January 24, 2013
OR – What The Hell’s Going On In Israel?
OR – Who The Hell is Yair (sounds like ‘Career) Lapid?
OR – Who Cares?
It’ll have to be bullets again, with clarifications here and there.
The polls were only right in saying that the ‘undecided’ numbered almost 25% of the vote.
Netanyahu’s Likud (combined with Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beteinu party) lost a lot of ground (31 of the total 120 seats), clearly because he joined forces with Lieberman. (It so happens that the latter could not be a candidate, as he is to appear shortly in court, accused of financial naughtiness some years back. He’s still innocent). Likud is traditionally the Center-Right. Lieberman’s party is almost solely representing the interests of the million-plus Russian immigrants.
The Centre Left was the big winner, clearly concerned with internal problems: the economy, jobs, corruption, social and health benefits etc.
Stupidly, the Centre Left is split between:
Yair Lapid (19 seats) – this good-looking guy was a leading journalist and TV talk show host. He has a lovely name…’Yair’ means ‘he/it will light’ (‘she will light’ would be Tair). Lapid, the family name, happens to mean ‘torch’ (of flame, not lamp/battery). ‘He will light the flame’…
A year ago or so, I happened to be at the beach next to his table, where he, with cigar in hand, was conferring with his (jet-set) buddies. We are told that he has given up most of those friends – and cigars. His papa was the late and terrific Tommy Lapid, again journalist turned politician, who made up for his lack of good looks by having a biting tongue, not caring who was the victim of his lashing. He was a strong member of Likud, Netanyahu’s party. His mother Shulamit, still alive, is a successful writer. His wife, Lihi (sounds like pee-pee) is also a known journalist.
Shelly Yakimovich (17 seats) shot to fame by being the most outspoken supporter of the social protests, the tent cities. When the Labour party had their internal elections, she timed it just right and won. Now she’s revived Labour somewhat (they were the largest party during Israel’s early days). But she made a very public pre-election promise never to join a coalition with Netanyahu. That’s brave and honest of her, but not very politically clever.
Tzipi Livni (6 seats) was the queen of the new party, Kadima, when it was established with Arik Sharon and Ehud Olmert after the first Gaza crisis. Sharon had a stroke 6 years ago (he is still in a coma, resting peacefully at the family ranch). Olmert was found guilty of financial wrong doings. The party was in trouble. Despite the fact that Tzipi was now considered leader of the Opposition, and without going into details, instead of reuniting the party, Tzipi left, thought, and started a new party: Hatnuah, which means ‘The Movement’. Her 6 seats are not strong, but in these coalition times, could prove to be important.
Ha Ba’it Ha’Yehudi (The Jewish Home – 11 seats) is a newly-formed right-wing party, whose leader, Naftali Bennett, son of US immigrants, is a strong supporter of one state, meaning that he is a strong supporter of ‘the settlers’ and the whole area being ‘The Land of Israel’. No Palestine – they can be happy citizens of the greater Israel.
(In other words, he’s the Israeli equivalent of many, if not most Palestinians, who either want the Jews to be citizens of Palestine, or to ‘get lost’. Naftali is religious, which combines easily with being CEO of a start-up company that specialised in anti-fraud software, subsequently sold for $145 million. So, he has settlers, young religious activists and a lot of hi-tech yuppies on his side. A very clever man, a good speaker, and politically very dangerous.
Shas (11 seats, unchanged). This is the home of the religious Sephardic community. Their mentor is a 92 year-old rabbi, Ovadia Josef. They usually do what he dictates. However, there is a fierce battle going for the leadership of the party, currently shared between 3 guys, one of whom just came out of prison for corruption (and is legally allowed back into politics).
Their battles concentrate on what I wrote in the pre-election Letter: no forced draft into the army (or work in the community), continued financial support for the religious schools (yeshivot), despite fact they only teach religion, no civil marriage, benefits for every child in the family – no limit to the number.
Then there 6 more smaller parties, from the more left Meretz and the almost dead Kadima parties, to a couple more right-wing religious and 2 Arab parties. The other 327 parties (actually 20) each lost their deposits or whatever, for having attracted less than 2% of the vote. Over 40,000 ballot papers were handed in without being filled in, or otherwise damaged, equivalent to only 1% of the total.
Were they to change the voting system to a minimum of 5% vote-share, which is Yair Lapid’s main focus, then there would be 6-7 parties instead of 12, each gaining more seats, and making the post-election horse-trading all the simpler. A second change Yair and many others would like to see would be that 50% of the members would be responsible to their local constituencies. They would have real faces.
I really do not think too many Israelis are worrying about the Palestinian ‘problem’. Most of the World may not agree, but Israelis feel that they’ve made enough efforts to make peace, and that it’s mainly the Palestinians who are to blame. (I, for one, do sadly agree that we really do not appear to have a united partner with whom to speak – but my door remains open).
Iran’s nuclear threat? Too high above our heads to worry us.
Our relationship with USA? Yes, some think that Netanyahu could be more diplomatic, but right now, Obama continues to earn Israelis’ mistrust, with is left-wing attitude towards the Middle East. He still believes the Arab countries, one the fringe of democracy, are piling up at Israeli’s door with olve branches grasped between their incisors.
Europe and UN? We’ve forgotten about them.
Lower local taxes etc.
Fuel prices, especially home fuel.
Final result? No idea, although we certainly have a new ‘pretty face’ on our scene, and it’s a man. Over time, he may gain the PM-ship, although he must first change that electoral system. In the meantime, the stalemate – and the pride of the individual politician not to give up his/her coalition position – will continue, and we may have another election within 12 months.
I’m off to play tennis…