Monday, January 30, 2012

The Likud primary and Shalom Aleichem’s silverware

It has been said that the Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem (born Shalom Rabinowitz, 1859-1916) once wrote that a Jew should always welcome a stranger into his home—but that he should also count his silverware after the stranger has departed. We might wish to take such wise advice today,  especially when a candidate—Moshe Feiglin-- runs in a major primary election against a powerful incumbent –Benjamin Netanyahu—when that incumbent has already been quoted as exhorting his campaign organizers to make sure Mr Feiglin gets less than twenty per cent of the vote (see Gil Ronen, Likud showdown looms: Feiglin rallies Yesha support, Arutz Sheva, January 12, 2012). Heaven Forbid anyone should think that an incumbent Israeli politician might pressure someone to commit questionable deeds on his behalf during or after an election vote. We will always assume that everyone who touches a ballot in tomorrow’s Likud primary will naturally act honourably. We expect nothing less from Likud members. We believe in Likud. We favour Likud. We trust Likud.

But of course, we also trust Shalom Aleichem. Who can read his tales of Jewish peasantry and poverty and fail to be touched?  Who does not respond to his wisdom and humor? So as we honor Likud while she prepares to vote for her next leader, let us also honour Shalom Aleichem by counting ‘silverware’ or, to use a more modern expression—monitor the voting process.

Everyone knows about counting silverware after a guest leaves. It’s simple. It’s easy. It can be done in the privacy of your own dining room. Monitoring an election is similar, except it isn’t so private. Manhigut Yehudit would be wise to be wise. Why leave hungry children in a candy store alone, unmonitored?

The monitoring process is not difficult. It requires that several volunteers deploy to each voting station, to watch for irregularities. Their goal would be to record and report the time and place of any irregularity, along with the names of those involved—and then make necessary phone calls to assure that all voting-place irregularities are corrected as soon as possible.  They would be present at the opening of their assigned polling station to witness station preparations. Then they would remain throughout the voting schedule to observe the vote cast, the handling of ballots and ballot boxes, and the behaviour of station personnel.

Because monitors would take their positions before voting stations open, they will (in theory) be able to identify quickly—before voters show up--if a polling station has unexpectedly been moved from its announced location without prior public notification. In this way, monitors can help make certain that voters are not disenfranchised by decisions that essentially ‘hide’ a local voting station.

There have been whispers that last-minute voting place changes might have happened in Likud’s last primary. As a consequence, some votes possibly favouring one candidate might not have been cast, to the advantage of the other candidate. Since that might have annoyed the losing candidate, monitors this year would simply help Likud avoid such an occurrence two times in a row.

During the voting process, poll observers would make certain that voters can vote without restriction or harassment. After all, voters should not feel discriminated against or unreasonably prohibited from voting.  Voters should expect that the voting station they are to travel to in order to vote will be reasonably close and accessible without unnecessary challenge or difficulty. Observers would validate that voting is open, accommodative, comfortable, secret and free.  

As voting unfolds, monitors can watch to see that the voting process is run efficiently and fairly for all voters.  Observers can record whether or not voting-place officials behave credibly and appropriately towards all voters, and remain impartial and helpful to all voters.  Observers can also record and report any behaviour of polling-place officials that favours a particular candidate or suggests partisan advantage for one candidate over the other.

Finally, as ballot boxes are moved and then transported to counting places, monitors would follow behind, to track the ballot journey from voting booth to its final destination—the vote-counting.  Manhigut Yehudit would be wise to request the presence of observers at that counting process—if such observers are not already part of it.

Naturally, the purpose of such monitoring is not punitive. It is not political. It is not intended to suggest foul play or fraud. Its purpose is to establish a verifiable transparency that will prompt the public to feel confident that all procedures have been followed properly. Both sides benefit from such transparency.

Besides, Shalom Aleichem has a point: nothing is better at proving people are honest than counting your silverware—or your votes.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Likud primary—and Yair Lapid?

I do not know TV personality Yair Lapid. I have never met him. I never saw him on TV.  I have only seen photos of him—and yes, he is photogenic; or, if he isn’t photogenic, he certainly has a good photographer and a great make-up artist. Lucky man; I’m jealous. He has recently announced that he will enter politics, to run in the next national election. Even though he appears to have no political, leadership or civic experience, he apparently uses his good looks and TV fame to catapult into the spotlight. ‘Catapult into’ is a courageous concept for Israeli politics because Israel’s political stage seems crowded with big people with huge personalities and very sharp elbows. But how else would you characterize the impact of a neophyte who will—it is commonly said—put Kadima out of business?

It is a stunning example of power in the public arena: one man, with no political experience and few publicly revealed ideas, can threaten to shut down Israel’s second leading political Party, just on his looks and TV work! To put this into perspective, can you imagine an American TV personality—say, Jon Stewart or David Letterman—shutting down the Republican Party simply by running for President?  In America, that would never happen: the political parties are more powerful than any media personality.

I’d like to meet Lapid’s photographer.  Even his hairdresser would do. If that’s all it takes to make a splash in Israel, I could go far, especially with a make-up artist.

And yet, despite—or because of-- his reported lack of political experience, Lapid has said something worthwhile.  As Arutz Sheva has reported ( Lapid Rules out joining Kadima, Eldad Benari, January 20, 2012), Lapid has posted on his Facebook page the statement that he will not join Kadima because Kadima politicians do not ‘have any idea what—if anything—they believe in’. Naturally, this may be a minority opinion—his own. But it has significant meaning for Likud members who will vote January 31 for their next head-of-Likud.  They would be wise to listen to the inexperienced Lapid. If he’s right, Likud could be in trouble.

As some have already pointed out, the Israeli public wants leaders who believe in something and can communicate that belief. Lapid appears to understand this.  He rejects Kadima because, he claims, they lack it. Likud voters, however, face the same issue.  If they are not careful, they could create a Likud where Party leaders ‘do not know what—if anything—they believe in’—and, as Lapid has just suggested, the one thing this nation’s public does not crave is a politician who believes in nothing.

This is not public stupidity or one person’s opinion. It is an example of citizens’ understanding a universal truth which politicians may not appreciate.  In America, there is a book entitled, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ by Stephen Covey. It’s been in print since 1989, and is one of the most influential business books ever written.  Part of the book highlights values-based decision-making, which teaches how to make decisions that are consistent with our ‘true-North’ values—principles that guide us, which do not shift because of expediency or opportunity. Decisions based on shifting values often lead to conflicting results (which satisfy no one) and frustration.  This is what Lapid is telling us: to be successful, you must first believe in something bigger than you.  It’s a universal truth; it’s what makes that American book so powerful.

Where is the threat to Likud?  The Likud Platform is strongly pro-Israel. It takes a strong stance on Jerusalem (it belongs to Israel), Judea and Samaria (they are part of Israel’s ancestral homeland) and the Jordan River Valley (it must stay under Israel control). That’s so clear, one might borrow from Lapid’s Facebook statement (above) and ask, ‘Isn’t that clear enough?’

Yes, it is.

Nevertheless, Likud has a problem-- Mr Netanyahu. He rejects everything Likud believes in.  Now, he seeks an overwhelming vote of confidence from the January 31 primary (at least 81 per cent of total vote), to ensure that his control over Likud is absolute.  This is where the risk is:  if the Platform says one thing and Netanyahu does the opposite with impunity, then Likud becomes meaningless. What do Likud leaders believe in when they select a Head who rejects everything? Make no mistake: the leader who rejects everything believes in nothing; and the same is true for those who vote for him.

I know nothing about YairLapid. For all I know, he could get eaten alive in Israel’s political arena—and deserve it. But on this subject, he’s right. He understands that if you believe in nothing—or if you reject everything your ‘family’ believes-- you lose.

Is this what Likud wants?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Likud primary: is a vote for Netanyahu the wrong vote?

It is said that when Israelis vote Left they get a Leftist government, and when they vote Right they still get a Leftist government.  Conventional wisdom says this happens because the Left is so powerful in Israel the only way a Prime Minister can survive is to lean Left. If this is true, Rightist Likud is cursed.  

Is a Right-leaning Likud cursed because Israelis—and a Prime Minister--know that Left is the only way to go? Or is conventional wisdom wrong?  

To answer these questions, remember that Israel has become more Right—and religious. A new Gutman Center research report finds 80% of Israeli Jews believe in G-d  and 77% believe that G-d directs mankind and the world (see Arutz Sheva, News brief, Research: Israelis believe in G-d,  January 26, 2012). These are huge numbers for a national population. They firmly establish what many have already noticed:  the religious are increasingly joining the Right to exert a growing and visible influence in Israeli politics. They want strong leadership—and they demand steadfastness. They also have a candidate they can support for head-of-Likud, Moshe Feiglin.  Their growing influence, and the extent of Feiglin’s base, suggest that Israel’s future will be determined not simply by Likud—Israel’s most powerful political party—but by how individual Likud voters sort out ideological and political ideals as they step into the Likud voting booth. Daniel Levy (who uses the following words to argue a different case), writing in The Middle East Channel, January 17, 2011, calls this growing Right/religious influence in Israel’s political arena  ‘a reality that would have appeared inconceivable to Israel’s [non-religious] founders’. But its presence in Likud today is real; and that reality means that Feiglin has surprising strength.

We ignore that strength at our peril because history has changed us—and our leadership needs.  First, religion in Israel is no longer the province of an unwanted minority.  Also, Israel’s existence is so threatened that we no longer have the luxury of supporting an anti-Israel Leftist agenda. In a world that is increasingly hostile to the only Jewish State, Likud defends us with a strong pro-Israel  Party Platform.  Likud attracts many who are both pro-Israel and religious just at a time when Leftists want to un-Jewish Israel. They insist that we become a multicultural smorgasbord that would destroy everything that a pro-Israel, increasingly religious Israel majority believes in. The Left opposes Israel’s majority. They know that. They also know—and they have already written-- that their hold on power is virtually over.

Why does a Likud leader want to turn Left? Likud has what Israel’s majority wants: a nationalist agenda. The Likud Platform has support from both religious and non-religious voters. More important, non-religious-but-Right Israelis see religious Jews working to defend Likud ideals.  Religious nationalists, often excoriated in the press, actually  gain respect with every headline against them. This respect grows because non-religious ‘centrists’ have been mugged by reality as the UN turns against Israel and the Left encourages Israel’s enemies. Those who stand most steadfast for Likud ideals are often the religious nationalist. This defense of Likud does not go unnoticed. To put this into context, Michael Zylberman, speaking a few years ago about Gaza in an undated blog called, the, writes that  ‘Every rocket fired into Israel from Gaza is like putting a leaflet for Likud into every letterbox in Israel;’  the same thing happens today with every Leftist decision to demolish homes of religious nationalists in Judea-Samaria: each destroyed  home is another leaflet for Likud--but because Netanyahu rejects his own Party when he allows this demolition, those ‘leaflets’ are not just for Likud, they are for Feiglin.

Feiglin does not lean Left. His message is clear. Likud members know where he stands. They also know how the world treats Israel—and how Mr Netanyahu has reacted to that treatment.  He back-pedals. He chooses ‘Left’. Likud voters are pro-Israel. They reject ‘Left’—and Mr Netanyahu’s embrace of that Left does not sit well with them. Reports have circulated of a near-revolt against Netanyahu because of his Leftist decisions just as a nationalist and ‘Jewish’ Moshe Feiglin challenges him; suddenly, Likud has a leadership candidate who appears true to the Party Platform. In a world that makes Israel a demon, Likud knows that Moshe Feiglin is pro-Israel and strong.

How will Likud vote on January 31? Clearly, the ideological line-in-the-sand has been drawn:  Netanyahu and the Left versus Feiglin and Likud. For Likud voters, who stands a better chance of defending Israel in the battles to come—one who leans Left, or one who chooses Likud’s ideals?

We shall soon see how Likud votes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Likud primary boycott: really?

Like the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Israeli politics gets curiouser and curiouser: in a political arena where an election loser almost always acquires influence and power depending on the percentage of votes he has gotten, along comes Natan Engelsman (reported to be ‘one of the heads of the Likud’s Judea and Samaria branch’) with a proposal: forget about the Right in Likud losing seats at the table as a result of a Netanyahu primary win; here’s a plan to completely disenfranchise Likud's Rightists!

 Engelsman, supposedly a Rightist in Likud, calls for a boycott of the January 31 primary. He wants to protest Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-Likud policies.  His reasons are straight from Lewis Carroll.

Like Lewis Carroll, he says two opposites at the same time. He argues that if fifty per cent of Likud members boycott the primary, the election won’t be regarded as legitimate; new elections would have to be held. Then, he is is quoted as saying that Netanyahu will get elected in any case. A boycott would simply send him a message and influence future policies.

Really? Which do you believe when neither makes sense? Given the way Israeli political elections work, this plan is Lewis Carroll nonsense. It smells.

The boycott organizers are apparently concerned that Netanyahu will use the primary to create a mandate for himself to betray everything Likud. News reports have already quoted Netanyahu as telling his organizers that they must see to it that Feiglin does not get twenty per cent of the vote. The thinking is that if Feiglin cannot muster that twenty per cent, Netanyahu will feel he has a mandate to do whatever he pleases.

That’s what the boycotters say they want to avoid.

But a boycott in Israel is political suicide. Israel’s election process is not normally a winner-take-all deal. Here, losers also win. Take Likud itself: it lost the last national election, gaining one less seat than Kadima; and yet, because of the way Israel’s political system works, Likud got the national leadership.  If Feiglin loses the primary, he can still win because if he gets thirty per cent of the vote, he acquires influence and power. Engelsman knows this. Feiglin knows it. He is an experienced politician who knows the ropes. With enough votes, he will know what to do—and he could acquire the ability to deny Netanyahu his desired mandate (or constrain him). That’s how power—and losing an election—can work in Israel.

Engelsman rejects voting for Feiglin as a way to protest Netanyahu’s policies. Feiglin isn’t good enough. A boycott, he says, is better.   Of course, if the boycott doesn’t get enough Likud members to participate, the election result will bring complete disenfranchisement. His proposal is an unnecessary all-or-nothing gamble: instead of securing some power from an Israeli election, boycotters get nothing:  when they choose not to vote, they’ll get zero per cent of the vote; and zero per cent of the vote means zero per cent of the power.

The boycott’s numbers don’t even work. In order to be a success, the boycott needs over fifty per cent participation. But for Feiglin to deny Netanyahu his mandate, he needs twenty-to-thirty per cent. This is a much easier number to achieve, especially  in light of a recent poll that suggests that an anti-Netanyahu protest vote for Feiglin would give Feiglin thirty-five per cent of the vote--and that was last week,  without any concerted effort to get out a  protest vote for Feiglin.

The boycott’s timing doesn’t work. Engelsman wants to call a rally for Monday, January 30—one day before the primary-- to drum up support for a fifty per cent boycott? He doesn’t have the time to work the field to get his numbers. He’d do better to promote Feiglin as his ‘protest’, and use his rally to drive Feiglin’s numbers from last week’s thirty-five per cent to forty per cent or better on primary day. Indeed, that kind of showing for Feiglin sends a most powerful message to Netanyahu—that he has no mandate to betray Likud.  Netanyahu knows this, which is why he had exhorted his organizers to keep Feiglin’s results under twenty per cent.

A boycott would absolutely guarantee victory to Netanyahu by siphoning off anti-Netanyahu votes to the side-line. It also changes this election from  ‘power will be split’  to  ‘winner-takes-all’; because if Netanyahu does win, that’s exactly how he’s going to see it: if the Right refused to vote and got no votes, it gets no power. Netanyahu would love that.

 A boycott does not make sense. But then it does make sense—if you say it is a ‘dirty trick’ by Netanyahu supporters, to entice anti-Netanyahu members to sit out the vote.

In Lewis Carroll’s world, that makes a lot of sense.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Likud primary: a reality check and a candidate’s failure

Likud members who are eligible to vote in the upcoming Likud primary will step into the voting booth in less than ten days.  These voters will decide who will be next head-of-Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu (the present Likud leader) or Moshe Feiglin, the single challenger to Mr Netanyahu. Both men are known to Likud members. Both have identifiable philosophies. Both understand power—Mr Netanyahu as prime Minister, Mr Feiglin as head of Manhigut Yehudit, the largest faction in Israel’s most powerful political party .

Today, we offer Likud voters a candidate’s  ‘reality checklist’ for their January 31 vote. It is a list of ten questions, to help identify which candidate best represents Likud beliefs; the concepts embedded in these questions appear as both explicit--and implicit—ideals within the Party Platform. Since many in Israel believe that the new Likud head could also become Israel’s Prime Minister in the next national elections, we present this checklist as a tool to help you decide whom you want as Israel’s next Prime Minister.

We call this, “Ten Questions for Israel’s Future”.  A simple scoring methodology is suggested below.

1.     Do you want a Prime Minister who supports an Israeli High Court that is both aggressively Left and activist against the Likud Platform?

2.     Do you want a Prime Minister who does not assert Israel’s eternal right to the Land of Israel when he faces those who would delegitimize the world’s only Jewish State?

3.     Do you want a Prime Minister who does not appoint a Defense Minister who supports the Likud Platform?

4.     Do you want a Prime Minister who works against the Party Platform by authorizing the demolition of Jewish homes on ancestral Jewish land?

5.     Do you want a Prime Minister who allows IDF battle readiness to diminish because he says nothing when secularists in the IDF openly subvert government policy to discriminate against religious personnel in the military?

6.     Do you want a Prime Minister who allows Israel’s internal security to be reduced because he does not stand up to Leftists who use foreign funding to promote domestic anti-Israel policies?

7.     Do you want a Prime Minister who will say, ‘I think this land is yours, not ours’?

8.     Do you want a Prime Minister who, on a daily basis, appears to embrace positions that reject Likud beliefs?

9.     Do you want a prime Minister who agrees to a building freeze—and pre-1967 borders--as a pre-condition for talks with Israel’s enemies—when the Likud Platform rejects such decisions?

10.                        Do you want a Prime Minister who will neglect his Jewish identity when he stands on the international stage?

These ten questions are simple. They are practical. They are not complicated. They focus on the real world. They also clarify what a voter should expect from a Likud Prime Minister.  They clarify ‘Likud’. If recent polls are correct, many in Likud are in near-revolt over Netanyahu’s anti-Likud behaviour. He seems not to understand what Likud stands for. Reports circulate that if Mr Netanyahu receives better than 80 per cent of the primary vote, he will take that as a sign that Likud voters give him permission to pursue any course he pleases, no matter what the Likud Platform says. Likud voters, on the other hand, are not so certain that they want to endorse a head-of-Likud who will reject Likud in order to choose ‘Left’. They do not believe that Netanyahu should have such carte blanche.

So how do you score the reality check? If you are Likud and you answer ‘No’ to most of these questions, your vote cannot go to Mr Netanyahu. You vote goes instead to Moshe Feiglin. It’s that simple. Of the two candidates, only Feiglin passes the reality check. Netanyahu fails.

Netanyahu fans will not like that. But even ardent Netanyahu supporters within Likud understand politics: a candidate who fails to support the home team should not own the team; when you fail, you should not be rewarded.

Perhaps this is why, despite Netanyahu’s fame, he is favoured to win while at the same time he loses ground rapidly to Feiglin. What will the final tally be on January 31? We don't know.

It appears that Likud members have a painful decision to make. Many like Netanyahu. But he betrays them. Others like Feiglin. But he represents change: he will actually be loyal to Likud ideals.

Here is the question for the primary:  how will Likud members vote? Will they vote their political pro-Israel conscience and choose a true Likudnik-- or will they vote to create another Left-leaning Party which will betray everything Likud believes in?

We will find out soon enough.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Likud primary: what’s unthinkable?

In less than two weeks, Likud members who are eligible to vote in this year’s Party primary will go to the polls to choose the next head-of-Likud. They will choose between current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Feiglin, head of the largest Likud faction, Manhigut Yehudit. Few expect Feiglin to win. Some want him to win.  Others want him to lose. Still others say it’s okay for Feiglin to lose, but if he loses by too many votes, Netanyahu will feel he has a mandate to reject Likud beliefs in favour of a Left-leaning agenda of his own making.
This election is about more than whose name goes on Likud’s door. It’s about which direction Likud turns, Left or Right; and because the nation’s entire political stage appears ready to change, this Likud election could have significant national ripple effects. The way political commentators are talking today, Likud’s two closest rivals may cease to be rivals: many guess that Yair Lapid’s decision to enter politics could spell the end of Kadima, and Avigdor Lieberman’s legal troubles could suppress his Party’s influence in the next national election.  Throw in a newly minted Naom Shalit to further muddy political rivalries, and Likud could end up as Israel’s political Goliath.

Likud members must decide who they are—another Leftist Party, or Israel’s strongest Rightist Party. After months of news stories that illustrate just how far to the political Left Benjamin Netanyahu has turned, Israelis understand that Moshe Feiglin supports a Likud Platform that Mr Netanyahu clearly rejects.  According to recent reports ( ‘Poll shows high support for Feiglin in Likud’, Gil Ronen, Arutz Sheva, January 17, 2012), a significant minority of Likud members are in near-revolt against Netanyahu because of his Leftist decisions. By contrast, Moshe Feiglin is true to his Party. He will not support a Leftist High Court. He will not encourage a Leftist civil administration to arrest Jews from Judea and Samaria on unfounded espionage charges.  He defends Likud beliefs. Netanyahu does not—and some Likud members are angry.  Israelis have no idea how far Left Mr Netanyahu will go. No one in Israel questions where Mr Feiglin stands.
Today, Israelis understand that Mr Netanyahu has shown little effort to confront Leftist NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who seek foreign money to attack Israel’s integrity—and then claim immunity from oversight because they ‘defend democracy.’ Mr Netanyahu might buy that argument. No one in Israel believes that Mr Feiglin will buy it.

From the news, Israelis see secularists in the IDF harassing and coercing religious soldiers. Israelis may wonder why Mr Netanyahu allows such anti-Jewish behaviour by Jews in the IDF when the IDF needs religious soldiers to maintain battle readiness; but no one in Israel believes that Mr Feiglin will support or accept such behaviour—especially when the government has committed to recruiting more-- not fewer—religious youth.
When Israelis see Leftists act as provocateurs to manipulate the public into an anti-Haredi frenzy, they may wonder how eagerly Mr Netanyahu will join the bashing of religious Jews (we will not accept discrimination!). No one in Israel believes the Mr Feiglin would be a part of such manufactured outrage.

When Israelis see pro-Israel Jewish protesters demonized and anti- Israel Leftist protesters lionized, everyone in Israel wonders how aggressively Mr Netanyahu will react against the pro-Israel Jews (we will not allow [pro-Israel Jewish] extremists to start a religious war!). No one in Israel believes the Mr Feiglin would join such Leftist attacks.
Israelis know that anti-Jewish and anti-Israel Jewish Leftists have been misleading, manipulating and demonizing Israelis in order to build a clearly anti-Jewish agenda at the expense of Israel’s majority. Israelis may ask why Mr Netanyahu embraces these Leftists. No one is Israel believes that Mr Feiglin will do the same.

Israel’s majority is tired of watching our leaders acquiesce before those who hate Israel. They are tired of watching Mr Netanyahu back-pedal.  No one is Israel believes that Moshe Feiglin will back-pedal.
Likud voters turn to Likud because they believe in Israel. They join Likud because they want a strong Jewish nation. They vote Likud because they want a strong Jewish leader.

Likud voters know that Israel faces challenges. They understand the realities confronting us. They want to stand steadfast and true to their people, their ancestral land and their heritage.
Likud voters know what lies before them. They understand Jewish destiny.  They know why strong Jewish leadership is important to them—and to Israel. 

Likud has become comfortable with Netanyahu. He dominates the political landscape. On one level, it appears unthinkable that he should lose this election. But then, it is even more unthinkable that Likud should be led by someone who shows his own ‘family’ so little respect.
What future will Likud members choose? We will soon find out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Likud primary: you must choose

The Likud primary election of January 31, 2012 is not about who will be the next head-of-Likud. This primary is not about a politician. It is not about politics. It is about us. It is about how we see ourselves—and how we define our future: are we a nation that is so afraid of others that we should back-pedal and bow silently before those who hate us? Or, are we a nation on the threshold of our destiny, confident in our faith, our G-d and our right to our land?
This year’s primary is crucial for our future because we are a nation at war. This might be a minority opinion, but 2012-2014 will bring a war (diplomatic or actual or both) that will seek to delegitimize us or destroy us or haul us before a United Nations that seems to believe we have no right to exist. It is a war against those who would butcher us joining with those who would facilitate that butchering-- a scenario built by our enemies that was actually written into our Tanach more than 2,200 years ago.
There is no way to avoid this war. It is reasonable to believe that, given the stature of Likud in Israel, the winner of this month’s primary could well be Israel’s next leader. But because we are at war, it will not matter who becomes Prime Minister. Whoever gets selected, we will fight some kind of war. Even if we elect a Leftist on a Platform of appeasement and surrender—we will still be at war: the enemy is that implacable. Indeed, our history in the Middle East clearly demonstrates that the more Israel offers to surrender, the more aggressive (not peaceful) our enemy becomes. The question voters in Israel will face in the next national election will not be, who will help us avoid war. Rather, the question will be, who will be more steadfast defending us in that war?
On January 31, 2012, Likud has to choose that man: Benjamin Netanyahu or Moshe Feiglin.
Benjamin Netanyahu, while Likud, has chosen the Left, not Likud. His administration harasses Jews in Judea and Samaria, allows anti-religious secularists in the IDF to pressure and coerce religious soldiers, defends a Leftist High Court, etc. Israel’s Left, like all Hellenists before them, rejects the Jewish religion and dedicates itself to a desire to become non-Jews. Their passion to de-Judaize is the passion of the zealot. They would prostrate themselves before those who hate us. They are horrified by Jewish values and Jewish survival. They even refuse to prepare for the consequences of their own peace plan: they offer no plan to re-house up to hundreds of thousands of displaced Jews when the new ‘Palestine’ they promote demands to be Judenrein (Jew-free); they have no plan to pay for securing the new (vulnerable) borders they propose; and they offer no explanation to us how we can expect peace when Arab media, politicians and education feed the Arab public a steady stream of Jew-hatred. They don’t care. They appear so tired of their Jewishness they just want to surrender, to get it over with: why else would they have no interest in planning for the consequences of their ‘peace’ with such people? They are too exhausted to care.
While Mr Netanyahu is not an outright Leftist, theirs is the message he has embraced. He rejects Likud. Before the nations of the world, he back-pedals, delays and says yes-then-no-then-yes to their demands, or responds simply no-then-yes. By inches, he surrenders. He bows, moves backwards and bows again.
Moshe Feiglin gives Israel an alternative. He will not rush to surrender. He will not appease. He does not fear Israel’s destiny. He will not bow or shuffle backwards. But he will also not be brazen or rash because he understands Tanach. He understands Likud’s Platform—and he understands Arab hatred.
A July, 2011 survey found that 58 per cent of Israelis call themselves mildly-strongly religious. That is why so many Israelis identify with Moshe Feiglin. He understands Jewish consciousness. He understands Jewish values. The Jewish religion does not speak of surrender or bowing to the nations; neither does Moshe Feiglin.  Instead, the Jewish religion speaks of the G-d of Israel. So does Moshe Feiglin.  Israelis understand this. They want a leader who reflects their values. They want to see a leader who believes in G-d. They want to see Jewish courage, not Jews bowing and back-pedaling.
Likud voters have a choice: Judaism or Hellenism, courage or fear, steadfastness or appeasement. Likud has a choice between a Likud supporter or a Left supporter. The choice between Moshe Feiglin and Benjamin Netanyahu could not be more distinct.
You must choose. If you are Likud and you believe in Israel, who should get your vote?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Likud primary and Israel’s next Prime Minister

The election of Israel’s next Prime Minister will not take place during the next (as yet unscheduled) national election. Instead, the selection of Israel’s next leader will most probably occur at the end of this month, on January 31, when the nation’s most powerful political Party—Likud—is scheduled to hold an internal primary.

Observers of the political scene in Israel have good reason to believe that the next national leader will come from Likud because there is simply no other political party with Likud’s reach. The one Party most capable of displacing Likud—Kadima—has actually been falling behind Likud in polls taken over the last six months.  After Kadima, the next most powerful party—Yisrael Beiteinu—has approximately half the seats of either Likud or Kadima.  In the competition for national leadership, the only game in town is Likud vs Kadima—and right now, with an Israeli electorate becoming increasingly suspicious of a two-state solution just as Kadima repeatedly declares that our only option is a two-state solution,  it is no surprise that Likud looks as strong as it does.

The issues facing Likud members who vote in this primary focus on philosophy and preparedness. As of today, there are two major candidates running for head-of-Likud: Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Feiglin. Each of these men has a philosophy and a preparedness to be Prime Minister. The differences are stark.
Benjamin Netanyahu, as current Prime Minister, is an experienced leader. To use an expression, he ‘knows the drill’. But is he the best man to face what is to come? Odds makers in America currently have Barack Obama as winner of the 2012 US Presidential election—and while that could change, it is the only data Likud voters will have at the end of the month when they vote. How will Mr Obama treat Israel should he win re-election? Conventional wisdom suggests that his behaviour towards Israel will not be especially positive. The two recent instances during which Mr Netanyahu had to cope with a hostile US President suggest that he is not equipped to handle that hostility. In February and March, 2011, after the US vetoed a UN attempt to label Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as ‘illegal’, Mr Obama’s anger was, according to some American Jewish leaders, shocking. There is evidence to suggest that Mr Netanyahu was bullied at that time, and caved in to that bullying (read the blog essay below found in March 2011, ‘America’s UN veto and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu’).  In the second incident, in late May 2011, during Mr Netanyahu’s visit to the US, he responded—at first—with honor and courage to Mr Obama’s pressure; but then, upon returning home, appeared again to cave in by offering to accept pre-1967 borders. Re-elected, Mr Obama’s pressure on an Israeli Prime Minister could be too much for a man who has a track record of yielding-under-fire. Mr Netanyahu’s philosophy is to yield to the Left at home, and back-pedal on the international stage. His behaviour suggests that he may not be the best man to lead Israel into an increasingly hostile future. His philosophy-in-action reveals two problems: first, it is not Likud; and second, it has prompted him to back-pedal so much, he has left himself little room to manoeuvre in the face of future international pressure. Worse, he has no philosophic basis upon which to build a determined resistance to pressure.  He will therefore continue to melt.

Mr Feiglin, on the other hand, does not have Mr Netanyahu’s experience. Normally, this could be a negative. But here, it is a positive because Mr Netanyahu’s experience has been, essentially, to cave under pressure and to seek succour with Leftists. His behaviour is not Likud-like.  Mr Feiglin has no such ‘experience’. His experience is founded upon a philosophy that puts G-d and Israel first. His decisions are based on faith and a clear understanding of what he believes. He has a strong foundation from which to resist international pressure. Mr Netanyahu has no such foundation.
The Left in Israel rejects Judea and Samaria. Kadima supports this rejection. Mr Netanyahu is Likud, and the Likud Platform is clear about keeping Judea and Samaria; we should therefore expect that he will defend and protect that land. But by agreeing to 1949 borders as a pre-condition to talks with Abbas, he has instead rejected Likud. Other recent actions reveal his basic truth: he embraces the Left and he will therefore react as a Leftist at the negotiation table. This is what he has done.  It is how he acts. It is how he prepares to lead us into the future.

Mr Feiglin has no such liabilities. Read his website postings for 2011.  See how he has responded to international and domestic events.  Compare those responses with Mr Netanyahu’s.
If you are Likud, who should you vote for?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Civil War in Israel before Likud primaries? Really?

Apparently, Israel is on the verge of a civil war.  It is a war that pits ordinary Israelis against the tyranny of the religious and the terrorism of the nationalist. We know about this war because the Left and the media have been feeding it to us.

But don’t worry. We are safe.  Israel’s Left-media coalition will rescue us.  Building on their experience manipulating public opinion during Oslo discussions in 1993, they are primed for battle. They will manipulate the news until they win again--unless we stop them.

Since October 2011, the media has fed us a double-diet of  ‘nationalists attack’ and  ‘the- religious-exclude-women-in-the-military’. Judging from online comments and letters-to-the-editor, Israelis are angered by behaviour they see as terrorist (the settlers) and tyrannical (the religious in the IDF). This anger serves the Left because they benefit when Israeli turns against Israeli. Even though there are few facts to support their allegations, the Left-media foments this anger because Moshe Feiglin is running against Netanyahu in a Likud primary January 31. Turning Israelis against nationalists (and the religious) is useful because Feiglin is both religious and nationalist.  As Israelis turn increasingly Right, Feiglin’s voice terrifies the Left. He also threatens Netanyahu because our Prime Minister embraces the Left instead of his own Likud.  Mr Feiglin is a formidable foe because he has built a powerful base within Likud, especially, rumour has it, in the ‘West Bank’-- home to  ‘nationalist-settlers’ and many religious soldiers.  So if the Left-media coalition can manipulate voters by simultaneously demonizing ‘West Bank settlers’ and  ‘the religious’, Mr Netanyahu might see a surge in primary votes. Angered Likudniks could give Netanyahu a landslide victory. Then the Left could demand a shotgun wedding with him.

This manufactured war began when a mosque was torched in an Arab village called Tuba Zangriya, in  October, 2011. The inflammatory words, ‘price tag’ (Jewish revenge for Arab attacks) were spray-painted on a wall.  Immediately, the media screamed that ‘West Bank settler-nationalists’ were responsible.

Despite the fact that no evidence surfaced to identify Jews as the culprits, politicians put on brass knuckles and went to work.  Education Minister Gidon Saar called the ‘price-tag’ perpetrators a cancer that must be uprooted (Nov 9).  Homeland Security Minister Matan Vilnai announced that nationalist Jews were guilty.

Curiously, no one followed up on a report that an Arab elder from Tabu Zangriya doubted that Jews were guilty because the offensive lettering on the mosque wall looked like it had been written by an Arab hand; and no one followed up on a second report that the Regional Police Commander could not say who was responsible for the attack—and he doubted, he said, that ‘price tag’ was the motive.

That statement revealed the truth—the Left-media hype wasn’t about crime-solving; it was about attacking  ‘settler-nationalists’.

Then, in December (Dec 12), we saw the ‘last straw’—nationalist youth attacked the IDF!

From that point, a frenzy began. Menachem Landau, former Shin Bet official, called price-tag crimes acts of ‘terrorism’ (Dec 15).  Former Defense and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eleizer demanded the IDF shoot-to-kill settler protesters (Dec 14). Tzipi Livni cried ‘war’—against nationalists and the religious who were a wave threatening to wash Israel away (Dec 16).  Prime Minister Netanyahu exclaimed that he would not allow extremist groups to start a religious war (Dec 16). Leftists appeared so convinced that this was war they seemed determined to start one.

It was a very convenient set of events—perfect for preparing Likudniks to turn against Moshe Feiglin.  Think about it: if you were Likud, and you believed that those media reports were true, would you be more willing or less willing to vote for Moshe Feiglin? I suggest that you might be less willing to cast any vote to support any nationalist now that  ‘nationalists’ had become  ‘terrorists’.

The media enflamed this attack. From October to December,  they ignored fact-finding and  headlined that every mosque attack had been done by West Bank nationalists-terrorists.  They didn’t ask a single question. They just cried ‘fire!’ in the proverbial crowded theatre.

The Left loved it. They were concocting a civil war.  It was better than 1993. Just weeks before the Likud primary, all we could see was,  ‘nationalist settlers attack again’ or (in other stories) the religious in the IDF were excluding and discriminating against women. Where were the investigative reporters identifying misrepresentations, or highlighting officials’ statements that contradicted the mass hysteria?

There were none because this wasn’t about fact. It was about attacking Israelis who represented Feiglin’s base in the ‘West Bank’: when your goal is to demonize, why investigate?

Now it appears that ‘hilltop settlers’ probably did not attack the IDF (Dec 28). Given the hysteria provoked by that attack, this latest report was astounding--and there were no headline stories or editorials about it?

In the meantime, the supposed religious tyranny in the IDF has become increasingly suspect.  It turns out that before General Benny Gantz was appointed Chief of General Staff (2011), the IDF understood how to accommodate religious soldiers’ needs.  Ultra-religious recruitment increased 1,000 per cent in six years. Conflict with women rarely occurred. There were virtually no accusations of discrimination or religious tyranny against women. The uproar in the IDF erupted only after General Gantz took command—and then appointed Orna Barbivai as Director of IDF Manpower.  The real story here is not horrifying attitudes of the religious towards women; the real issue is the sudden, pre-mediated appearance of secularist harassment and coercion of the religious in the IDF—just as the government has decided to increase religious recruitment. Shouldn’t we see editorials and investigative reports about this?

Of course not. This story isn’t about reality. It’s about creating a witch hunt to demonize and then destroy Moshe Feiglin’s voter base.

We have seen this movie before—in 1993, when the Left-media coalition manipulated Israelis to accept Oslo. They are at it again today because they fear Moshe Feiglin.

They fear him because he embraces faith. He understands Jewish leadership, reality-- and Israelis. To Israelis, he is a compelling alternative to Netanyahu.  The only way the Left-media coalition can defeat him is to create a feeding-frenzy.

The Left-media coalition misled you once. Don’t let them mislead you again.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

An Israel primary: for the soul of Likud

Right now, the leading political party in Israel, Likud, appears to have lost its soul. Instead, it has a political opportunist named Benjamin Netanyahu who,serving as both head-of-Likud and Israel’s Prime Minister, does as he pleases. Normally, of course, a political party has a formal statement of belief—a political soul. You vote for that party because you believe what it believes. You want that party in power because you want to see those beliefs promoted by Israel's Prime Minister. During a national election, you should be able to read a Party’s Platform—its statement of beliefs—and choose the political party that best matches your own political views.

That’s the theory of it. But reality doesn’t always support theory.

Take Likud, for example.  Its Party Platform is very clear on several key Middle East issues. That Platform states that:

1.      A unilateral Palestinian declaration of the establishment of a Palestinian state will constitute a fundamental and substantive violation of the agreements with the State of Israel and the scuttling of the Oslo and Wye accords. The government will adopt immediate stringent measures in the event of such a declaration.

2.      The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

3.      Israel rejects out of hand… the relinquishment of parts of the Negev.

4.      Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem

5.      The presence of the Israeli police in eastern Jerusalem will be increased; The Likud government will act with vigor to continue Jewish habitation and strengthen Israeli sovereignty in the eastern parts of the city

6.      The Jordan Valley and the territories that dominate it shall be under Israeli sovereignty.

This Platform is both clear and explicit on the questions of Jerusalem and the Jordan River valley: they must stay within ‘Israel’.  The Platform commits to defend, support and protect Judea and Samaria. This was ‘Likud’ during the last election. It is why one voted for Likud. It is also why a voter should expect to see these concepts promoted by  a Likud Prime Minister.
But Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have abandoned these ‘statements-of-belief’. He has rejected Likud’s soul. Exactly now, when the battle over Judea and Samaria represents one of the main battles for the future of Israel, Mr Netanyahu has turned his back on his Party’s beliefs. Instead of defending Judea and Samaria, he supports Leftist calls to demolish and destroy exactly what his Party promises to build. He abandons East Jerusalem. He surrenders 250,000 dunams in the Negev.  He agrees to pre-1967 borders (meaning, 1949 borders—what Abba Eban is said to have called ‘the Auschwitz borders’) as a precondition to peace talks, a decision which automatically surrenders virtually every inch of land east of central Jerusalem. If you look again at Likud’s Platform (above), Mr Netanyahu has gutted it. In its place, he has enshrined the call of the Left to demolish and surrender; he embraces those who reject Likud’s basic beliefs. He has become the antithesis of Likud, not its spokesperson.

As new Likud primaries approach at the end of this month (January), Mr Netanyahu has taken an even harder line against Judea and Samaria. His subordinates rush to bulldoze homes before their morning coffee. He joins the Left to demonize those who support his Party Platform. He has become predictable: if it’s Likud, he rejects it.  He may know he is doing something wrong because now, after forsaking his Party, he seeks to change primary rules so he can defeat those who embrace the Likud soul.

Opposing Mr Netanyahu for head-of-Likud in these up-coming primaries is Likud member Moshe Feiglin, a known Rightist whose language and actions have more completely matched the Likud Platform.  Look at the Platform and listen to Mr Feiglin:  the similarities are striking.

The choice for Likud members is clear: Mr Netanyahu has committed to the Left. His recent actions validate that commitment. Mr Feiglin has chosen—in word and deed-- to commit to Likud.  Mr Netanyahu rejects the right of the Jewish people to live on land east of Jerusalem-- and his Party’s platform. Mr Feiglin rejects neither.

If Mr Netanyahu wins, Likud could lose its soul forever. If Mr Feiglin wins, Likud gives Israel a true alternative to the Left.

If you are a Likudnid eligible to vote in the primaries, who should you vote for?