What Are the Israeli Choices in Coming Election?
There are a great many factors which indicate that the election in Israel coming in about two weeks might just be one of the most vitally important while offering great opportunities to choose a new path and depart from the old paths which have proven to be fruitless. The electorate are facing the challenge and will decide with their votes whether or not Israel has turned over a new leaf and is ready to bear the consequences and difficulties of plowing new fields which will have their share of rocks and other obstacles or if they will vote for the comfort of the known well-worn path which has only produced thorns and weeds leaving nothing of worth to harvest but at least the challenges are familiar. Our feelings are that the time has come for drastic change and parting with the old and futile ways as the threats are growing and if there is no change, the future will be favorable for Israel’s enemies who will continue to press forward and slowly strangle the Nation of Israel and the Jewish People. For these truths the time has come to till the land and plant new seeds that will be resistant to the choking weeds that are currently strangling the lands and people of Israel.
The race for Prime Minister is not yet decided despite the media reports of a certainty for the reelection of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There exist other paths to the office of the Prime Minister which can be taken provided certain people or groups choose to work tirelessly and with a laser-like focus on that goal. The problem, as we perceive it to be, is that of all the candidates at the head of the major party tickets which have been said to have a possibly viable route to the Prime Ministership hold to the old school and well-worn path which Israel has tread since the end of the Six Day War. They all believe in the failed and disastrous Oslo Accords roadway with the mantra of, “Land for peace with two countries for two peoples living side by side with peace and security for both.” Poll after poll indicates that the majority of Israelis have absolutely no faith that such a concept has any possibility of being a viable concept worth pursuing. Unfortunately, almost all of the current party and ticket leaders still hold to the empty promises of the Oslo Accords.
Prime Minister Netanyahu at one time at least spoke of truth and the need for Israel to hold all the lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea to include all of Jerusalem and its suburbs, the Golan Heights, Judea, and Samaria. Unfortunately, that is not the Netanyahu who is leading the merged parties of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu. We now have the new version Netanyahu who now stands unmovable on the failed ideas and fruitless policies he spoke in his Bar-Ilan Speech which was his surrender speech where he fell before the pressures and demands of the United Nations; the European Union; UNRWA; President Obama; the Russians; virtually every European government, leader, and notable person or politician; the Arab League and individual Arab governments and spokespeople; the Palestinian Authority; the semi-accepted terror groups such as Hamas, Hezballah, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda in Gaza, and the PRC; the Muslim Brotherhood; Iran; among a multitude of NGOs, political entities, associations, universities, and spokespersons from virtually every direction. Considering the pressures and the never ending pounding Prime Minister Netanyahu has faced during his many years of excellent and inspired service to the State and People of Israel, it is no wonder he finally succumbed to the impossible burdens under which he has worked for decades. But what about the other offerings for the office of Prime Minister, is what they offer any different?
The presumed second largest of the parties vying for supremacy in the Knesset has, for most of the run-up to the elections, been the Labor Party which is headed by Shelly Yachimovich. She has been adamant that she would not serve in a coalition that included Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporting party members unless she was the one to hold the office of Prime Minister. Shelly has made offers to every politicians and personalities who have appeared to be interested in joining a party or forming a new party and entering the coming elections. Ms. Yachimovich has made the offer of the number two slot on the Labor Party ticket at one time or another to Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Ehud Olmert, and even President Shimon Peres. Each has either responded directly and politely declining the offer or has announced their decision or lack of interest in running for any position in the upcoming elections. As far as new ideas on the most pressing of problems facing Israeli existence, Shelly Yachimovich offers a far weaker stand than has Prime Minister Netanyahu and has based her campaign for leadership by promising that she would invest the vast majority of her efforts on reestablishing the social safety-net which she accuses Netanyahu of having destroyed showing contempt for the average Israeli and their needs. Ms. Yachimovich claims that the main problems facing Israel are internal and can be solved with more intervention in the day-to-day lives of Israelis and issuing financial assistance for almost every staple need in Israeli lives. She paints a picture of returning to the Labor Party vision of a socialist Nirvana with the Government nurturing and guiding Israeli businesses and the lives of the people. She has stated her intent to roll back the financial progress made over the past decade of freeing the economy from the suffocating interference from the government. Her position on the Palestinian problem is to simply follow the ideas and ideals of the Oslo Accords while offering land and the formation of a Palestinian State as quickly as possible even if doing such requires the destruction of most, if not all, of the Israeli communities beyond the Green Line. Allowing for such would result in an unimaginable disaster.
Tzipi Livni heads her own new party named the Hatnua Party. Ms. Livni has also offered the number two slot to Yair Lapid, Ehud Olmert, and President Shimon Peres meeting with similar results as had Shelly Yachimovich. Tzipi Livni has populated her party with members who have been referred to as stolen Kadima MKs. Truth be told, one cannot blame any of the current Kadima members from fleeing the sinking ship and joining any other party as Kadima is not even expected to meet minimum requirements necessary to gain entrance in the Knesset. The real problem with Tzipi Livni is that she has been pursuing the same exact tactics she had applied to her position as opposition leader while she was the head of Kadima after Ehud Olmert had resigned which consisted of an attitude of, “Just say no,” and taking the opposite of any and everything Prime Minister Netanyahu took as a position. This has shown her to be unimaginative and rather hollow with little originality or personality of her own. Her position is similar in its treatment of foreign policies and threats as that of Ms. Yachimovich. Tzipi Livni is a strong believer in the Oslo Accords and would likely proceed with the land for peace folly making ever more generous offers to Mahmoud Abbas and might even meet many of the preconditions placed between the two sides by Abbas. This would be simply a disaster as should Ms. Livni show such weakness by granting the overt and ridiculous preconditions set forth by Mahmoud Abbas would only result in more extravagant demands and a higher bar to clear in order to tempt a meeting. In the end such a path would fail and not lead to peace and would leave a disastrous set of precedents which would drastically hinder any following Prime Minister in much the same way as the overly generous offers made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bending by freezing construction in Judea and Samaria thus their setting dangerous precedents which have now become the starting point demanded by the Palestinian leadership. Tzipi Livni is another who is not offering any changes to the poor performance and directions of past Israeli governments.
Yair Lapid has formed his own party named Yesh Atid and has played much of his campaign close to the vest. Mr. Lapid was previously a well-known television new caster who has gained great name recognition with this background. He is following almost step for step in the footprints of his father while likely hoping for somewhat better results as his father’s venture into politics only lasted one election as he failed to pass the requirements in his second elections. Mr. Lapid is presumed to be a liberal but to what degree remains to be seen. Seeing as this is his first venture into the world of politics and having come from the media where his presentations were scripted, his actual views still have amorphousness about them which will be cleared away as he takes positions and votes and his core beliefs are placed within the public realm. Mr. Lapid will not be in contention for the position of Prime Minister but might be in the position of King Maker as his party’s votes may prove coalition making. For this reason he and his party could be very important in the next government.
Then there is the triumvirate leadership of the Haredi Party, Shas, with Aryeh Deri, Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias at its head. This party is in an interesting position but will only be able to make their presence felt if no coalition is possible without their votes. Whereas Shas would more likely feel more at home with the religious Zionist parties and Likud, they have difficulties with Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party and their rather secular Zionist and pro-Russian views. The discomfort is mutual which may be made mute as Mr. Lieberman may end up sitting out the elections due to some peculiarly auspicious timed accusations and threats of possible indictment resulting from a twelve year investigation which it has been inferred will also carry a charge of moral turpitude intended to remove him from politics for an additional seven years. There is an interesting transition which spreads over the leftist camp whenever election times come around. During the rest of the time other than elections season, the leadership and notable people who reside on the left of center on the political spectrum often take adversarial positions even to the point of antagonism against the Haredi community and their overly strict morals and like style. There is a special viciousness held for the gender difference evident in the Haredi strict Torah observance which requires a certain and definite separation between men and women and very strict dress for each gender. The custom dress is very bland and provincial with rigid stipulations defining modesty and avoidance of any perceived provocative or stimulating flourishes.
The customary separation of the men and women in many activities infuriates the gender police of the liberal women’s movement. What is amusing is there is a women’s movement within the Haredi community which is every bit as ardent in standing up for women’s rights, protection from abuse, right to equal pay, and a litany of other issues where they would find common cause with their detractors from the left. The Shas Party has been known to stand with either a leftist or nationalist government as long as they receive their due funding and other considerations. They may very well demand a reinstitution of the Tal Law in some manner to protect Torah studying men from forced military or community service. This particular demand has seen itself become more and more weakened as time passes and a new generation of ultra-religious Haredi begin to take their places within the community. Haredi enlistment, though not required until recently, has been steadily rising and the current make-up of many of the combat arms companies consist of substantial Haredi and religious volunteers. What should we expect from Shas in the upcoming election? Where they have made deals with the left the membership within the Haredi and thus Shas has been slowly becoming more interested in being active members within Israeli society and have been steadily growing in numbers of Zionists within their ranks. This may have reached a tipping-point where the leadership of Shas may not think it wise to ally with the left unless the offer tended is one they cannot refuse, though such an offer is highly unlikely. They will likely join Netanyahu should he be nominated to form a coalition.
Now to the Naftali Bennett who heads the HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party which is presenting a joint ticket with HaIhud HaLeumi (National Union) Party thus uniting the two main National Religious Parties. The winning by Naftali Bennett to lead the conjoined parties has injected sparks of renewal into this sector of the political spectrum, something which has drawn worry on the brow of Netanyahu and his supporters. There has been a meteoric rise in the polls by the HaBayit HaYehudi/ HaIhud HaLeumi Party which has been the great surprise of this elections cycle. Much of this shifting in the electorate has to do with the personality of Naftali Bennett almost as much as the fact that Israelis have become disillusioned with the entire peace process with the Palestinians as they have concluded from Mahmoud Abbas’s actions and unreasonable demands, all executed to avoid negotiations, that the Oslo Accords have died an unnatural death and the whole idea of land for peace forming two states for two people existing in peace and security side-by-side has been a deception woven on lies, prevarications, deceits, and betrayals all colored with false promises and misdirections. The other item is the obvious facts that Mr. Bennett served in Israel Defense Forces in the elite Sayeret Matkal and Maglan units, received a Law degree from the Hebrew University, and co-founded Cyota (an anti-fraud software company) serving as its CEO which was sold in 2005 for $145,000,000. Naftali Bennett has a proven life-record of success and excellence in all his endeavors and has a likeable persona and commands a presence in interviews and in the media. He is the fresh face seemingly even eclipsing Yair Lapid despite his lifetime of media experience. Mr. Bennett has been able to sell the positions of the national-religious parties with a gusto and level of excitement which is contagious and has managed what was previously considered impossible, he has sold the position so well that he has even convinced many secular Zionists to join forces with the religious Zionists, a rare but very powerful combination. If Israel is going to survive the next few years where the country will be facing some very serious and dangerous threats even more challenging than the usual situations, then they may be well served if Naftali Bennett finds high office and acceptance into the inner circle of the Prime Minister. If the unthinkable is the result of the elections and Prime Minister Netanyahu does not ride what was supposed to have been an unstoppable wave back into the Prime Minister’s House, then pray that the reason is that Naftali Bennett is tapped and cobbles together a Zionist coalition, religious or otherwise, as long as it is solidly Zionist and has as a central pillar the Torah commandment to settle the land.
Beyond the Cusp