Friday, January 24, 2020

Is this why Trump has been impeached?

As I have previously suggested to my readers, since I now live in Israel, I try not to get involved in US politics. But the US drive to impeach US president Donald Trump is so historic an event, I cannot stay away from this event. It's simply too big to ignore, no  matter where I live.

I'm sure you know the basics of this impeachment. I won't rehash anything. But I do want to offer the occasional comment from afar. Perhaps distance provides some perspective.

I realize some of my readers could be offended by what I will say. After all, one doesn't have to live in Washington, DC to understand how passions about Trump run high--very high. I hope my readers will not abandon me over this issue. I hope you remain loyal to this blog.

Here's a comment about this Trump impeachment process: in the US Senate impeachment trial now unfolding, the US House of Representatives has seven 'Managers' whose job it is to serve as 'prosecutors' against Trump. If I understand matters correctly, these seven Managers will today, Friday, January 24, 2020, finish presenting the Democratic case against Trump. These seven Representatives, all Democrats, all chosen specifically by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), include: Jason Crow (D-Colorado), Val B. Demings (D-Florida),  Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), Zoe Lofgren (D-California), Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) and Adam Schiff (D-California) (here). 

According to one source, US Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), three of these seven US House Managers in the Senate impeachment trial (some 42+ percent of the House 'Prosecutors') voted against lethal aid to the Ukraine--and these same three (Nadler, Jeffries and Lofgren) now lead the call to impeach Trump for, arguably, simply delaying the same lethal aid which they themselves refused to send? (here). Indeed, what's worse, delaying aid because of Ukraine's recent past history of corruption--or voting against it altogether? 

What's going on here? Is this why Trump is being impeached--over a policy dispute? 

Certainly, some have believed that, during December's House impeachment hearings, several anti-Trump 'witnesses' (few of whom had any face-to-face interactions with Trump, never spoke to Trump, but condemn him for impeachable offences anyway) were actually arguing that they condemn Trump because they, the professional diplomats, disagreed strongly with Trump's policy decisions (at least, that's the way it looked to some).  Is this the impeachable offense?

In the end, the impeachment Articles spoke specifically of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Obstruction of the Congress is a separate issue. But is this policy dispute over Ukraine the real reason behind Trump's alleged Abuse of Power?

Remember, at app 10:25 EST yesterday, Thursday, January 23, 2020, Representative Adam Schiff said that this President "needs to be removed [from office] because Trump chose Rudy Giuliani over his own intelligence agencies and national security advisers" (here). Schiff then added, "that makes Trump dangerous" (ibid).

Really? Dangerous? A President does not have the power to send special envoys on special missions? Plus, if a President does use such envoys, he can be removed from office?

Really? How many times have other US Presidents used special, even private, envoys? A hundred times across American history? A thousand times?

Democrats claim no, no and no, again. That's not the reason for this impeachment. They say Trump's Abuse was his effort to influence a foreign leader to get for Trump dirt on a potential political opponent (Joe Biden). But was Trump's interest in a potential Biden-Ukraine connection just about a potential political opponent--or about real corruption in a place that had been one of the most corrupt countries in the world; a corruption that could have included the-then US Vice President (Biden and his family members) working behind the scenes?

More to the point, if what Schiff said, above, is not the point for impeachment (that Trump needs to be removed because he didn't rely on his own advisers, etc), then why make that remark? How does it relate to 'Abuse of Power'? If Schiff is saying that such a remark is in fact related to 'Abuse of Power', is such a connection legitimate? 

Does Congress really want to create a basis for the impeachment of a President that will literally tie the hands of all future Presidents? What is the message here--that a President cannot choose his own foreign policies, and cannot choose whom he wishes to perform delegated tasks?

Has Congress become this stupid? Something is wrong here.

Very wrong.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Here's a video. About Trump. From 1980. Dare you watch it?

(Last update: January 15, 2020. includes a title change)

Over the years I've been writing, I've developed an informal rule: stay away from US politics. True, I haven't always adhered to this rule. But it does influence what I choose to write about.

I believe that for the better part of the last two years, I've been pretty faithful to this rule. So far as I can remember, I've published little, if anything, about US politics during this time-frame.

You can confirm that by digging deeper into my blog posts, below. What I've written is not hidden. It's part of the blog's historical record.

Today, I will break this rule. I will show you a video about Donald Trump--from 1980, when he was 34 years old. A friend sent it to me from a Facebook entry they had found. It's less than 4 1/2 minutes long. 

You might say that I post this interview not for a political purpose, but for historical perspective. Perhaps it puts Trump-the-man into an historical context. Perhaps that context could be important.

Please note that Trump in this interview references Iran and the 'hostages'. He is referring in this interview to 52 Americans who were taken hostage by Iran, in Iran, in early November, 1979, eleven months earlier. At the time of this interview, October, 1980, those hostages had been held in captivity for something like 380 days. Iran didn't release them until January 20,1981, the very day the newly-elected US President, Ronald Reagan, was sworn into office. Iran held these Americans for a total of 444 days before their release.

One final point: no matter what your political position is vis-a-vis Trump, I think this brief interview excerpt is worth your time. 

What do you think? 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Has Benny Gantz just proven he lacks the skill to make competent political decisions?

(Last update: January 1, 2020)

Benny Gantz wants to become Israel's Prime Minister. To that end, he's chosen to become a political fighter. 

He appears to know he's no longer in the Army. In the Army's strict command structure, everyone knows that the top man--the 'boss'--is always appointed to his position, not elected to it. Gantz knows that. He also knows that to become Israel's Prime Minister, he's not going to be appointed to it by a higher authority. He's decided he's got to fight for it.

To take ownership of the PM's seat, he's apparently defined his need to 'fight for it' as, 'we have to demonize my main opponent'. He doesn't define his fight as 'I'm the man Israel needs right now, not my opponent'. He defines his fight as the need for personal attack.

He won't lead with ideas or policies. He won't lead by 'values'. He'll lead by personal attack. 

Is that the kind of leader Israel wants?

Gantz shows his true leadership skillset by demonizing Benjamin Netanyahu. Every opportunity he gets, he calls Netanyahu unfit for office. 

Netanyahu's corrupt. He takes bribes. He's been indicted for crimes! He's unfit!

Gantz is a military man. What does he actually know of a political democracy? Does he know that, in a democracy, the  'presumption of innocence' is the basic right of every accused, even a Prime Minister? 

Apparently not. 

Gantz doesn't act as if he understands the underlying ideals of the nation-state he wants to lead. He treats allegations in an indictment as established fact, not accusations. He sees an indictment, even one possibly politically tainted, as being the same as 'guilty'. 

At least, that's what he wants you to believe. Is that the kind of leader you want?

Gantz attacks. He rarely discusses policy. He doesn't debates policy. 

His attacks take place at the basest, nastiest level. No, Netanyahu isn't Israel's most experienced, longest-serving Prime Minister. He's unfit. He's a corrupt politician. He paints Netanyahu as if the man's nothing more than an indicted criminal nervously waiting to be sentenced--even before a trial. 

Is this how Gantz is going to lead? 

Now, in an effort to keep pushing this negative, destructive narrative against Netanyahu, Gantz may have gone too far for his own good. His latest personal attack may have (unintentionally, of course) just proven that it's Gantz who's not fit to rule, not Netanyahu.

Gantz's latest--and perhaps most self-inflicting--attack comes as a result of something that didn't happen. What didn't happen was a public statement by Netanyahu.

Yesterday, December 30, 2019, the Prime Minister's office issued a statement that, at 8 pm, December 30, 2019, Prime Minister Netanyahu would speak to the public. He would issue an 'announcement'. No topic was given for this 'announcement', but the conventional assumption was that, given the day's rumors, it would be about Netanyahu's interest in seeking immunity from the Knesset against prosecution. He would, specifically, seek a new law that a sitting Prime Minister could not be indicted for crimes until he was no longer in office. 

He never made that announcement. Instead, just two hours before the planned 'announcement', an unsourced statement came out of the PM's office that declared Netanyahu's 'special 8 pm announcement' would be "delayed". No other information was given. 

This is when Benny Gantz stuck his foot where it needn't go. By the way, he didn't actually do this to himself. His friends did it for him--his friends in his Party (Blue and White). Apparently, a Party spokesman said, Netanyahu "can't manage a statement. How can he manage a state?"

What an absurd thing to say! Sure, if Netantyahu were, say, a retired Army General (like Gantz) who'd never been elected to office (like Gantz)--or been appointed to a political position in a ruling government (like Gantz)--then, yes, maybe, a statement he had not given might be reason for criticism. A change of plan could suggest, for example, a rookie's hesitation. It might suggest that such hesitation to act is what you might expect from someone with little political experience. It could even be used to suggest, do you want such a hesitant, inexperienced rookie handling a ship of state that must travel through treacherous waters--or would you want someone more sure of himself, someone more experienced, someone like me (Netanyahu's opponent)?

Of course, Gantz can't say that because he has no experience to boast about. He's a 100% political rookie. Netanyahu, however, is no political rookie. He's Israel's longest-serving Prime Minister, ever. If anyone has experience to manage a state, it's Netanyahu. In fact, if either of these two candidates is totally inexperienced in political leadership, it's Gantz--not Netanyahu. 

It's Gantz who's never held any elected or appointed government position. It's Gantz who has already demonstrated that the only non-military position of authority he's held--head of a start-up company--where he had the opportunity to show what kind of non-military leader he could be, was a position he failed.  That is, with the very first job he took post-military, Gantz didn't prove leadership at all. The only thing he proved in that fiasco was how to drive a new company to bankruptcy--and, possibly, to future criminal investigations into how, exactly, did his  company do its business. 

That's not an example of his non-military leadership experience. It's an example of incompetence.

Gantz's Party did him no favors with this attack on Netanyahu. With friends like this, Gantz doesn't need any political enemies at all. His own friends will do him in. 

Does Gantz's inexperience in Israel's tough political spotlight begin to show? Is this what we can expect his chosen advisors will do to him? Make him look like an idiot?

Right now, recent polls suggest Gantz will/could gain more seats than Netanyahu in the upcoming election. Yes, Israel's pre-election polls seem, at times, notoriously unreliable--and, for some, easily manipulated. But still, if this incompetent attack on Netanyahu reflects accurately on the people Gantz has chosen to surround himself with, Israelis had better think twice about voting for him. 

Perhaps Gantz may yet prove to be competent in some political area. But to lead Israel, which faces extraordinary challenges, "perhaps" doesn't cut it. A leader of Israel has got to be better than "perhaps". 

The next leader of Israel will have no time to find his 'sea legs'. He'll need to be fully competent the moment he steps into office.  

If Gantz is indeed not qualified to steer Israel's ship of state through the turbulent waters ahead, this idiotic statement attacking Netanyahu could come back to haunt him. The idiocy of "if Netanyahu can't manage a statement, how can he manage a state?" could be the proverbial 'tip of an incompetency iceberg'. 

Is that what Gantz is, another Titanic heading towards an iceberg? Could be.

Does this incident reveal that Gantz doesn't at this time have the ability to make competent decisions, both with personnel and political strategy? That'll be for you to decide. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The ICC writes Israel's modern Chanuka story

Tonight, Sunday, December 22, 2019, marks the beginning of this year's Chanuka. It will be an eight-day celebration. In Israel, it is a time for festive joy--family gatherings, sufganiyot (donuts) galore, special foods and lots of Chanuka songs everywhere.

Chanuka commemorates Israel's war of independence against the anti-Semitic, anti-Judaism rule of  Syrian-Greeks some 2200 years ago. Those non-Jewish rulers over the Jewish people in Israel wanted to stamp out Jewish observance. These efforts to stamp out Judaism was, by the way, embraced by many of Israel's Jews. 

That war against that non-Jewish enemy essentially began when a Greek General demanded that a pig--anathema to Jewish law--be sacrificed in the Jewish Temple. Instead of committing such an abomination, a man called Matityahu (if I recall correctly) called out, 'who stands with HaShem (G-d), join me!' He gathered a relatively small band of fighters. After he was killed, his son, Judah, led the fight. 

Incredibly, miraculously, Judah conquered this enemy. Then, he cleansed and dedicated (the meaning of 'Chanuka') the Jewish Temple for Jewish use. 

Today, we relive that Jewish fight for survival. Today, we have enemies both in Israel and world-wide who seek to destroy not only the state of Israel, but Judaism itself. Many Jews everywhere gladly embrace this anti-Jewish effort.

We saw such a "Jewish anti-Jewish embrace" in the last national election. Some politicians called for Israel to reject its Jewishness. They wanted voters to replace 'Jewishness' with 'democracy'--as if Judaism itself is anathema to the concept of a democracy. 

As any Israeli born and raised in America or Britain knows, that is simply not true. If anything, a democracy protects Judaism. It doesn't promote the destruction (or removal) of Judaism,  as some here in Israel seek.

But then, most Israelis were't born in a Western-style Western democracy. Most Israelis weren't born in the US or Britain. 

Certainly, they live, in Israel, in a supposed 'democracy'. But they never experienced living in an authentic Western democracy.  Still, they do seem quick to vote for those who would 'defend democracy'--especially for those who, in the name of protecting democracy, would attack Israel's religion. 

This anti-Jewish Jewish rebellion in Israel won't go away anytime soon. It's a chronic sore that threatens but will not destroy Israel's Judaism. However, what can destroy Israel--and destroy Israel's Judaism with it--now takes stage center on Israel's collective consciousness: a potential war crimes  investigation against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Friday afternoon, December 20, 2019--just before our Shabbat-before-Chanuka began--the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it would accept a petition from the Palestinian Authority to open a war crimes investigation into Israeli war crimes supposedly committed by Israel against humanity during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war. Remember now, the UN has already written an inflammatory and anti-Semitic, anti-Israel study of that war in which the UN falsely claimed that Israel had indeed committed war crimes in 2014. Now, presumably, the ICC will seek to find high-ranking Israelis, including both politicians and military leaders, potentially guilty of crimes against humanity. 

Won't that be fun.

Those who support the 'Palestinian Cause' (to destroy Israel) are delighted (here). At least according to  Mahmoud Abbas, unelected dictator of the Palestinian Authority, this announcement now means that any Palestinian wounded by Israeli 'Occupiers' will be able to file a lawsuit against Israel at the Hague (here). 

How will that work? Well, right now, Hamas pushes Palestinians to their border with Israel to riot against Israel. Any one of them wounded can now, at least according to Abbas, file a war crime charge against Israel? Any Palestinian in Judea-Samaria who is wounded while attacking a Jew with a knife can file a lawsuit against Israel? 

Won't that be fun.

 To make sure we all understand what this ICC investigation really means, Palestinian Saeb Erekat has already announced that the PA won't just 'flood' the ICC with names of Palestinians hurt by Israel; the PA will "drown" the ICC with names! (here). 

Won't that be fun.

A war crimes investigation will--if it comes to be--provoke a world-wide tsunami of Jew-hate and anti-Israelism. It seems no coincidence that just today (December 22, 2019), a UK study was reported to demonstrate what Jews paying attention to these things already know: the supposedly "Humanitarian" Amnesty International organization is not objective when it comes to Israel-hating; it is "obsessed with that hate" (here). You can bet this ICC report will energize Amnesty International against Israel.

Won't that be fun.

An  ICC 'investigation' could make the world-wide increase of anti-Semitism that we saw during 2016-2018 look like child's play. It could easily bring a Nazi-era style Jew-hate to every nation--and most especially to the UN and the EU.

Won't that be fun.

This ICC investigation will provoke all Jew-haters to jump on the Palestinian bandwagon. Indeed, the ink of this ICC news story had hardly dried when Hamas called for a renewed 'battle' against the Jew in Judea-Samaria (here). 

Won't that be fun.

This ICC investigation against Israel will go a long way to legitimize the Palestinian Cause. It will also energize Palestinian anti-Israel demonizations. Already, some within Official Israel quake at what this all means for Israel (here and here). 

The modern anti-Jew Chanuka story has now begun in earnest. This ICC investigation, if it gets off the ground, will be the catalyst for this modern Jew-hate story. 

Jews and Israel will now,  as they had to do some 2200 years ago, once again have to answer "the call". That is, Jews will have to choose to stand with HaShem or.... 

What will you choose?

Happy Chanuka.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Who is Gantz kidding?

Israel's Benny Gantz, head of the Israeli political Party, Blue and White, wants to become Israel's next Prime Minister. All he needs to do is convince 60 other Members of Knesset (MPs) to join him to form a ruling coalition government.  He's failed to do that.

Meanwhile, the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,  has met with a similar fate. He, to, has been unable to find 60 other MK's to join him to create his own ruling coalition. This stalemate means that if there's no movement towards forming a coalition (by anyone) between today and later this month (December 2019), Israel will be forced into new elections in March 2020--for the third time in the same 12-month period.

Israel has been in this position since April 2019. There's no real government, just an unending 'transition'. Little-to-nothing gets done in the Knesset. Military funding is frozen. A budget won't get done. Laws won't be passed. 

Both Gantz and Netanyahu blame each other for this impasse. For example, just this week, Gantz accused Netanyahu of doing everything in his power to create the need for a new election (here). He suggests Netyanyahu is doing whatever it takes to get to another election (ibid).

But these accusations are patently false--and Gantz is going to be hammered for these accusations. Indeed, that 'hammering' has already begun (here).

The truth is, it's Gantz who's the one to blame for no government. Here's why:

Just after the September 2019 election, it was clear to all that neither Gantz nor Netanyahu would be able to form a ruling coalition. The numbers needed to do that (given how Israel's electoral system works) just weren't there. Israel's President Reuven Rivlin saw this problem--and began to propose creative ideas for establishing a shared Prime Ministership for both Gantz and Netanyahu (here). While the media in Israel essentially interpreted Rivlin's initial proposal to mean a 'rotating leadership', that wasn't what he was proposing (ibid). 

Rivlin's first proposal (here) was unusual. Looking back almost 500 years to a plan first created during Europe's Reformation period, Rivlin offered Gantz and Netanyahu a co-equal Prime Ministership. In this arrangement, both men would have power together--at the same time. Both would have a veto right on the other. Both would therefore be forced to govern together (ibid) to get anything accomplished. This initial proposal did not mention anything about a rotation of power, where only one-at-a-time would govern.

The idea was to create some kind of 'unity government', so that no other election would be necessary--and governing the State could begin. But this first proposal by Rivlin went nowhere.

Then, Rivlin proposed that a new law be passed so that Netanyahu could 'suspend' himself as PM while he worked to clear his name from accusations of criminal behavior while in office. During this 'suspended' time, Gantz would govern as PM (here). But Gantz, rejecting every democracy's idea of the presumption of innocence, rejected this offer, saying he would not enter a government where the sitting PM was under a criminal indictment (ibid). Gantz then falsely called Netanyahu a 'unity government rejectionist' (here).

As this impasse was unfolding, Israel's  Avigdor Liberman (head of the political Party, Yisrael Beteinu), essentially demanded there be only a 'true unity' government, where the Parties of both Gantz and Netanyahu would govern together, with a rotation schedule. Gantz rejected it. He wouldn't sit in any government with an indicted criminal (Netanyahu). 

The presumption of innocence? Forget it.

Now, Netanyahu has made a new proposal (here). He would, as in other proposals, be the first to rule in a shared rotation leadership agreement. But this offer is not to serve two years before giving Gantz his own two years. Now, Netanyahu says he would serve as PM only until February or March 2020--for three or four months. After that, Gantz would automatically take over for the next three+ years.  

What's not to like here? For Gantz, it'd mean a certainty to serve far longer than Netanyahu. It also meant a short waiting period before becoming PM. 

Of course, if Gantz rejected this proposal, Israel would continue to be in limbo. Worse, Israel would be forced to hold a third, unprecedented election--in February or March 2020. 

What's interesting about this proposal is that if Gantz rejected it,  he'd have to wait for elections until February or March 2020 anyway--and then, to be PM,  he'd have to win that election. If he took the offer, he'd get a guarantee to be PM--in that same February or March 2020.

 In other words, Netanyahu was offering Gantz his Premiership on a silver platter, guaranteed. There's be no unprecedented third election. There'd be no chance for Gantz to lose. 

Gantz rejected it. 

After having accused Netanyahu for months of doing only what would be good for Netanyahu,not what's good for the country (by demanding to form a unity government only if he, Netanyahu, served as PM first), Gantz was demanding the exact same thing: he'd only sit in a unity government if he (Gantz) served first! (here). He said he had to serve first because he couldn't sit in a government headed by an indicted (potential) criminal. 

Democracy's presumption of innocence? Forget it. 

Gantz runs the risk of being labeled with the very accusation he'd used repeatedly against Netanyahu. It isn't Netanyahu who puts his own  desires first--Netanyahu is willing only to serve just three-four months; it's Gantz who puts himself first exclusively: the only way he'd serve is if Neta nyahu resigns. Worse, this latest rejection by Gantz means we must now (short of a last-minute miracle) suffer through an historic third (and expensive to the state) national election. 

Who is Benny Gantz kidding? The unity rejectionist isn't Netanyahu. It's Gantz. 

Caroline Glick has already said that Gantz's Party was founded on only the flimsiest of foundations--to destroy Netanyahu (here). With Gantz saying he'd serve in a unity government only if Netanyahu steps down (here), Glick looks correct in her assessment. 

What appears important to Gantz is not serving Israel by becoming its PM. What's of primary importance to him seems to be gaining the title, "the man who finally forced Netanyahu out of office".

Gantz's excuse is, the indictments. He says Netanyahu must go so he (Netanyahu) can deal with the indictments against him.  But while that sounds like a good idea, it isn't. It's a terrible idea-- because it's illegal.

Israel's Attorney General says Netanyahu cannot legally resign (here). The reason is simple: a Prime Minister cannot just resign at this time because when an Israeli government is in transition--as this government is now--a PM simply cannot resign (ibid).

This government has been in transition since September 2019. How many times has Gantz said throughout this time that Netanyahu must resign? Ten times? Fifty times? In every speech? In every interview?

Neither Gantz nor anyone on his team seems to understand Israel's laws. This ignorance is why his Party still insists Netanyahu must (illegally and impossibly) resign before Gantz will serve in a unity government. 

Gantz condemns Israel to a third election--with an illegal demand, no less.

Perhaps this is why Gantz--and all of his Blue-and-White co-leaders--is now being called a bunch of amateurs (here). They don't understand anything about Israel's legal system. They reject democracy's presumption of innocence. All they care about is getting rid of Netanyahu.

Is this what Israel has voted for--bumbling, ignorant amateurs from Chelm?

How's that going to work out?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Israel has a problem with democracy

(Updated December 4, 2019)

It looks like Israel has a problem with democracy. On the one hand, most of Israel's most vociferous defenders of 'democracy' in Israel--those to the political Left--talk a lot about 'democracy'. But then, in the same breath, they demand the resignation of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because he's under indictment for bribery, breach of trust and corruption.

Indeed, Netanyahu's main rival, Benny Gantz believes that, unless Netanyahu resigns immediately, Israel may not remain a democracy (here). If Netanyahu stays in power, Gantz argues, Israel will collapse into a Turkey-style state (ibid).

Worse, Gantz claims, if Netanyahu won't resign, Israel runs the risk of a civil-war of 'brother-against-brother' (here).

You may call these words 'Leftist drivel'. It certainly sounds like Leftist drivel. But it can't be. 

You see, Gantz doesn't call himself a Leftist. He calls himself a centrist.

Do you see the democracy problem embedded in such anti-Netanyahu behavior? Chances are, you don't--and that's the disturbing part of this problem. When it comes to the basics of 'democracy', even Israel's potential political leaders don't know what are the basics of 'democracy'.

How can such a potential leader of Israel stay true to the 'democracy' he says he cares about if he's so ignorant about 'democracy'?

What Gantz and his anti-Netanyahu cabal don't know is that when many people think about 'what is democracy?' one common thread that appears as an answer is called a key characteristic, or even a pillar of democracy. That singular pillar of democracy is, 'the presumption of innocence' (here).

 A Democracy believes in this presumption. So important is this presumption, it's been enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights that all nations have been called upon to adopt (here):

Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

To some around the world, such ideas as the Rule of Law, democracy and democracy's definition of 'justice' are all focused on this presumption of innocence (here). Presumption of innocence is what makes a Western democracy a democracy. Just ask New Zealand (ibid) and the US (here), to name just two examples.

Even in difficult, troubling cases, everyone is innocent until proven guilty (here). That should suggest that even an Israeli Prime Minister is to be granted that Human Right, right?

Wrong. From what we see and hear in Israel's media and from Israel's leading politicians, an Israeli PM--or, more accurately, this Israeli PM--has no right to be presumed innocent at all. At least, that seems to be clear from politicians Gantz and Yair Lapid, and from such noted media outlets as the Times of Israel, to name just a few who, in the name of protecting Israel's democracy, call for Netanyahu to resign immediately.

Not much in life is perfect. But when it comes to the principles of democracy's ideas of justice (which is founded in part on this presumption of innocence), Israel's leading politicians are certainly perfectly ignorant. These are the people Israel votes for? To 'protect' Israel's democracy?

Israel has a real democracy problem.

Do these Netanyahu haters believe in democracy? If they did, they'd be raging, 'what are you doing? the man is innocent until proven guilty'. Instead, they trash basic democratic principles and rage, 'he must go now! He's guilty! Period!'

The anti-Netanyahu crowd dismisses democracy. It doesn't want Netanyahu in the PM's seat. It doesn't care which of democracy's principles it must violate--so long as they get rid of a hated enemy.

This is Israel's democracy problem.

Israel's anti-democracy advocates want a change. They fail at the ballot box--another basic of a democracy. So they avoid the ballot box. Instead, they indict Netanyahu for actions no other democracy on this planet has ever criminalized (here).   

These anti-democracy Netanyahu haters hate 'innocent until proven guilty'. They hate democracy's fundamental ideas of the Rule of Law (which requires the presumption of innocence). Ultimately, they hate you, the voter.

These are the people trying to get rid of Netanyahu--which is why Israel has a democracy problem: by refusing to give Netanyahu the right to a presumption to innocence, with a promise of a fair and public trial, they trample on one of the most basic concepts of democracy. They also trample on one of the most fundamental of Basic Human Rights (see above). If this is how they treat the PM, how do you think they'll start treating you when they get into power?

If these people can criminalize Netanyahu, they can most certainly do it to you. This is why Israel has a problem with democracy.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Will Israel's Religious Zionists finally get smart?

(posted in Israel Saturday night, app 100 minutes after end of Shabbat)

As many of you already know, Israel today faces the prospect of a third national election in one 12-month period, April 2019-March 2020. It's a historic first for Israel, so many attempts to create a coalition government. 

One culprit for this three-elections-in-one-year dilemma is, in my opinion, the very nature of Israel's election system. It's not a system that pits two or perhaps three rivals against one another, as in the USA, Canada or the UK. It's messier than that. 

Israel's election system seems designed to encourage 20-40 Parties to join in. It's a system that requires not just politicking to get elected--but, for the winner, even more politicking to create a ruling coalition after the election, where a coalition of Members of the Knesset commit to 'bind' (in a loose way) together to create a minimum 61-seat majority for the winner. In Israel's system, getting to 61 seats is not guaranteed by simply winning an election. That's why this second set of politicking after the election is so necessary.

A winner might not be able to get those 61 seats because the political compromises he needs to make to get those seats may be more than he can ideologically bear. Or, no one wants to join his side. 

This means that Israel has an election system that always has the seed for what we've got now--a stalemate or, perhaps more accurately, a mess, with neither of the two top rivals able to cobble together 61 Members of Knesset to create that ruling coalition. It's a system that actually opens the door to great election uncertainty, when instead an election should, by definition, put an end to political uncertainty.

Israel's election system is unwieldy. Most here in Israel can't even explain how it works. Read herehere and here. After you've read these three articles, try to explain to someone how Israel's election system works. 

Israel's election system seems to attract political fragmentation the way a magnet attracts metal filings. For example. a modern Israeli national election doesn't present Israel's voters with 2-4 Parties. It presents somewhere between 30-50 political Parties, all seeking to get voted into the Knesset. But, typically, less than 15 get enough votes to get into the  Knesset. In the September 2019 election (our most recent election), only 10 Parties got into the Knesset. The votes of the remaining, failed 21 Parties got split up and redistributed according to a complex pre-established formula (see those three articles, above). In the end, the 20+ smallest Parties disappeared--and their votes got divided among the bigger Parties. Some of these redistributed votes actually went to Parties the voters for these tiny Parties abhor. 

This 'lost vote' issue is especially important to Israel's Religious Zionists. During an election season, this political segment typically forms 5-7 Parties, most of which  don't get enough votes to qualify to enter the Knesset; some of these Parties actually fail and pull out of running just before the election, a failure-to-compete that might encourage supporters to skip voting altogether (why vote when my favorite Party just 'died'?).

Religious Zionism isn't a huge segment of Israel's population. Yes, it's larger than Israel's true Left. But the committed Religious Zionist base still only represents perhaps 20% (at most) of the total voter base (my estimate). Failing to unite means that much of this base isn't proportionally represented in the Knesset.

For example, in the September 2019 election, only two of some five Religious Zionist Parties qualified to get into the Knesset. If all Religious Parties had run as one Party, Religious Zionists could have gotten at least another 4 seats in the Knesset (see the articles above to understand the need to 'pass the threshold test'). But because the Religious Zionist vote was split between all those 5 Parties (above), the votes of the three failed Parties didn't go to this 'bloc'. They were redistributed among non-Religious Zionist Parties.Those Religious Zionist votes, therefore, were indeed 'lost'--or, as some would say, wasted.

By contrast, in that same September 2019 election, the Haredi (ultra-religious) were united into just two Parties. The Ultra-Religious in Israel represent perhaps 11-15% of Israel's population. But because they have united, this 'bloc' is truly proportionally represented in the Knesset: it won a total of 16 seats in the Knesset, which is approximately equal to its population size--13% of the total Knesset vs 11-15% of total Israeli population). The Ultra-Religious are, therefore, fairly and 'proportionally' represented in the Knesset.

The same isn't true for the Religious Zionists. The population of Religious Zionists isn't proportionally represented in the Knesset, as are Haredi: while Religious Zionists may represent some 15-20% of Israel's population, they secured only 7 seats (equal to 5.8%) in the Knesset. Those 'lost' 4 seats (from the failed Parties, above) would have given the Religious Zionists perhaps 11 seats, or some 9.2% of the Knesset--still not as proportionate as the Haredi vote/population numbers (above).

That means Religious Zionists are under-represented in the Knesset. Of course, there's another complication for these Zionists: some Religious Zionists will vote not for a Religious Zionist Party, but for a larger Party (typically Likud or, this year, Blue-and-White). This year's potential 9-10% representation in the Knesset is, possibly, the best that Religious Zionists could hope for--a situation that leaves the Religious Zionist population severely under-represented in the Knesset. 

Nevertheless, in political terms, if all the failed Religious Zionist Parties had been united with the successful Religious Parties (which won seats in the Knesset), the four votes that  got 'lost' (see above) would have gone to the Religious Zionists, to give these Zionists 11 seats, not the 7 they currently hold.

How important would that 11 seats have been? Very important. The current 7 seats makes the Religious Zionist the 7th largest Party in the Knesset (of 10 Parties that won seats). But 11 seats would have made Religious Zionists the 4th largest Party, after Blue-and-White, Likud and the Arab Joint List. 

The point of Israel's election isn't just to win; it's to corner control of as many seats in the Knesset as one can. Seats equal power. Put another way, for an Israeli election, the mantra shouldn't be 'me first' but instead, 'united, we'll stand strong; divided, we'll be ignored'.

Of ten Parties, it's relatively easy to ignore the 7th of that 10. It's much harder to ignore the 4th largest Party. 

Clearly, Religious Zionists haven't learned that lesson. 

The longer Religious Zionists refuse to unify, and the longer they spread their votes over too many Parties that fail, the longer the entire Religious Zionist bloc remains, essentially, partially disenfranchised. 

But now, there may be a change. A group of Religious Zionists has had enough. It's created a petition. It's demanding that all Religious Zionist Parties run as one Party (here)--including primaries to choose the new Party slate.

The petitioners claim that, if rebuffed, they'll vote for no Religious Zionist Party at all, but instead for one of the larger Parties, presumably Likud or Blue-and-White. They sound serious.

Personally, I believe that if Religious Zionists really want power, they should not join together among themselves to form a new, united Party. Instead, they should join Likud.

If they'd done that in the first-of-two-so-far national elections (back in April, 2019), the lost seats might have been 5 or 6 (from Zehut, Otzma Yehudit and Naftali Bennet's failed Party), not four. Even with an additional 5 seats, back in that April election, Netanyahu would have been able to form a coalition with at least 62 seats--enough to form a government. 

If all Religious Zionists had united under Likud, we wouldn't have the  mess we've got now, stalemated, with no one able to attract the needed 61 seats. If the Religious Zionists had joined Likud back in April, Netanyahu would now be Prime Minister: game over. 

As it is, Religious Zionists haven't united. They won't join Likud. And Israel suffers an insufferable mess.

Will Religious Zionists finally get smart--or will they stay fragmented? Will they unite in some way to win? Will they join Likud to win?

Stay tuned. Just don't hold your breathe while you wait.