Sunday, January 27, 2013

Signs that the Redemption is near?

January, 2013

For years, the American magazine, Sports Illustrated, has run a weekly mini-report entitled, “Signs of the Apocalypse” (or something like that).  It is a one-or-two sentence announcement that features some weekly occurrence in the Sports world. Typically, it focuses on someone doing something really stupid. It highlights how incredibly awful highly-paid or famous people can be. Such   behaviour by those we honour, the piece suggests, is surely a sign that our world must soon end.

Mostly, these incidents entertain.

That magazine comes from America. We live in Israel, which follows a different religious and cultural orientation. So if someone in America thinks about a Christian-inspired Apocalypse, we might think about a Jewish-inspired Final Redemption.

Starting today, you will see (near the end of each month) recent examples from the news that, in some way—humorous and not so humorous-- might suggest that the world might be preparing for something New.

Here are some suggestive headlines from January, 2013:

- Israel Planning to Build Holy Temple, Claims PA (Palestinian  Authority) Official

- Earthquake Hits Greece, Turkey

-Childhood Friends Unite Soccer, Religion

- Water Now Drinkable near Dead Sea

 --Assad: I can win the war if I destroy Damascus

- End Near? Doomsday Clock Holds at 5 'Til Midnight

-Israel’s national elections: Left and Right blocs face off as majority of votes counted (with 99% of votes tallied, Right and Left blocs tie with 60 seats each)

 -North Korea plans to conduct nuclear test

-Chicken Wing Prices (in America) Reach Record High


Do these headlines signal that a ‘change’ is coming?

Should we believe that the lowly chicken wing can predict trouble for the world’s most powerful nation?  If chicken wings inflate, will America’s consumer price index really fly?

Maybe these headlines are meaningless. Perhaps we needn’t worry about these things. After all, who cares if North Korea develops nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles?

What do you think?



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Does Netanyahu cheer for Bayit HaYehudi?

Today is January 22, 2013--election day in Israel. Here's a look at Israel's most exciting new political party--Bayit HaYehudi ('Jewish Home')--and a brief primer on how Israel's national elections work.
As citizens across Israel prepare to vote today, many on the political Right are excited. There is a new team in town—Bayit HaYehudi. What was once an almost invisible pro-Israel Rightist Party has united with the National Union Party to create a new voice with a new leader, Naftali Bennet, Benjamin Netanyahu’s former Chief of Staff. Suddenly, Bayit HaYehudi is invisible no longer. Just a week before the election, it polled at 14 seats in the next Knesset.

Supporters of Bayit HaYehudi are delighted. They believe that 14 seats would make them the third largest Party in the Knesset, behind only Likud-Beiteinu and Labor. With that kind of showing, they could be invited into Israel’s most exclusive ‘club’—the government.

They shouldn’t get too excited. Even if they become the third largest Party, they could still lose—and take the Right with them.

Israeli politics are not about Knesset seats won in an election. They are about power politics after the election. If you don’t understand this, your vote could be wasted.

Consider the election process. You don’t vote for a person. You vote for a Party. The winning Party does not automatically win anything. The Party that wins must form a government. That government has to control 61 seats (of 120 total seats) in the Knesset. If Likud-Beiteinu wins, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu should be the next Prime Minister. But—as of the latest polls-- his Party projects at 34 seats. To become Prime Minister, he needs 27 more.

Where will those seats come from?

This is where Bayit HaYehudi supporters get excited. They read polls that give them 14 seats. If Party-head Bennet teams up with Labor (projected today to win 17 seats), Bayit HaYehudi might swing a deal whereby Netanyahu joins with them and Labor to get 65 seats, not 61. If Bennet can do that, Bayit HaYehudi will have risen from nowhere to power-broker.

It would be a great story. Could it happen? Don’t bet on it.

If you look at recent polls, you will discover there are multiple ways Netanyahu could create a ruling coalition without Bayit HaYehudi. Political professionals believe that Netanyahu does not want hawks in his new government (Bennet is supposed to be a hawk). Netanyahu appears to want a Left-Center coalition. Depending on whose polls you read, he might be able to do that with Labor and Yesh Atid. Alternatively, he could choose Labor and Shas-- or Labor, Shas, and Yesh Atid.  He might even consider Livni, if her campaign doesn’t implode before the election—or other combinations that include more Haredi Parties, not less (while the leaders of Labor and Yesh Atid have announced they would not join a Netanyahu coalition, some discount that as  political manoeuvring, not political ideology).

If you want to play this game of ’61-plus’ for yourself, go to Shmuel Rosner on, Rosner’s Domain. There, you’ll get a running average of multiple polls and current standings for each Party (the numbers for Bayit HaYehudi appear under ‘National Union’). Try to find 61 seats without ‘National Union’. It’ll be easy.

Many Right-leaning Likud voters remain in Likud because they want to support Likud faction-head Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin has become a strong pro-Israel advocate who develops Rightist power inside Likud. He is now on the verge of expanding that power just as Bennet works to attract his (Feiglin’s) support-base over to Bayit HaYehudi. The rationale is simple: a Rightist vote for Likud is not a vote for the Right, but another vote for a Left-leaning Netanyahu. The political proposition is, give Bennet that vote and he will truly represent the Right.

It’s a powerful argument. Many like it. But it won’t succeed. Too much can go wrong, too much has to go exactly right for it to work—and the odds don’t favour success.

Here’s why it won’t work: in a new Netanyahu government, Bennet would need at least 27 seats (to create the possibility of a strong Bennet-Netanyahu coalition) in order to have any chance of forcing Netanyahu to the Right. That is simply not going to happen in this election. What will happen, however, is that if Bennet does not win big, he could indeed potentially control 10-17 seats—and end up outside the new government coalition, powerless; meanwhile, If voters abandon Feiglin for Bennet, Feiglin’s influence inside Likud could get slashed.

So if Bennet wins those 10-17 seats, the Right could be this election’s biggest losers.  The Right needs to strengthen its influence inside the government. Bennet’s ‘success’ could easily create the opposite effect--reducing Rightist influence in the government. That’s not what the Right wants. But it’s exactly what Netanyahu wants.

Vote for Bennet, and the Right’s power could be gutted.

That’s how Israel’s politics works.

Remember, politics in Israel is not transparent. Against a strong incumbent, voting for an appealing message (Bennet) doesn’t mean anything. It’s what happens after the election that counts. If you want to win something against a strong incumbent, you do not vote for a message; you vote for one who gives you the most leverage after the voting is over.

That leverage would come from the largest faction in Likud—Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit—if Likud gets the votes needed to bolster that faction. In fact, given how the Likud candidate list looks right now (thanks to Feiglin’s efforts), the more seats Likud wins, the greater will be Feiglin’s influence.

The moment of truth for the Right is this: if it wants any leverage at all in a Netanyahu government, its only power-player is Feiglin.

Bennet, on the other hand, takes the Right in a different direction. If anything, his presence in this year’s election does not promise leverage to the Right. Instead, his presence could be the blessing Netanyahu seeks if he wishes to shrink the Right’s influence. If Bennet wins big—but not big enough--the Right loses.

As I have suggested two days ago (see Sunday, January 20, 2013, below, Is Naftali Bennet a Titanic for the Right?), Bennet creates a second problem for the Right: if his political views are truly closer to Netanyahu's than the Right, his presence on the scene does not enhance the Right; it enhances Netanyahu.

Put another way, Bayit HaYehudi today does not strengthen the Right. It threatens the Right.

Look, voting for a message is attractive. It’s what we all want to do. But Israeli politics only rarely allows us to ‘vote the message’. Most of the time, Israeli politics is about leverage.

If voters on the Right do not understand this, they will vote their ‘hearts’—and then lose.

That’s a good deal for Netanyahu.

Does the Prime Minister cheer for his former Chief of Staff?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Is Naftali Bennet a Titanic for the Right?

As Israel 2013 election day approaches (Tuesday, January 22), some on the Right seem ready to celebrate. Almost everywhere they look, they see reports that suggest the Right will be this election’s biggest winner.

Based on polls that too often understate what is real and overstate what is desired, expectations run high. Many believe we are about to see historic change.We will see a new ruling coalition that will finally be Right-of-center. We will no longer see Jewish homes in Judea-Samaria demolished. We will see Jews in Israel protected. We will no longer see Jews promote false peace plans that threaten Israel.

Most exciting of all, political newcomer Naftali Bennet of Bayit HaYehudi will be strong enough (according to polls) to become part of the government. He’s a new face with strong ideas; he will pull the government to the Right.

Before the election season began, no one had heard of Bennet. Now, suddenly, this unknown new-comer will change the government!

Is that possible? Can someone with no public political track-record become the hero who empowers the Right?

Is Naftali Bennet a political unknown who will save the Right or is he a political Titanic who will sink the Right?

Do we know?

In Bennet, we find a political player at stage center who has little on his political resume. To paraphrase an old American football coach, voting for that kind of politician could turn out to be like throwing a forward pass: only three things can happen—and two of them are bad.

The one good possibility of a Bennet vote is that, if Bennet is what we think he is—staunchly pro-Israel—he will be a strong voice in the Knesset.

But the two bad things about Bennet begin with that same Knesset voice. First, if Bennet is in fact strongly pro-Israel, he probably will not be in any coalition. He will be just another MK (Member of the Knesset). He will not have a direct influence on government policy. Why? Because Netanyahu has already said that he does not want hawks in his coalition. If that is true, a win for Bennet is a loss for the Right: he does little good for the Right sitting outside the ruling coalition.

He’ll change nothing.

If Bennet is to help the Right, he needs to get a seat in the government. How can he do that if he’s such a hawk? Netanyahu is said to want a ‘centrist’ coalition, something he can easily do without Bennet. But if Bennet is actually a protege of Netanyahu, he can get that seat.

That’s the second bad thing a vote for Bennet could get you.

Remember, Bennet is a political unknown. We have not seen his political views defended in the public limelight. We don’t know which beliefs he’s ready to fight for--and which 'beliefs' are only campaign slogans.

It is not that outrageous to think that Bennet could be a Netanyahu protégé. As a political cipher, we don’t know much about him. He runs for national leadership with absolutely no visible political track record. But we do know this about him: he has been Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff. He has worked closely with Netanyahu. Very closely. Is it possible that, despite their supposed falling out, a former Chief of Staff shares the same ideology as his ex-boss?

A Chief of Staff does not hold views opposed by his boss. Life doesn’t work that way; neither does Netanyahu. A Chief of Staff mirrors and anticipates his boss. He doesn’t oppose him.

As a former Chief of Staff, it’s more than possible that Bennet shares Netanyahu’s political views—and his approach to political campaign strategy (speak Rightish, lean Leftish). Can you imagine a coalition that has perhaps 37 seats with Netanyahu plus 17 seats with Bennet (what the‘ideal’ polls now show)—with both men sharing the same ideology?

If these two men are ideological mirror-images of each other, they could cobble together a coalition with Haredi Parties. The result would not be a Rightist ruling government. It would not be the pro-Israel government the Right wants. It would be something the Right rejects. It would be ‘Netanyahu’.

If Bennet shares Netanyahu’s views, their coalition would mean that Netanyahu has clear sailing. No one, least of all his former Chief of Staff, would oppose him.

How would the Right feel about that scenario?

Our problem is, we do not know enough about Bennet to argue that this scenario is wrong; that’s why voting for him is such a risk.

Look, Bennet is attractive. His message resonates. But for national leadership, he’s too risky. The Right could be safer with a coalition made up of Netanyahu with 37 seats, the Haredi with 17 and another not-entirely-Right Party completing the coalition structure. That would give Netanyahu almost as much discretion to do what he wants as a Netanyahu-Bennet combination—with one difference: a stronger, more visible Moshe Feiglin in Likud (many of the Right candidates on this election's Likud list are Feiglin supporters).

Don’t discount Moshe Feiglin. He heads the largest faction in Likud. The Right would have more influence on government policy with a non-Bennet coalition—containing a strong Feiglin-- than with a weakened Feiglin and an empowered neo-Netanyahu called Bennet.

In Israel's election process, using the 'surplus vote agreement' rule, Netanyahu could leverage a strong showing by Bennet to weaken Feiglin's Likud power. If Bennet is a Netanyahu protege, he will get into the new government-- and Feiglin's power base could be gutted.
That would not be good for the Right.
Feiglin is a known, proven veteran. Bennet, despite his appeal, is still unknown.For example, how did you feel when Bennet said he would seek a conscience objection if, as a soldier, he were faced with removing Jews from their homes? How did you then feel when he back-pedaled on that question, once the pressure hit?

How did you feel when Bennet spoke strongly about ‘protecting Israel’? How did you then feel when he said that he would agree with tearing down homes built on ‘private’Arab land?

Do these words sound like a staunch Rightist--or a Netanyahu echo?

You should worry about his real positions, how staunchly he will defend those positions—and how closely his political ideology matches up with his former boss.

As painful as this might seem to you, you might be better off voting for a known (a Likud with Feiglin) than an unknown (Bennet, the former Netanyahu Chief of Staff).

The Titanic was beautiful. It caused people to gasp with pleasure. It was filled with promise—just like Bennet. But the Titanic’s performance was an unknown. We all know what happened to that Titanic. Is Bennet the Israeli political version of that beautiful promise?

As you choose new national leadership, do you really take the risk of voting for someone you know so little about?




Sunday, January 13, 2013

Arab outposts in E-1: Post Oslo, Post-Zionism

When the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, the signatories—Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the United States and Russia—created more than a political agreement. They created a political ideology. Oslo-as-ideology was to forge a new world order for Arab-Israel relations. It was a new logic to solve an old problem. It was new diplomacy. It would bring ‘a new era of peace’ between enemies (The LA Times, September 10, 1993).

The Oslo ideology attempted to create a new reality. Its design had four goals:  (1) “to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict”, so that both Arab and Jew could “recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence’ (the overarching goal); (2) to create a new Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority (to become the official Arab partner for that goal); (3) to empower dialogue between the partners (the method needed to achieve that goal); and (4) cooperation between the partners (the ‘mortar’ for that goal).

Normally, solutions for conflict do not require a new ideology. ‘Ideology’ applies to what happens after conflict ends--to serve as a basis for what happens next. But the Arab-Israel conflict was not normal. It was ‘one of the most bitter, protracted and intractable conflicts of modern times’ (Avi Shlaim, “The Rise and Fall of the Oslo Peace process,” 2005). Solving such a conflict required an altogether new path--a new ideology. Oslo was that path. It would not simply focus on solutions; it would focus on process. It would develop trust (PLO Negotiations Affairs Department). It would show that people could think and act as partners, not enemies.

The genius of Oslo was that peace could now be redefined.  Through Oslo, men could create a new order where nations lived in harmony (George H W Bush, 1990, describing his vision for a post-Cold War future); indeed, where Arab-Israel diplomacy had once focused on each other as enemies, it would now focus on dialogue (Shimon Peres, Nobel speech, 1994).

Oslo was to be an entirely new diplomatic mind-set: harmony and coexistence through trust, dialogue and cooperation. That has not happened; and since November 2012, actions by Mahmoud Abbas have it crystal clear that Oslo has failed.

Oslo had once promised dialogue, cooperation and negotiation. Abbas has given us instead a steady stream actions designed to demonstrate that he rejects all that Oslo stands for: unilateral UN recognition, a Palestinian Authority (PA) logo with ‘Palestine’ in place of Israel, and a brand-new (as of January 11, 2013) tent-city outpost (to establish a formal claim) set up in an area designated by international agreement as completely under Israeli control—the geographic area at the edge of Ma’ale Adumim called, E-1.

None of these actions promote peace or harmony. They promote Arab hostility, aggression and confrontation—the very opposite of the Oslo dream.

Looking back, the Oslo ideology looks now like a reverse image of Post-Zionism. Both Zionism and Oslo were dreams for a new world.  Both articulated a new reality. But the Post-Zionist argues that the Zionist dream has terminated because the ideological dream—a Jewish homeland—has been achieved. We argue the reverse for Oslo: Oslo has terminated because its ideological dream has failed.

The ideological premise of Oslo was that it would create a new way to think about resolving conflict. Read the 1993 Accords—and Shimon Peres’ 1994 Nobel speech. Oslo was about trust. This was the historic breakthrough. Dialogue and cooperation built on trust would promote coexistence.

Abbas refuses to talk. He refuses to cooperate. He rejects coexistence.  

The Post- Zionist wants to replace Zionism. He uses questions to highlight what he claims are Zionism’s failures. We can use those same questions to highlight Oslo’s failures. We simply adjust the Post-Zionist vocabulary so as to focus on Oslo, and ask:

-Will the creation of a new state next to Israel create a truly safe haven for West Bank and Gaza Arabs?

-Aren’t there other political arrangements in the world where Arabs receive better security, economic stability and rights than they historically receive in Arab-controlled states?

-Is it possible to create an Arab state that makes peace with Israel?

-Do Palestinians maximize their efforts to obtain peace?

-Would the creation of a new Arab state create an undemocratic cultural hegemony?

The Post-Zionist uses answers to these questions (when Zionism is the subject) to overturn Zionism. We use the answers to overturn Oslo.

As the Post-Zionist argues that Zionism does not promote coexistence and harmony, we argue the same for Oslo. If the Post-Zionist argues that there is an ideological shift in Israel away from isolation towards Regional cooperation, we argue that there is an even more aggressive shift occurring within the Arab world—against cooperation with Israel.

The Arab ‘outposts’ in E-1 prove this very point.

As the Arab Spring introduces anti-West sentiment to Arab consciousness, we see a distinctive shift away from the Oslo ideology of harmony through trust, dialogue and cooperation. Oslo’s hope for a new world of coexistence appears increasingly incompatible with the new world of Arab insularity.

The post-Zionist shows us how to probe Oslo’s weaknesses. We should probe those weaknesses--and reject Oslo.



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Does Pat Condell tell the truth?

Perhaps you don’t know Pat Condell. He describes himself as a comedian, atheist and internet personality. He does political commentary. An internet search reveals that he was born in Ireland and raised Roman Catholic in England. YouTube has attempted to censor at least one of his political videos.

He has taken up the subject of the Arab-Israel conflict. He is, to put it mildly, politically incorrect.

Like others who speak of the Middle East, he talks about racism, apartheid, justice and brutality. If you read about this subject, you’ve seen the vocabulary of racism and war crimes, and how such vocabulary is typically used. Unlike some, however, Condell’s political comments are not diplomatic. He has been called, ‘insulting and racist’.

Here’s a disclaimer: what you are about to read is a transcription of a recent Pat Condell video. I have edited the transcript. I do not know much about this man. You’ll have to judge him yourself.

Caveat: he is not polite. He appears angry. You may not like what he has to say—but I think you should hear him.

I apologize to anyone who takes offense.

The title of this video is, ‘Patronising [sic] the Palestinians’. It appears to be dated, January 4, 2013:

I’d like to see a change in Western attitudes towards the situation in the Middle East. Right now, we patronize the Palestinians by holding them to a lower standard of behaviour because we are all racist. The West ignores the fact that Arabs deliberately target women and children while hiding behind their own women and children. This is a war crime which they commit all the time. We know there isn’t a chance in Hell that any of them will ever be tried in the Hague for these crimes because we have given them a free pass on indiscriminate barbarism. We don’t believe they are capable of civilized behaviour because we are racists. Being racist, we refuse to acknowledge the thousands of rockets that come out of Gaza; that is, we remain silent until Israel finally wakes up and retaliates to protect its people. Then, we start huffing and puffing and calling in Ambassadors. Israelis get no credit at all for avoiding civilian casualties. If the Palestinians ever did that, we would trumpet their virtues from every roof and shower them with Nobel Prizes. But they do not behave like that because we don’t expect them to—and they know that. They know they can blow up Israeli civilians all day long, and the free world’s racist double-standards will never hold them to account. 

We pretend that religion has absolutely zero influence on Arab behaviour, and that this is a political situation. We maintain the ludicrous fiction that the Arabs are fighting for justice and civil rights –even though we can see the kind of justice and civil rights that have been delivered to the people of Gaza under the jack-boot of Hamas.

We choose to ignore the fact that Arabs in Israel have more rights than they do in any Arab country, and that there are Arab Israelis in Israel’s government and Army. We ignore these facts because they are inconvenient to our liberal, racist prejudice. We ignore these facts because they shatter the carefully nurtured propaganda myth of the apartheid state.

Being racist, we choose to ignore the history of the region, and the fact that every time the Arabs feel strong enough, they attack Israel unprovoked with the intention of committing religious genocide. They make no secret about this. That is their agenda. It has never changed.

Nothing will change in the Middle East until we pay the Arabs the complement of holding them to the same standard as everyone else. If we don’t do this—if we carry on indulging their primitive, caveman hatred by treating this as a political problem and not a religious one—then we are, effectively, underwriting permanent war in the Middle East.

Israel is the front line between Islam and civilization. We should know by now that there is no compromise with Islam. You either win, or you lose—and if you lose, you lose everything, especially if you are Jewish. Palestinian leadership has made it crystal clear that, as long as there is any level of Jewish autonomy in the Middle East, nothing that Israel concedes will ever satisfy them. They don’t want peace. They want to drive the Jews into the sea. They never stop telling us that!

There’s more, but you get the picture. This is not the ‘full’ Pat Condell. This transcript has been sanitized for your reading comfort.

During the first 5 days after uploading, this video received more than 68,000 hits. Clearly, someone is listening to Pat Condell.

He holds strong opinions. He is not politically correct.

Does he tell the truth?



Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Right is wrong. Feiglin is right

While Israel’s Avigdor Leiberman of the Israel Beiteinu Party started off the week of January 6, 2013 with a poor attempt at political comedy (he is reported to have declared that he will break away from Likud the day after the election), a rumour continues that two Right-wing politicians--Likud Member Moshe Feiglin and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennet—are engaged in a political Punch-and-Judy show.

Politics isn’t just a sport in Israel; it’s also Israel’s best entertainment.

The supposed ‘feud’ between Feiglin and Bennet appears to come from a serious question: what is best for Israel’s political Right—supporting a Left-leaning Likud (Feiglin’s Party), or strengthening the more politically pure but smaller Bayit Yehudi (Bennet’s Party)?  This is an important question because it affects how many votes the Right gives to Likud in this month’s national election. If too many Right voters do not follow Feiglin--but transfer their support to Bayit Yehudi--then Rightist influence within Likud could suffer.

Would that be a problem? After all, there’s much for a Rightist not to like in Likud: after the election, a triumphant Netanyahu is not likely to lean Right. But does that mean the Right should therefore turn to a political Party (Bayit Yehudi) which Netanyahu appears to dislike—and may exclude from his post-election coalition?

The obvious answer appears to be, if you are Right, do not support Likud; vote Bayit Yehudi. But this is Israel—politics here is not so obvious.

In fact, politics here is not obvious at all. It is so opaque it’s dangerous because many here may not know how Israel politics really works. For example, you could cast that obvious vote—and if you are Right, a vote for Bayit Yehudi would certainly make you feel good. But then, ignorant about how politics works here, you could soon discover that you have used your vote to  ‘cut off your nose despite your face’.

Your vote will have gained nothing.

Bayit Yehudi will not grab power this year. Netanyahu will not let that happen. The best the Right can hope for this year is influence; and the question voters should be asking themselves is, who can best bolster the Right’s influence, a Feiglin inside Likud or a Bennet outside?

The answer is Feiglin inside Likud.

The reason for this lies with how politics works in Israel.

Likud is Israel’s most powerful political Party and Moshe Feiglin heads the largest faction in that Party. Do not discount that reality. Strong Rightist support today for Likud could put Feiglin and other Likud Rightists into the Knesset, giving Feiglin enhanced power. How does Feiglin get this enhanced power? He is the one who has worked most successfully to get those Rightist names onto the Likud list. He is not exactly a king-maker; but he is the closest thing to it the Right has; and if the Right gives strong support to Likud, it is Feiglin who is strengthened the most inside Likud.

Feiglin may never stop Netanyahu. But a stronger Feiglin inside Likud will do a better job making the attempt than a Bayit Yehudi stuck on the outside.

Make no mistake. Bayit Yehudi will be on the outside. Netanyahu will see to it.

Most Right voters do not understand that Israel politics is not just about power; it’s about influence—and after this election, the Right will need all the influence it can get to defend its political ideals. The greatest ‘win’ for the Right today would be a stronger Feiglin inside Likud, not a weaker Feiglin (because voters abandon him for Bennet) and an ostracized Bayit Yehudi.  If anything, this is the election to support Feiglin’s efforts in Likud, not abandon them.

You say that a strong Bayit Yehudi cannot be locked out of the next ruling coalition?  Don’t be so sure about that.

If you underestimate Benjamin Netanyahu, you will lose.

Rightist voters are understandably frustrated by the Israel national elections process: voters do not vote directly for a national leader.  Instead, they vote for a Political Party. If that Party wins enough of the total votes, it gets to ‘form’ a government with its leader as Prime Minister. So, given today’s power arrangement, when Rightists vote for Likud, they do not vote for Feiglin; they vote for head of Likud Benjamin Netanyahu-- whom many on the Right no longer trust.

Feiglin argues that Rightists should vote Likud, despite this liability. Why? Because the prize this year is not power. That won’t happen. The prize is, again, enhanced influence. Therefore, Feiglin argues, voters should choose Likud because that is where the Right can most effectively attract the kind of friends it will need to influence national decisions—and, later, win national leadership.

To understand this approach, consider legendary American bank robber Willie Sutton (1901-1980). He was supposedly once asked why he robbed banks. Because, he is reported to have replied, that’s where the money is.

This is why Feiglin wants Rightists to vote for Likud—because that’s where the power is.

Some on the Right don’t buy that. They don’t want a politician who grows his leadership potential so slowly. They want that leadership now; and for them, that leadership comes fastest by getting elected to the Knesset.

Feiglin will not bite that bait. He does not believe that a hawkish Party can win enough seats in the Knesset to leverage its way into the next ruling coalition--or, if there, be strong enough to influence that coalition. Instead, he chooses to build a broad base of support from within the country’s power-centre, Likud. He believes that you influence policy by building relationships within the political power-center, not from outside that center.

Those on the Right who want to strengthen their sector by unifying (to create Bayit Yehudi) play the same old game the Right has always played—and lost. Besides, their strategy does not bring power to all on the Right; it brings power to them.

Those who unify within their own sector do not expand their influence. They simply reshuffle the same political deck for their own advantage.

For this month’s election, Feiglin is right: the Right will not expand its influence playing sector politics; it expands influence by strengthening its position within the nation’s power-center. That’s why he believes voting Likud is so important.

If you don’t believe this you may not understand how Israel politics works.

Your vote will be wasted.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Judea-Samaria: Oslo dream or Israel sovereignty?

The year 2013 began early in Jerusalem with a January 1 conference that could set the stage for organized Jewish resistance against the Oslo dream of an Arab state carved into Judea-Samaria (called by some, 'the West bank'). The conference, sponsored by ‘Women in Green’, focused on how to bring Israel sovereignty to Judea-Samaria, not an Arab state. It was the third such conference in as many years.

These conferences appear to be a delayed but strengthening backlash against the Oslo call for a ‘two-state’ solution. Since 1993, Oslo advocates have preached that peace would be ours if Israel surrendered land in order to create a new Arab state. But that hasn’t happened. If anything, Oslo made things worse because almost 6,000 Arabs and Jews have died in on-going Arab-Israel fighting since those Accords were signed, and some 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel, most since 2005 when, consistent with Oslo’s dream, Israel withdrew from Gaza.

For conference attendees, Oslo does not deliver peace dividends. It delivers attacks. That’s why they gathered in Jerusalem. They want something different.

When the Accords were first signed, the world was delighted. The chief signatories, Yasser Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin, were hailed as heroes. With the stroke of a pen, two enemies appeared to have redrawn the geo-political map of the entire region (Avi Shlaim, ‘The Oslo Accord’, The Journal of Palestine Studies, 23:3, Spring, 1994). US President Clinton went so far as to declare that the ‘children of Abraham had taken new steps on a bold journey towards peace’.

Celebration turned into euphoria—for good reason. Four years earlier, 1989, the oppressive Soviet Union had collapsed; then in 1990, the first President Bush spoke of a new world order where men could solve problems through harmony. Now, 1993, one of history’s most intractable conflicts yielded to that harmony. Oslo was not just another peace agreement. It was a miracle which defied all expectations (Abdelwahab El-Affendi, ‘Making Peace Gambles work’, Journal of Peace, Conflict, and Development, Issue 17, August 2011). It was a miracle that promised to be the singular foundation for an epoch of peace (The LA Times, September 10, 1993).

In 1993, Oslo was therefore not just about the Middle East. It was about creating the new world order men had dreamed about. Arabs would get the freedom they wanted, Jews would get the security they wanted—and the world would get the universal peace it wanted.

It seemed possible: between 1990-2005, it has been estimated that fifty per cent of civil wars from that period ended with peace agreements, more than in the previous two centuries combined, when only one-in-five conflicts ended in negotiated settlement (Christine Bell,Peace Agreements: their nature and legal status”, 2006).  Oslo occurred near the beginning of this fifteen-year cycle. It occurred within a context of creating a new post-Soviet world where, finally, freedom, mutual trust and harmony would reign.

That Oslo dream endures. But the Oslo story does not. There is no peace.

That’s why anti-Oslo advocates met in Jerusalem at the beginning of 2013: to offer an alternative.

You see, there is something about peace-making that Oslo peacemakers might not understand:  nearly half of all peace agreements break down within 5 years, and more break down within 10 years (ibid, p375). Many of the remainder collapse into a ‘no-war, no-peace’  limbo (ibid).

Talking about peace is popular. Signing peace agreements is popular. Getting peace to last is not. 

The January 2013 conferences attendees appear to understand this. It’s why they look for a different solution. As one speaker hinted, those who oppose Oslo recognize that, in the Middle East, peace never comes to those who surrender land: never.

It’s been almost twenty years since the euphoria of Oslo. We do not have peace. We do not have harmony. We do not even have talks. The Region lives with ‘no-war, no-peace’; or, perhaps more accurately, the Region lives in a ‘war-truce’ limbo, where on any given day we have no idea which way the scales of war—not peace--will tip.

As a result of Oslo, we live suspended between two dreams, one dead (Oslo), the other powerless to be born (the future).

Now, Jews meet in Jerusalem to look for a new future.

One thing is certain: Oslo could never have brought peace. It attempted to solve the wrong problem. The Arab-Israel conflict is not and was not, as many claim, ‘a clash between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements over the land of Palestine’ (Avi Shlaim, ibid).  Instead, this conflict is about something else. As one conference speaker put it, Arab Member of Knesset (MK) Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) had, just two days before the conference, summed up why Arabs fight Jews: speaking at Bar Ilan University Tibi declared, ‘all of Israel belongs to us (the Arab).’

The Arab knows what he wants. He wants one state for Israel-- an Arab state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. 

Those who came to this conference want something different for Israel. As another speaker suggested, Arab MK Tibi is correct. The future of Israel is very clear: it will be either 100 per cent Jewish or 100 per cent Arab.

Since the November, 2012 UN de facto recognition of a new ‘Palestine’, Arab leaders in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority have repeated that they want an Arab future for Israel.

On January 1, 2013, Jews gathered in Jerusalem to declare that they want a Jewish future for Israel.