating hordes and atomic weapons-to-be—all threaten. Incredibly, they threaten each other because they threaten Yaacov.

The fifth voice that calls to Israel is the voice of ONE.  It is a different voice—abstract and difficult to grasp. Yaacov recalls this Voice every day in his prayer—‘Hear oh Israel, HaShem our G-d, HaShem is ONE.’ In this prayer, we find the Name of G-d (‘HaShem’), who is called, simply, ONE. Our heritage teaches that, within this Holy ONE, we discover G-d’s name, His Voice, His Mercy-- and (as we learn in our written and oral texts) our Destiny in the land called Israel. It’s not simple. But it’s all there—past, present, future; and this future, our Destiny, does not depend upon obeying Edom, Yishmael or Persia. It depends upon the ONE.

For Yaacov, ONE stands alone. There is no other. Edom, Yishmael and Persia do not accept that. They choose others. They want to separate Yaacov from Israel, to demonstrate that G-d-is-ONE lied when He claimed that the bond between Himself-Israel-Yaacov is eternal. They may even believe that if they destroy Yaacov, they remove the non-visible ONE from existence; for without Yaacov, who will speak of ONE? With Yaacov gone, there would be no ONE to distract the nations of the world.

Will Edom then have her peace?  Will Persia and Yishmael?

Five voices: which do you believe? Each appears in the Jewish Heritage [Mesorah]. This 3,800 year-old inheritance predicts how this story unfolds—and to this date, if you keep score, the predictions are eleven-for-eleven (see, “The MOST important video about Israel you’ll ever see”, Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel, September 28, 2011, www.The Land of ).  The ONE is complete, eleven-for-eleven-with-no-imperfection.  He is perfect—and He is wedded to Yaacov.

Stay tuned.

PS. The Land of Israel website has been updated. To find the video, as of March 2, 2012, click on the link above. Click on the link that appears. That should take you to the main website page. There, find the YouTube icon. Click on that. Then, at the very top of the page you get, type into the Youtube search line, "The Most important video about Israel". That gets you to a page where you see five or ten videos listed; click to see the 'next 5 videos'. That should get you to a page where you will find this video. It's worth the effort--for as long as it stays up. If you have a problem, contact me through the "COMMENT" section below. The website changes often!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Betrayal in the IDF?

This is a story about three soldiers--Benny Gantz, Orna Barbivai and Eran Niv. You may not know them. But you should know who they are because they help run—and could ruin—the IDF.

Our story starts in January 2011 with two unrelated events. The first was a decision by Israel’s Cabinet to increase dramatically IDF recruitment of ultra-religious (Haredi) youth. They had two reasons for that decision. First, IDF recruitment was dropping; and second, the army had reported that, with proper accommodation, ultra-religious—and other religious—youth would indeed enlist. That accommodation included time for daily Torah study and prayer, special attention to dietary requirements and reduced exposure to women. These accommodations had been designed specifically for the Haredi, but everyone understood that when the needs of all religious soldiers were met, morale and recruitment rose. The Cabinet’s decision was clear: accommodate the religious, recruit, build the IDF.

The second event that affects our story was a report in Haaretz,  “A wise move”, (Asher Pfeffer, January 7, 2011).  This essay introduced us to Colonel Eran Niv, who had been appointed in 2010 to Command the Officer training school, Bahad 1. The report praised Niv as a leader who promoted a ‘return’ to secular values in the army.

The next month—and unrelated to Colonel Niv—Lt. General  Benny Gantz became Chief of General Staff (COS), Israel’s top military officer. In May, Gantz promoted Orna Barbivai and appointed her Director of IDF Manpower. At the time of their appointments, nothing was reported about the attitudes of Gantz and Barbivai towards the religious in the IDF.

By the beginning of June, 2011, the players were in place--Gantz, Barbavai and Niv. Our story was ready to begin:

-July 2011: a report commissioned by the Advisor to the Chief of Staff on Women’s Affairs concluded that, “soldiers who refuse to hear women sing out of Halakhic [religious] considerations should not serve as officers in the IDF.”

-September, 2011: In a decision that broke a long-standing agreement between the IDF and Israel’s religious communities, Training Commander Eran Niv ordered nine religious officer-training-cadets expelled from their training program. The agreement in question had stipulated that soldiers could quietly leave a military ceremony when a woman sang --if hearing a woman sing was against their religious belief. When these nine cadets refused to stay at a ceremony where a woman sang (specifically because of their belief), Colonel Niv ordered them expelled. Five of these soldiers were readmitted after they had officially ‘apologized’.

 -November, 2011: after Rabbis had objected to the expulsions, General Gantz spoke of the ‘victims’ of this incident. He did not mean the expelled soldiers. He meant singing women.

-A report appeared that General Gantz had given General Barbivai the official task of “integrating females with religious male soldiers in the same unit”. Such integration had been specifically prohibited by agreement between the IDF and Israeli religious leaders.

-December, 2011: Major General Barbivai announced that religious soldiers can be excused from ceremonies where women sing only if their commanders allowed; the Jerusalem Post announced, “Barbivai says that commanders’ authority comes before Halacha”  (Jewish religious law).

-January, 2012:  Arutz Sheva reported that Haredi soldiers had been ordered to clean toilets in women’s barracks.  This order, Arutz Sheva reported,  “clearly contradicts the terms of service [not to enter women’s quarters] to which the IDF committed itself when”  recruiting religious soldiers.

-General Gantz announced his final decision about singing women: “no soldier will be allowed to absent himself from official military ceremonies, even if it conflicts with his religious observance.”

-One day later, the IAF (Israel Air Force) Chief Rabbi resigned from a special Haredi-religious soldier program because these anti-religious actions were, he claimed, a “breach of the IDF commitment” to religious soldiers.

-The day after the resignation, MK (Member of Knesset) Moshe Gafni announced that the women-singing ruling by General Gantz “flies directly in the face of previous agreements.”  

-Retired Judge Tzvi Tal, a respected Jurist who had worked on Haredi-IDF enlistment issues, spoke on Voice of Israel radio and said, "I think this matter of women singing is strange. No one forbids women singing. There is a group that thinks that for religious reasons, it must not listen to women singing. So why force it upon them? Why do the 'knights' of freedom of expression and the 'knights' of minority rights want to force this upon a minority?"

- Responding to criticism of IDF treatment of ultra-religious soldiers, the IDF said, “the scope of integrating haredim in the IDF has grown, and the intention is to double their numbers every year…Unique frameworks have been defined for haredi soldiers.”

- Eliyahu Lax, Chairman of the Organization for the Religious Soldier, declared that public promises by the IDF “to make army service more religious-friendly do not materialize on the ground”.

-Approximately one hundred pre-draft age religious-nationalist Yeshiva students signed a petition which declared that, while they believe they should serve in the army, they would not do so if the army acted with hostility towards their religious observance.

-February: two religious (non-haredi) officer-cadets-in-training were expelled from their training program for praying shacharit [morning prayers]. MK Zevulun Orlev called Gantz and Barbivai directly responsible for IDF treatment of religious soldiers.

-Religious soldiers file a formal complaint against Training Commander Eran Niv for hostile treatment of religious officer-cadets.

Today, forty-two per cent of officer-cadets are religious. Their numbers are growing.  Religious enlistment is going up as secular enlistment stagnates. We are close to the day when IDF combat units will have more observant Jews than non-observant Jews. Leaders who create a hostile and hateful environment for religious soldiers not only behave in a manner that is unprofessional (religious belief has nothing to do with fighting competence), their behaviour is against the explicit decisions of their civilian superiors. Remember, the IDF is not a secular club that needs to keep its ranks ‘pure’. It is the living shield that protects Israel. The government has decided to recruit the religious precisely because it knows that it is the religious (not the secular) who volunteer aggressively for combat and elite-combat units. At a time of falling enlistment, the religious keep the IDF strong—if they enlist.  

This story focuses on three soldiers--Gantz, Barbivai and Niv. It is a story of betrayal: military promises to the religious--betrayed; civilian decisions by superiors to accommodate religious soldiers, to build the IDF--betrayed. 

Is this the the military leadership Israel wants?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

News from Israel you may only see here

The day before the Likud primary last month, some of you may have found an essay entitled, "The Likud primaries and Shalom Aleichem's silverware." This essay appeared here, on, and on . The essay used an idea from a Shalom Aleichem story to suggest that it might be a good idea to use voting station monitors in the upcoming Likud primary, to make sure voting would remain honest (the essay is below, dated January 30, 2012). I have found no other political writer in Israel—and no Anglo news outlet—who discussed the need for voting place oversight. No other political observer, so far as I can tell, raised the issue of ‘bad behaviour’ potentially occurring during the vote.  In fact, it wasn’t even mentioned in the news. Only Tuvia Brodie saw the issue, realized its significance and then thought enough about it to publish it for you  before the election. If you have been reading this blog for the last two months, you understand that there has been more to this primary than ‘met the eye’; but if you have been turning to other sources for Israel news, you would have seen virtually nothing about the primary. It was hardly mentioned.  

But the primary was in fact extraordinarily important.  You saw that in the blog’s essays. In addition, since there had been trouble at the polls against Feiglin in the last Likud primary, it seemed obvious that, with this primary so crucial to Netanyahu—and Israel-- (see the essays), trouble was again possible. Did anyone else spot that? No. That’s why this particular Shalom Aleichem essay was noteworthy-- because it gave you an alert: there could be trouble ahead. That alert now becomes significant because Moshe Feiglin—the losing candidate in the primary’s two-man competition—has filed a formal complaint to Likud alleging voter fraud in voting-day procedures and in the vote-counting process. Suddenly, the story of this primary isn’t over. Suddenly, you realize you had been warned. Once again, this blog gave the story no one else was talking about. Once again, the media has been shallow: news of fraud at the polls against Feiglin has so far received (as of February 15, 2012) little, if any, attention. Except here.

This difference between what you’ll find here and what you’ll find in the news goes beyond this election story. When you review the blog entries here, going back in time, you will see news analysis that few have attempted. For example, no one else appears to have noticed political oddities within a ‘boycott’ news story that appeared January 22 (see “A Likud primary boycott: really?”, January 24, 2012, and “Likud primary results: who won, who lost?”, February 5, 2012  below). No one else wrote so extensively about what’s at stake in the Likud primary. No one else has so focused on how the Jerusalem Post (arguably, Israel’s premier news outlet) ignores IDF leadership bias against religious soldiers—countervening explicit Israel government goals. The list goes on. Check out the older entries. See for yourself. The essays you see here uncover realities far beneath the surface. Perhaps the only place in Israel you can go to get this kind of focused, in-depth insight is

Your friends, who look to other sources for information and understanding of Israel, may not get this level of analysis, this insight. So far as they are concerned, you may be unique because your understanding of Israel is different: through this blog, you can see unpublicized public issues and hidden currents that will create tomorrow’s headlines, not yesterday’s news.

I encourage you to tell your friends about this site. I want you to share your ‘uniqueness’ because Israel (where I live) needs you to be informed. If this sounds like ‘self-promotion’, it is: I want you to understand what this blog offers. But this is also more than simple self-promotion because Israel faces an existential threat. She needs you –and your friends. You need to be informed—and knowledgeable.  As the threat to the world’s only Jewish state becomes more serious, you will see the enemies of Israel become increasingly excited about destroying her; and as that excitement grows, you will see increased pressure against Jews world-wide. That includes America. That could include you.

That’s why I want you to share this site. Let your friends know what you have learned here—about the stories behind the news and about the ‘threshold of greatness’ series you have read here (see below).  You need to prepare. As the world—and Islam—turn against Israel, you could become part of the struggle for Jewish survival. Your friends need to understand the nature of that threat—and the footsteps of greatness that lie beneath those threats; indeed, those footsteps may be the most important story of all—and your friends will learn about them here, on this blog.  

More and more, you will see Israel called an apartheid state (to prepare for this accusation, read the blog entry, “Apartheid, the Mahdi and the surprise”, June 6, 2011). You will hear that Israel builds ‘illegal settlements’ (read the entry, “West Bank ‘setlements’: J’accuse”, April 10, 2011)  . You will hear how the Goldstone Report was right to label Israel as guilty of war crimes and as a violator of International human rights; and you may even hear that the Goldstone has become irrelevant (don’t believe that—instead, read the entries, “Connect the dots: Food-Goldstone -War crimes”, April 17, 2011; “The Goldstone wars begin,” April 24, 2011; “Abbas and Goldstone: beware the company you keep,” May, 23, 2011; “Was the Bin Laden killing illegal? Ask Israel”, May 24, 2011; “Goldstone lessons”, May 26, 2011).

To understand the meaning of all of these essays, you might choose to re-read “History, Israel and Redemption: are they connected?”( June 19, 2011),  and then work through the “on the threshold of greatness” series, a group of thirteen essays that appear July- September, inclusive, 2011; it would be best to begin in July, with essay number l (one).

Prepare. Read. Listen to how the world talks about Israel. Listen closely to their words. Share this blog site so that others can join you to discuss what you all see and hear. As the world turns against Israel, we really do stand on a threshold of greatness. But if you are not prepared…well, let’s say you must be prepared; and this blog is a good place to start because there is news from Israel you may only see here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Likud primary results: who won, who lost?

Nine days before the recent Likud primary, a Likud official from the Shomron (Samaria) told the Jerusalem Post that he was calling for a voter boycott. He wanted, he said, to protest Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-Likud policies against Judea/Samaria. One of the boycott’s stated goals was to influence Netanyahu’s future policies. But almost everyone agreed that its most obvious effect would be the opposite--to disenfranchise the boycotters from having any post-primary influence at all. As one on-line reader wrote, “What is the point of boycotting[? If] Bibi wins… your voice is lost”.  At first blush, the most rational explanation for the boycott was that it was a pro-Netanyahu ploy to entice Judea/Samaria advocates to engineer their own defeat—or, as another reader wrote: “Oldest trick in [the]  Israeli political manual: throw in a third option to steal votes from[a]  dangerous opponent. I hope Likud voters are smart enough to see through this dirty trick.”

 Was this boycott call authentic-- or a dirty trick? We don’t know. What we do know, however, is that during the week January 22 – January 29, 2012, this report may have been the Jerusalem Post’s only reference to Moshe Feiglin. During the week that Likud members were deciding upon their votes, the Post’s only word on the primary seemed to be a strange boycott story that focused also on a distinctly anti-Feiglin message.

What was this story about—a Likud revolt against Netanyahu or an attack of Feiglin?  The story, Likud hawks call to boycott party primary (Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman, January 22, 2011), gave two reasons for the boycott (in addition to its goals) which seemed more about Feiglin than Netanyahu. First, the Post reported that non-Feiglin Likud members saw Feiglin as an outsider. He was an undesirable. He represented a ‘foreign influence on the party’.  But if the goal of the boycott was—ultimately-- to protect Judea/Samaria—the angry boycotters appeared to be from Samaria-- why attack Feiglin, the candidate who favoured Judea/Samaria? This was strange, indeed. At a time when Netanyahu is considered by many to be one who brings the ‘strange fire’ of the Left into Likud, calling Feiglin the ‘stranger’ seemed bizarre.  This election was not about acceptability; it was about protecting Israel; and for anti-Netanyahu nationalists, only Feiglin’s ideas passed muster. With Israel’s existence potentially on the line, why was Feiglin an issue in an anti-Netanyahu story? When your country is threatened and you claim that a popular leader is going in the wrong direction, you do not boycott. You vote to protect your country. If you oppose Netanyahu’s decisions, then you vote for Feiglin. The choice was that clear.  To refuse to support the less-popular-but- pro-Likud Feiglin meant that the primary results—and possibly the fate of Judea/Samaria—were sealed before the voting began.

The second reason Likudniks in the story dismissed Feiglin seemed just as odd: Feiglin, they claimed, was a loser(“hopeless…irrelevant”). This was strangest of all because five days earlier, Arutz Sheva had reported (Poll shows high support for Feiglin in Likud, Gil Ronen, January 17, 2012) that a survey within Likud showed 35% for Feiglin, 51% for Netanyahu and 14% undecided. These numbers suggested not only a potential for serious embarrassment for Netanyahu but the possibility that a Netanyahu victory was “not a complete certainty.” If Netanyahu wanted this primary to confirm his total hegemony over Likud (as reported in the media),  straw-poll results like this two weeks before the vote suggested that Feiglin was a formidable and dangerous rival—not a ‘loser’.

But there were losers here. Only half of Likud members voted. Before the election, many Likudniks complained about Netanyahu’s Left-leaning decisions. There was talk of voter defiance against him. But if the final vote-count (which has not yet been verified) does not give Feiglin a  vote equal to that straw-poll above, then anti-Netanyahu Likud members have, by ignoring Feiglin, given Netanyahu exactly what many had said they did not want to give him—a blank check. The supposedly pro-Right-non-Feiglin boycotters had said that they wanted to send Netanyahu a message. Well, the message they gave him was, “the party is moving [Netanyahu said post-election]… It moved in my direction [and not to the Right].”

Worse for the non-Feiglin Right, Haaretz wrote (Netanyahu won the Likud battle, but he may lose the war, February 3, 2012) that the big winner of this primary was Feiglin, not Netanyahu, because Feiglin, recognizing that Netanyahu would win, had focused his efforts to strengthen his Knesset power base—and a breakdown of primary numbers confirms that Feiglin has become stronger. Netanyahu won the vote, Feiglin got stronger--and the non-Feiglin Right may have lost more than its voice.

Of course, if voter fraud allegations prove to be true, then the question of who won/who lost will have to be recalibrated.

Stay tuned.

Afterword: on Friday, February 10 (just as this essay was being sent to publication), Arutz Sheva ran a news brief: Feiglin staff: we’re not a foreign element in Likud, which reported a reference by Netanyahu on the Knesset television channel that Feiglin voters were ‘foreign’ to Likud. This same language was used by supposedly anti-Netanyahu boycotters to describe Feiglin in the Post story above. How do we respond to supposedly anti-Netanyahu Likudniks calling for a protest boycott against Netanyahu dismissing Feiglin with the same anti-Feiglin language used by Netanyahu? Coincidence—or a slip of the tongue that reveals the boycotters true allegiance (and boycott source)?

You decide.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Did Netanyahu lose?

The January 31 Likud primary that pitted Benjamin Netanyahu against Moshe Feiglin appeared at first to have ended with a whimper, not a bang: Netanyahu won 76% of the vote; Feiglin got the remainder. Within three days, however, reports circulated that votes for Feiglin might have disappeared between voting place and election center. As one online post said (to comment on a news story in the Jerusalem Post), “I was an observer in Beit Shemesh, and I watched with my own eyes as every envelope [ballot] was opened and counted. The score was 274-60 [in favour of Feiglin]…Even Bibi's rep in Beit Shemesh signed on those figures. Then the results got transmitted to the election center, and magically got transformed to 126-77. This was not a counting error or ballot-stuffing at Beit Shemesh; this was a fraud [in the poster’s opinion] perpetrated at the election center itself.” Other reports suggested similar ‘problems’ at other polling stations.

We’ll come back to this issue later.

The day after the primary, Feiglin acknowledged that he lost the election—but suggested that he had also achieved a victory. While some might argue that a 24% showing surely meant that he had been soundly trounced, it appears that he might be right because this election was not simply about who got the most votes.  It was about power. Specifically, it was about how much power this vote could put into Netanyahu’s hands. Power is crucial for Netanyahu because Likud is a Right-leaning political party with a very strong pro-Judea/Samaria Platform.  Netanyahu’s plan to defend Israel, however, (based on his recent actions) appears to be to dismiss that Platform in order to gamble with the family jewels—Judea and Samaria. But if he attempts that gamble (to put Judea/Samaria on the table as negotiables)with a Likud base that is strongly anti-gamble (Judea/Samaria are not negotiable),  he goes to battle with one arm tied behind his back. He cannot do that. He needs freedom to work without being pressured by Likud ideals or Party opposition. He needs a pro-gamble mandate from his anti-gamble Likud.

How could he do that?  He needed a vote of confidence—a vote that said, ‘do what you want’. Of course, securing a pro-gamble vote of confidence from an anti-gamble membership would not be easy. To enhance his chance to get that mandate, he called for a primary so unexpectedly and abruptly that he emasculated most of his opposition.  Who could run on such short notice? If no one ran against Netanyahu—or, if only a weak, unprepared few contested  him—he might not only win; he could win with a landslide big enough to secure his mandate.  Once Feiglin became his sole opponent, we learned what the threshold was for that landslide because Netanyahu had been quoted in the press exhorting his campaign organizers to make sure he got 81% of the vote (he actually said that Feiglin shouldn’t get 20%). This may not be the landslide he really wanted, but he knew that crushing Feiglin was not going to happen. The magic number became 81%.

Now, the primary finished, Netanyahu has a problem: he did not get 81% of the vote. This is where Feiglin’s ‘win’ comes into play. Even if Netanyahu declares ‘landslide’,  Feiglin ‘wins’ because he knows that Netanyahu has missed his magic number--and as they say in America, knowledge is power. That means that Feiglin, with this primary vote,  has now identified and cornered some of the power that Netanyahu had wanted.  Score one for Feiglin.

But the game isn’t over yet. If the final vote tally shows Feiglin’s initial 24% share of votes dropping to a 22% share (or less), Netanyahu’s margin would creep closer to his magic number. More important for Netanyahu, if Feiglin’s Likud share drops below the 23.4% he had garnered in 2007, Netanyahu can claim that Feiglin has now become irrelevant because his power diminishes, not strengthens.  He may not have gotten his landslide. But he would get the next best thing: a shrinking adversary.

It’s all about power: who captures it, who loses it; who grows, who recedes.  By late Thursday, two days after the vote, Feiglin’s share was reported at 23.2% of Likud votes— below his 2007 result. It is a small drop, but in this world of power politics, it could be enough to alter the arc of Feiglin’s political influence.

So it is interesting that, just as Feiglin’s vote share starts to shrink, reports circulate that his votes may have been disappearing between voting place (where the votes were witnessed) and the official election center. Could part of Netanyahu’s primary success come from voter fraud? Is this what we are we looking at here?

That’s why we ask a question: did Netanyahu win--or lose?

More important, if his people did commit fraud, what’s next for Likud?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don’t read this story!

Have you noticed? The Jerusalem Post calls itself, ‘the world’s top English-language daily newspaper covering Israel’.  It wants to be Israel’s leading national news provider. But its recent coverage of national political events makes the Post look more like a neighbourhood newsletter run by someone who doesn’t know the first thing about news. Just as Israel was looking at a Likud primary (on January 31) that could fundamentally change the face of Israeli politics (if one candidate won) or tilt forever Israel’s national political arena (if the other candidate won), the Post spent more time on stories about TV personality Yair Lapid’s decision to run in the next (not yet scheduled) national election than it ran covering the Likud primary.

At least, that’s the way it looked, especially during the final run-up to the vote  (January 5 – 27).

The primary just completed has the potential to rewrite Israel’s political script. Likud is Israel’s largest and most powerful political party—right now. It is generally considered to be the nation’s most prominent Rightist party—right now. But there has been a growing sense of frustration within Likud because Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud Head and Israel’s Prime Minister, has been acting more and more anti-Likud. In a long series of announcements, manoeuvers and decisions, his behaviour has not only been un-Likud, but clearly against Likud’s published public political ideals. Before the primary, there was talk of open revolt against Netanyahu over his political ‘sins’. There was also a (potentially well-founded) fear that if Netanyahu won the primary with a significant enough margin, he would use that victory as a mandate to make his rejection of Likud ideals official. He was said to have timed this primary to give him maximum leverage to end Rightist influence in Likud because he wants to shape Likud according his own will—not Likud’s ideals. The fear, given his track record, was that he would turn Likud to the Left, creating a new Left-leaning party that few in Likud wanted. If he won and then transformed Likud in this manner, then Israel would no longer have a dominant Right-leaning party to represent her growing Right-leaning majority. This would be tantamount to hijacking the majority against its will. This primary, in other words, could change the face of Israeli politics by leaving Israel’s majority without a political voice.

The Post couldn’t see this?

Netanyahu’s sole opponent, meanwhile, Moshe Feiglin, promised an entirely new political story, something Israel has rarely-if-ever seen: a candidate for national leadership (from the country’s largest Party) who was both religious and nationalist. His positions were clear, unambiguous and different from the Left. If he won, Likud would recreate itself as a strong, faith-based Rightist advocate the likes of which Israel may have never seen at stage-center. A Feiglin victory—or strong finish—could create tectonic changes for Israel’s body politic. It could tilt forever Israel’s national political arena.

The Post couldn’t see this?

In the weeks leading up to the primary, it was clear that we had here a singular election where each candidate could change Israel’s political landscape—and what does the Jerusalem Post do? Virtually nothing. Yes, they did run stories. They will point that out. But given the importance of this primary, their coverage was abysmal. The inference of their coverage was languid dismissiveness; Lapid was better (or equal)  ‘news’.

This is not the first time the Post has failed in its public responsibilities. Since October 2011, they have been busy: they participated in a manufactured ‘selling’ of Gilad Shalit’s release (see Caroline Glick in the Post, October 21, 2011); and they jumped on a bandwagon to attack Haredi  (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews even after Arutz Sheva ran a report that strongly suggested that the incident that started this attack looked like a premeditated  provocation.

As with the Shalit story, the Post here ignored analysis and the pursuit of truth, to scream ‘fire’ in the proverbial crowded theatre.

Then, with the IDF-exclusion-of-women story, the Post did the same thing. Little analysis, few questions, no amazement that this issue only came up after Benny Gantz took over as Chief of General Staff: instead, we got , ‘FIRE  IN THE THEATRE!’

The same thing then happened with a series of mosque arsons. Even though reports circulated that these attacks seemed suspiciously not ‘price-tag’ attacks by Jews, the Post left their brain at the door and shouted, FIRE!

Finally, with what might become the most important political story of the new century—the consequences of the Likud primary-- the Post went virtually brain-dead again.

For a neighbourhood newsletter, such behaviour is forgivable. But for a supposedly Premier news vendor, it is a stunning abrogation of public duty.

Still, there’s no problem here:  you won’t have to read this because no news outlet will run it.