This is Getting Really Old

Yair Lapid has been playing games again, and now insists that if his party does not get the Education ministry they will either sit in the opposition or go to new elections. He has also retracted and now insists on a smaller number of ministers.

Danny Danon has pointed out that it will be dangerous for Netanyahu to give in to Lapid now – which will set a precedent for the rest of his government. I tend to agree with Danon. Lapid needs to be cut down to size a bit, or he will continually threaten the coalition. The man I am really angry with of course is Bennett. I really don’t understand what he thinks he is gaining by giving Lapid his loyalty – the only issue that Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi agree on is drafting the charedim. Bennett is making a mistake in the long term.

In any case, Netanyahu only has a few more days to pull together a government, or Peres will have to offer it to someone else. I really hope he calls Lapid’s bluff.


Putting the Money Where His Mouth Is

After about five weeks of yada-yada-yada, the inevitable happened – Yair Lapid compromised on most of what he had requested, and a new Israeli government is about to be officially started.

The man with the big mouth, who arrogantly claimed that he was going to usher in a new era of politics, did what all politicians must do – he had to compromise. I have nothing against compromise, I think it is a positive aspect of working with people with different views. This is why I bristled every time I heard Lapid open his mouth and make claims that he was somehow going to be above “politics as usual”.

Lapid compromised on the following: There will be 25 ministers instead of the 18 he had requested (with a law being put into affect that the NEXT government has to have no more than 18 – how lame is that?). The induction age of religious men will be 22 and not 18 as he had wanted – which means that those who want to learn for a while before doing army service will be able to. The numbers of complete military exemptions will rise from his request of 400 to 2000.

In addition Lapid will be taking the Finance Ministry, probably the least popular ministry of them all – which to me is exquisitely ironic. No matter how he tries – someone will be disappointed in him, because he won’t be able to give out financial goodies to everyone. He will now actually have to balance a budget. In other words, actually take responsibility, instead of playing “armchair politician”. It will be even worse for him than anyone else in the new government, precisely because he promised to be so “different”. A lot of people are going to be angry at him, since he raised their expectations so high. I can’t wait until I hear him sputter, “but you have to be realistic…..”

I am happy about the other ministries also. Moshe Yaalon will finally be defense minister – something that in my opinion should have happened four years ago. Bennet as Labor and Trade minister sounds like a good fit. Education is still up for grabs – but the two likely candidates are both good (either Gidon Saar of Likud or Rav Shai Peron of Yesh Atid).

I was hoping that Tzipi Hotobeli would receive something – but it looks unlikely at this point.

That Was Quick….

I knew Yair Lapid would put his foot in his mouth eventually, but I had no idea that it would be so quick.

Before he is even sworn in as a first time Member of Knesset he has boasted in an interview that next time around he will run for Prime Minister – and he expects to win. (I guess I should not be surprised – coming from a man who would have tried for a PhD before even having a high school diploma….)

I really hope they don’t give him the finance ministry..our country couldn’t take it!

This is Going to Be Fun

I am going to enjoy the next four political years very much. I have been following Israeli politics since I made aliyah 22 years ago, and one pattern emerges over and over. Someone starts his political life by claiming that noone represents the “center”. He then gets popular by proposing that he is a centrist, creates a new party, gets voted in with a lot of mandates (but not the majority, of course)….and then has to hit Israeli reality. Israeli reality in this case is that the Arabs will not let us alone, ever, and you have to choose sides – either you are right wing and security comes first, or you are left wing and you are willing to risk your security and make concessions. Being in the middle and not choosing is not an option for the majority party. After the first few years in the Knesset this “central” party gets less popular, until it completely dies. (Kadima is the latest party in the cycle.)

There is also another pattern that repeats itself. Journalists criticize politicians mercilessly, and make it sound as if they know better and could do a much better job themselves. Then they actually start to believe their own propaganda, run for the Knesset and sometimes get in….and then hit Israeli reality. Israeli reality in this case is that it is fiendishly hard to unite Israeli Jews enough to get anything done, and that you cannot please everyone all of the time. You also cannot ignore the responsibility of seeing the whole picture and just do what you want with the resources at hand – you have to work with other people and compromise (which these journalists have always called “selling out”).

Yair Lapid has followed both of these patterns. I don’t like him at all because I think he is a pretty boy with very little substance, and I resent how he came to power on so many people’s naive belief that he is the “savior of the middle class”. I am going to enjoy watching him learn a lot of things: that it really is harder than it looks to be a good public servant, that the people who love you when you first start running have very little patience with the realities of governing, and that there are no magic cures for the problems we face here. I hope he realizes how arrogant he was and learns a bit of humility. It might happen naturally while he actually works as a politician, or it might come as a shock after the next time he runs for Knesset and doesn’t get the same number of mandates – but it will happen at some point. Maybe I will like him a bit better then.

In the meantime it is going to be fun.

Now the Real Campaigning Starts….

Now that the elections are “over” the real campaigning starts, although it is mostly out of sight. Negotiating to enter the coalition is a high art in Israeli politics and not for the faint of heart. A political leader needs to know just how much to request in order to get into the coalition, and just how much he or she is willing to give in for the privilege.

In any case, I know one thing that I really want to see in the next four years – a good and powerful position for Tzipi Hotobeli, the highest ranking female member of the Likud Beitenu list. Just take a look at this article abut her to see why….

Between Two and Four Mandates Lost to the Right Due to Small Sectorial Parties

Those of you who voted for the “small”, or should I say non-existent parties on the right (Otzmat Yisrael, Amsalem, Amnon Yitzchak) lost us between two and four mandates, so now the left and right sides of the political spectrum are even in terms of mandates in the Knesset. This came from pure hubris – thinking that it was all in the bag and you could vote for your small “boutique” party. After all, Bibi was going to win anyway, right?

So you were only partially right. Bibi won anyway, but now he has to give even more to Lapid (Yesh Atid) than he would have if you had just voted for Likud.

Enough with the small party dreams. The only way to really make a difference is to vote for the party that will definitely be in the next government – and work from within to lobby for your issues.

Voting in Israel – Sometimes the Old Fashioned Ways are Best

I voted already, have you? Even though I have voted a number of times already in Israel I am always affected the same way. I feel proud to be here and I feel it is a privilege to vote and take part in the democratic process, as “flawed” as it is. I say flawed because I do not agree with the parliamentary system and I feel that the fact that there are so many parties makes it harder for the leaders to do what they are elected to do.

The technical voting process is very telling also. Everyone needs to produce ID (no-one claims this is discriminatory, imagine that?) and gets a paper envelope, which has been checked by two poll workers to make sure it is official and empty. Then the voter goes behind a screen and needs to pick from a variety of paper slips with the names of the political parties. If someone puts more than one slip into the envelope, the vote is disqualified. The voter seals the envelope and then comes out from the screen and puts the envelope into a box.

Two interesting points: All of the slips with the names of political parties are in Hebrew only. There are no pictorial symbols – just the two or three letters that signify the party, with the name of the party spelled out underneath, and the name of the leader of the party. Even though Israel is a country of immigrants and minorities, there is an expectation of a minimal amount of literacy in the Hebrew language in order to vote (granted, remembering two or three letters is not that hard, but still…)

In addition, the votes are done manually with slips of paper! This is in a country where high technology permeates every facet of life. I guess that although it takes a bit longer to count paper slips than it would to have computerized voting, this way it is both more accessible to everybody and it is harder to cheat. We have enough to fight about in Israel – at least we don’t fight about if the vote was rigged!

Another Reason to Vote Likud

Bibi Netanyahu appointed Moshe Kahlon as the new head of the Israeli Lands Authority last night. This former Likud Knesset member was in charge of breaking the monopoly of the cell phone companies, and he was responsible for lowering everyone’s cell phone bill.

This was a brilliant political move just two days before the elections, since Kahlon is hugely popular, and everyone in Israel agrees that the price of housing is a major problem here. The theory is that if the government sells off state land for development, the overall prices will go down.

The left wing parties have recognized this brilliant political move and cried foul, claiming that it is electioneering at the last minute and is illegal. (There was a question about whether they news outlets could cover the press conference announcing this appointment – and in the end it was decided that it could not be covered). So spreading the word is being done by the social media and the internet.


Tzvi Handel and Others Recommend Voting for Likud Beitenu

More and more prominent people are recommending you vote for Likud Beitenu next Tuesday. Tzvi Handel, a past municipal head of Chof Aza (part of Gush Katif) and a past Knesset Member in the Ichud HaLeumi party (National Unity – which is now part of Bayit Yehudi) gives his support and urges voting Likud. He is joining other leaders like the mayors of Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tirat HaCarmel, Kiryat Gat and Modiin who have also given their endorsements to the Likud.

How to Vote in Israel

My last post was about getting out the vote, and I came across this blog post with practical information about how to vote (polling places, procedures, etc.). Thanks to Rafi at LifeinIsrael for the link.

Meanwhile, why don’t you enjoy the second video about the “complaint police”. This time he appears in the coffee shop….interrupting the hipsters who have just come back from Berlin (of all places) and are of course, complaining….

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