Too Much Democracy?

The idea that there should be an independent sovereign Jewish state in the world is, to understate the fact, controversial. Much of the European-oriented West and certainly the Arab Middle East opposes it. Even many diaspora Jews either don’t see it as essential to Jewish survival, or are no longer concerned with the continuance of the Jews as a people.

But recent events in Israel’s politics have brought us to a crossroads. The direction that we go now will be critical for the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and therefore for the survival of the Jewish people.

The history of modern Israel can be viewed from various vantage points: religious, geopolitical, military, ethnographic, and perhaps others. One dimension is the struggle between the Jews who reestablished the Jewish state after several millennia of diaspora, and the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael and the surrounding region.

Jabotinsky, in The Iron Wall (1917) understood, long before the reestablishment of the state, that there is no way that we are going to make Zionists out of the Arabs. They will not be interested in minority status in a Jewish state, no matter what rights or economic benefits this gets them. They will only accept Jewish immigration and ultimately sovereignty, he said, if they have absolutely no choice. Hence, the “Iron Wall.”

But Jabotinsky also expressed the optimistic view that – if the Wall was truly impregnable – at some point the Arabs would decide that there was no hope of getting rid of the Jews, and that they would moderate their demands. And then “we may expect them to discuss honestly practical questions, such as a guarantee against Arab displacement, or equal rights for Arab citizen [sic], or Arab national integrity.”

It has turned out that Jabotinsky was right in the first instance and wrong in the second. Perhaps – prescient as he was in other matters – he didn’t realize that it was impossible to separate Arab resistance from worldwide Jew-hatred and anti-Zionism, and that outside powers (in particular, Nazi Germany and later the Soviet Union) would adopt the Arab cause as instrumental for their wider geopolitical programs. Or maybe we just weren’t capable of building an iron wall high enough or strong enough.

In any event, the rejection of Jewish sovereignty between the river and the sea by the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael did not diminish over time. It was fed by the rejectionism of the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, al-Husseini, amplified by the Soviet adoption of the PLO and Husseini’s heir, Yasser Arafat. It received a massive boost from Israel’s astonishingly stupid decision to accept the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian Arabs, and to breathe life into its corpse by signing the Oslo accords and inviting Arafat and his coterie back to Eretz Yisrael. With the creation of the Palestinian Authority, the realization of the initial steps in Arafat’s “phased plan,” Jabotinsky’s wall was breached. It became possible for Arabs to imagine finally ending the Jewish “occupation” of all of Eretz Yisrael.

The Arab citizens of the State of Israel have followed a more moderate trajectory than the Arabs of the territories, but its direction has been the same. When the state was declared by Ben Gurion in 1948, it was defined as a “Jewish state,” the realization of “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.” At the same time, the Declaration of Independence affirmed that the state would be a Western-style democracy,

…based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

It also explicitly invited the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael to “participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

I am not sure why Ben-Gurion and the other founders didn’t grasp the fundamentally contradictory nature of the promises they made in the Declaration of Independence. How could the Jews be “masters of their fate in their own sovereign state” and still promise full equality of political rights to the Arabs, who would always vehemently oppose that objective?

Meir Kahane pointed this out some decades ago. The response of the Zionist establishment was to kick him and his party out of political life in the country, and even to imprison him.

Today there are four parties in the Joint List; three are Arab parties and one is the Arab-Jewish Communist Party. All four oppose the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. They are in turn composed of various factions that espouse everything from Islamism to Palestinian nationalism and Pan-Arabism. In the past few years the number of Arabs voting for the Joint List has grown, and in the last election it obtained 15 seats in the Knesset, making it the third largest party in the Knesset.

One of Israel’s Basic Laws – in effect, its constitution – disqualifies anyone who “[negates] the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” engages in incitement to racism, or supports armed struggle against the state from sitting in the Knesset. But the Supreme Court has insisted on the highest standard of proof in these cases, and as a result, since 1965 no Arab candidate or party has been disqualified. The Court has been harder on Jews, in the case of Kahane and his party, and more recently, upholding the disqualification of Baruch Marzel, Benzi Gopstein, and Michael Ben Ari on the grounds of incitement to racism.

This is where we are today. We have swallowed the contradiction inherent in the Declaration of Independence, and we are facing the political heartburn that results from trying to digest it. The most moderate of the Arabs and the Israeli Left find the idea of a “Jewish” state objectionable, and would prefer that Israel be a “state of its citizens” like the United States. The Right passed the Basic Law: Israel – the Nation-State of the Jewish People, to explicate the precise meaning of the concept of a Jewish state, and it faces strong opposition from the Left and the Arabs, who see it as anti-democratic and racist. Almost certainly it will soon be taken up by the Supreme Court.

No Arab party has ever been part of a ruling coalition, both because the Arabs didn’t want to support a Zionist government, and the Jewish parties didn’t want them. However, in July 1992, a 62-seat left-wing coalition of Labor, Meretz, and Shas (yes, Shas joined a left-wing coalition!) was supported in the Knesset by the votes of Hadash and one other Arab party, which kept it alive when Shas quit in November of that year, and they dropped to 56. A similar arrangement has been proposed for Blue and White and its proposed Jewish coalition partners with their 56 seats. The votes of the Joint List would allow them to pass a law that would prevent PM Netanyahu from forming the next government, and to form a government even though they will not have the required 61 seats by themselves.

The degree to which the key people in Blue and White – as well as their partner Avigdor Lieberman – have both personal and political animus against Binyamin Netanyahu can’t be overemphasized. But the fact that they appear to be ready to become indebted to and wholly dependent on anti-Zionist parties in order to accomplish their goal of forcing him out is shocking.

Such a government would in effect give the anti-Zionist Arab parties a veto on all of its actions. It would certainly not proceed with the extension of sovereignty in the Jordan Valley or to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It would certainly try to repeal or emasculate the Nation-State Law. And it is not clear how it would react to provocations from Hamas or Hezbollah.

Preventing this is the immediate problem, but there is an even bigger one on the horizon: in order that the State of Israel can continue to fulfill its function as the sustaining force of the Jewish people, it must continue to be a Jewish state, constitutionally and essentially, and not just an ordinary state that happens to have a Jewish majority.

Anyone who does not support that objective should not be part of the governing body of the state, whether they are Jewish or Arab.

Posted in Israeli Arabs, Israeli Politics | 2 Comments

Jasbir Puar and the Moral Failure of the Academy

Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar has been invited to speak at Scripps College in California by its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and several of the college’s academic departments.

Puar is one of the most vicious antisemites and misozionists* in America. You can read excerpts from a 2016 speech she made at Vassar University to get an idea of her creative presentation of medieval blood libels in a more modern form. She is also a prolific “scholar,” casting her poisonous inventions in the form of just barely penetrable academic jargon (if you think you are capable of understanding her, see how long you can listen to this video).

Among other things, she accuses the IDF of deliberately stunting, maiming, and creating disabilities among Palestinians, in order to suppress their resistance. We would kill them, she argues, but then we would damage our claim to be the primary victims of genocide in history. And when we do kill them, we take their organs for scientific research. Of course she claims that we specialize in hurting Palestinian children – how can she reprise the story of Simon of Trent if she doesn’t accuse us of victimizing children?

The truth of the matter is that the IDF does its best to avoid any collateral damage, that the Palestinians employ child soldiers, and that Palestinian terrorism (the Ma’alot Massacre, the Coastal Road Massacre, the bombings of the Dolphinarium and the Sbarro Pizza restaurant for just a few) does disproportionally target children. But never mind.

Puar is inventive, and finds ways to turn what others believe to be moral behavior into examples of Israeli depravity. “Pinkwashing,” the supposed tactic of contrasting Israel’s tolerance of homosexuals with Arab and Muslim homophobia (which often rises to the level of murder) in order to “whitewash the occupation” is a favorite subject.

She also argues that Israel’s attempts to reduce collateral damage while at the same time defending herself against terrorism and rocket attacks actually constitute a deliberate policy to maim rather than kill Palestinians. The “knock on the roof” technique used in recent mini-wars when a structure in Gaza was about to be bombed is presented as merely a pretense at reducing casualties (she falsely claims the time between the knock and the destruction of a building is only 60 seconds, when it is typically closer to 15 minutes). According to Puar, phone calls warning residents of coming attacks are a form of psychological warfare “a reminder of how powerless they are,” and not a practical way of reducing civilian injuries and deaths.

Nonlethal methods to control riots, deter incursions across the Gaza border, and stop attempts to damage the security barrier are described by Puar as methods of torturing Palestinians or inducing permanent disability, instead of attempts to protect Israelis without killing their attackers. She believes we want to break their spirit, but keep them alive so we can exploit them economically. And we just plain enjoy hurting them.

Her obsessive attribution of the most evil motives imaginable to every action of Israelis to protect themselves against an enemy which, after all, wants to kill them, tries to do so on a regular basis, and often succeeds, is disconnected from reality – I would use the word fanatical. She advocates both BDS and “armed resistance.”

Puar’s fantastic anti-Israel polemic is interwoven with and connected to her discussion of sex, gender, “queer theory,” race, disability, and other topics characteristic of today’s post-modern academic milieu. She seems to have invented the concept of “homonationalism,” which explicates “how homosexuality – and in particular homonormativity, the adoption of heteronormative values by the ‘queer’ community – is instrumentalised as part of nationalist and geopolitical interventions.”

Why do I care?

Because there has never been a better contemporary example than Jasbir Puar of the distortion of the academic mission to find and teach the truth since that great fraud, Edward Said. I say this even though there has been a Ward Churchill and a Steven Salaita. Unlike the latter two, she is an academic star. She is a full Professor, and Graduate Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, where she has taught since 2000. She holds graduate degrees in Ethnic and Women’s studies, and has a massive list of publications (although most are in marginal journals), speaking engagements, fellowships, and other academic honors. She has had three books published by Duke University Press, which has a disturbing record of anti-Israel bias.

And despite her reality-distorting obsession, she is welcomed to speak at places like Scripps College. She continues to receive grants and fellowships (although some of them, like the “Palestinian American Research Council Fellowship” she got in 2018 may simply constitute payment for her political activity). She is a tenured member of the Rutgers faculty.

The fact is that the Western academic world – particularly the portion of it called “Ethnic and Gender Studies” –  is so thoroughly indoctrinated with misoziony that it doesn’t see anything wrong with her ideas. What look to me like conspiratorial fantasies indicative of mental illness appear as perfectly normal academic discourse to them. This seems to be the case in most universities in the US, the UK and Canada – and to some extent, in certain institutions even in Israel.

Apparently the Scripps people think that her ideas are important and should be heard. But I am guessing that if a pro-Israel group of students wished to invite someone like me to discuss Palestinian terrorism against Israeli children (see, for example, this unrepentant murderess), I am certain that there would be no such event.

Part of the problem (at least outside of Israel) is that for years Arab countries (and Iran, too) have donated large sums of money to academic institutions, have made grants to individual academics, and have built up specific departments (usually Middle East Studies) in key colleges and universities. Combined with the traditional left-wing orientation of many academics, and the strong commitment in academia to “free speech” and “academic freedom” – as long as said speech or freedom is aimed in the proper direction – this has created an atmosphere in which Jasbir Puar is not considered an extremist.

The universities and colleges are supposed to be beacons of light, which support humanist ideals of justice and fairness for all peoples. Instead, they have taken the easy, convenient, profitable, and cowardly path of joining the dark forces of Jew hatred and misoziony, while preening themselves for promoting “social justice.”

* Misoziony (pronounced mis-OZ-yoni) is the extreme, irrational, and obsessive hatred of the Jewish state. It is antisemitism raised to one degree of abstraction. Although it is not identical to antisemitism, most misozionists also hate Jews as individuals and the Jewish people as a group.

Posted in Academia, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Jew Hatred, Terrorism | 4 Comments

Jewish Peoplehood and American Jews

Nothing seems to me more obviously true than the statement that a strong, thriving Jewish state is essential to the survival of the Jewish people.

But apparently many self-identifying American Jews either don’t agree, or even if they do, there are other issues that they see as more important than the continued presence of the Jews in history. And some would even welcome our disappearance as a people.

A recent poll showed that most American Jewish voters “prioritized domestic policy issues over Israel when asked which issues are most important to them in selecting a candidate.” In practical terms, that means that they are prepared to vote for candidates who have expressed policy positions hostile to the Jewish state, because the alternative (Trump) is unacceptable to them. This even includes the execrable Bernie Sanders, who not only has taken the most extreme anti-Israel stance of any of the major candidates, but who has surrounded himself with a phalanx of misozionist* and arguably antisemitic surrogates and advisers.

So, do I think they should display the “dual loyalty” of which they are accused by antisemites and allow their Jewish connection to override their feeling of responsibility to America? Aren’t they Americans first?

The problem with this argument is that if Jewish Democrats were agonizing about being forced to choose between Trump and Israel, they would have made their feelings known to their party and to their candidates. And with a small number of exceptions, they haven’t done so. The Reform movement, for example, contented itself with a mild rebuke for Sanders’ decision to not speak at AIPAC. It has not criticized his anti-Israel positions, or those of any other Democratic candidate. And it has not mentioned his choice of surrogates. With the exception of the small (less than 10% of US Jews) non-Haredi Orthodox community, activism on behalf of Israel among American Jews has been lukewarm at best, often hedged with reservations about PM Netanyahu, settlements, and so on.

I don’t think American Jews should favor Israel over America, but I do think they should act to promote Israel’s interests, insofar as anti-Israel propaganda is so pervasive in the media, universities, churches, and other institutions. Many American politicians have become misinformed or even indoctrinated against the Jewish state; in some cases opposition to Israel is a foundation stone of their ideology (I would include Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama in this group). If Jews don’t fight this, who will?

The American diaspora has proven to be provide particularly poor soil in which to grow Jewish peoplehood. Let’s review the criteria for a group of individuals to be considered a people or a nation:

  1. A common geographical origin and a connection to their aboriginal home.
  2. A shared genetic heritage.
  3. A unique ancestral language.
  4. A unique religion.
  5. A shared culture.
  6. A shared historical experience.
  7. Self-identification as a nation.

The more of these characteristics that a group has, the more it can be called a people. And historically, the Jewish people has been the paradigm case of peoplehood – if you want an example of “a people,” look at the Jews.

Unfortunately, life in America has proven destructive to all of these criteria for the majority of American Jews. The main force that has kept the Jews together in their various exilic locations over thousands of years has been their Judaism. The need to study and pray sustained the Hebrew language; the observance of Shabbat and kashrut kept the Jews together in close proximity with one another and maintained their shared culture; the ritual of reading the Torah reminded Jews of their connection to Eretz Yisrael; the study of Talmud and other sources kept their history alive; and the prohibition of intermarriage continued the genetic connection to the sons of Jacob.

Most Jewish immigrants to America moved away from traditional Judaism. Some became secular, some tried to maintain their traditions while making the necessary compromises to fit in a mostly secular and Christian environment, and some – today the majority of still-affiliated American Jews – adopted Reform Judaism as a way to retain some connection to their Jewishness while fully integrating in American society.

The movement was anti-Zionist at its beginning, fearing that Jews would be treated as a foreign nation inside America if they supported the return to Zion. It was only after the Six Days War that it began to support the Jewish state; but more recently, the movement’s gradual adoption of Tikkunism – the redefinition of Jewish ethics in terms of progressive politics – has led it to draw closer to the anti-Zionist progressive Left.

But this was less important than Reform’s de-emphasis of traditional ritual. Without making any judgment on the spiritual value of Reform Judaism, or to what extent it is “real” Judaism, it is clear that from the standpoint of Jewish peoplehood it has been a disaster. It has excised from its version of Judaism precisely those characteristics of traditional Judaism that maintained the Jewish people as a nation in diaspora over the centuries. The Hebrew language, kashrut, Shabbat observance, regular Torah reading – all of these things that kept Jewish peoplehood alive in the diaspora – were minimized or disappeared completely among Reform Jews.

The movement also embraced intermarriage (perhaps it realized that it had no choice), which placed the final nail in the coffin of peoplehood. Perhaps the movement can survive by aggressive outreach, but it will be as something other than a part of the Jewish people.

What’s left is only the last criterion, self-identification. Reform Jews still insist that they are part of the Jewish people – but in many cases they use this identification against the Jewish state, when they complain about its policies “as a Jew.” And then they vote for a Barack Obama or a Bernie Sanders.

The situation in Israel is different. In Israel, even a secular person lives in a majority Jewish population where everyday life is based on Jewish culture, where traditional Judaism is immediately accessible, where most markets are kosher, where most economic activity shuts down on Shabbat, where the national holidays are the Jewish holidays, and – I think above all – where Hebrew is spoken and everyday expressions echo biblical language. Even a non-observant Jew in Israel can’t help but feeling part of the Jewish people. Israel, therefore, is more than a destination of last resort for persecuted Jews. It’s that too, but it’s also the reservoir of Jewish culture that sustains Jewish peoplehood.

Those liberal or progressive American Jews that still feel themselves a part of the Jewish nation will have to choose. They can make aliyah to Israel, or they can work in the diaspora to support her. They can try to change the political climate on the left in America to make it more friendly to Israel, or they can move rightward, and try to change the climate on the pro-Israel right to make it more liberal.

What they can’t do and still be consistent is to continue to give unqualified support to enemies of their people – like Bernie Sanders.

* Misoziony (pronounced mis-OZ-yoni) is the extreme and irrational hatred of the Jewish state. It is antisemitism raised up one level of abstraction, although almost all misozionists are antisemites as well.

Posted in American Jews, American politics, The Jewish people | 3 Comments

Bernie the Jewish Fool

As Purim approaches, Bernie Sanders, the Jewish front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said:

[Moving the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv is] something we would take into consideration …

I am very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months, but what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country …

Our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel, but you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.

If there was any doubt before, we know now where Bernie stands. Jerusalem is always a litmus test. The American Congress demanded that the US government recognize reality about Jerusalem all the way back in 1995. That was a quarter of a century ago. Until Trump cut the Gordian Knot, three presidents withheld that recognition. The waivers supposedly related to “national security,” but everyone knew that it was a nod to the Arabs and others who opposed any Jewish sovereignty, not just our control of Jerusalem. Proof of that was the ridiculous opinion of the State Department that Israel was not sovereign in any part of Jerusalem, even the Western part that it has held since 1948 and in which its Knesset is located. And the fact is that there have been no adverse consequences for “national security.”

It’s important to note that Trump’s declaration did not break new ground. It did not determine the precise borders of Jerusalem, and left open the possibility that some parts of it would become part of a future Palestinian state. To go back to the pre-Trump situation – if indeed it is even legally possible, given the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 – would simply be absurd, and the only reason for doing so would be to kick Israel in the teeth.

Which is also the only reason to insult our Prime Minister, by calling him a “reactionary racist.” Maybe that’s the way American politicians have learned to talk recently, and maybe it gets Bernie points with some stupid or antisemitic supporters, or maybe it meets some psychological need of his own, but to the (minimal) extent that the accusation is meaningful, it is entirely untrue. “Racist” is a particularly unhelpful term. The US has a long history of conflict based on the ill-treatment of dark-skinned Americans, a history including slavery, Jim Crow, and other manifestations, and this is what the word is intended to evoke. It simply has no application for Jews and Arabs, whose conflicts have religious and political origins.

Probably Bernie would justify his accusation of “racism” by referring to Bibi’s famous comment that Arab voters are going to the polls “in droves,” something seized upon by his left-wing opposition here. It is supposed to imply that Bibi thinks Arabs should not exercise their right to vote, just like blacks in Mississippi in 1960. But in fact it was an attempt to turn out his own voters by telling them that Arabs were going out to vote in droves against him. There is nothing prejudiced about his pointing out that the Arab parties are part of the opposition, and warning that they were getting large numbers of their voters to the polls.

As far as “reactionary” is concerned, it is correct that Netanyahu has always favored free-market economic policies over the socialist ones that characterized Israel’s early years. He has nothing to be ashamed of – the results speak for themselves. If Bernie thinks the USA would be better off with government monopolies like the Histadrut’s enterprises, good luck with that.

Sanders’ reference to the “suffering of the Palestinian people” brings to mind Barack Obama’s Cairo speech, in which he drew a direct comparison between the Holocaust and the Palestinian nakba. I’ll just note that Palestinian “suffering” is primarily a result of the continued rejection of any Jewish sovereignty by their leadership and their allies, their refusal to accept legitimate offers of statehood, their readiness to use Arab refugees and their children as hostages in their war against the Jews, and their adoption of terrorism as their main political tactic. It is very wrong to treat the moral case of Israel as equivalent to that of the Palestinians, led as they are by the PLO and Hamas. Indeed, the groundbreaking aspect of Trump’s policy in the region is that for the first time, he has broken away from this false equivalence.

I would like to think that Bernie is taking positions that are as different as possible from those of the Trump Administration simply in order to attack Trump. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case: Bernie’s anti-Israel positions have been consistent throughout his career, and his choice of advisors and surrogates, who include Linda Sarsour, Cornel West, Michael Moore, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Amer Zahr, AOC, and others – some of whom might be given important positions in a Sanders Administration – does not inspire confidence.

But even if Bernie were not anti-Israel as a matter of principle – and I am convinced that he is – there is  an important tactical reason that he could not support the Jewish state in the way that Harry Truman could. As a Jew, he is open to the accusation that he would prioritize the interests of Israel over the interests of the US. Certainly that accusation will always be made against any Jewish politician at any level who takes a pro-Israel position (even non-Jewish politicians who are pro-Israel are accused of being bought by the Jewish/Israeli lobby). And therefore he will avoid taking such positions.

He is a fool, an enemy of his own people, the most useful of useful idiots.  Linda Sarsour said she would be proud to “elect the first Jewish American president this country has ever seen – and for his name to be Bernard Sanders.” That says it all, doesn’t it?

I hold an unpopular opinion: I don’t think a Jew should be President of the US. Any Jew. One reason is the difficulty of being pro-Israel; but there is another. The president is a lightning rod. Look at the abuse heaped on Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton. Do you doubt the form it would take with a Jewish president, even an anti-Israel one? Do American Jews need another stimulus for antisemitic attacks?

Look, there are more issues in this election than Jewish issues. American Jews are Americans, most of them see themselves as liberals if not progressives, and they are concerned about jobs, healthcare, immigration, student debt, the cost of living, drugs and crime, terrorism, and everything else. I get that. But if they are still Jews, then Jewish issues, including support for Israel, have to count. And there has to be a point at which a candidate disqualifies himself for someone who cares about Jewish issues. Bernie’s gone past that point. He’s made the calculation that calling Israel’s PM a “racist” will help him more with the voters who are important to him than hurt him with others who apparently are not.

Nevertheless, many American Jews will support Bernie if he is nominated. They will do it despite their misgivings, because they have elevated anti-Trumpism to the greatest mitzvah of their progressive “Torah,” and because they have been conditioned to only see antisemitism when it comes from the Right. They will do it because they have become disconnected from the Jewish people and their state, and have adopted Tikkunism as their religion in place of any form of Judaism. I suspect they’ll be sorry.

Posted in American Jews, American politics | 1 Comment

Anger, not Apathy

The media say that Israeli voters are apathetic. They aren’t – they are furious.

About a third of them aren’t expected to vote at all in the March 2 election, an unprecedented third in 11 months. And polls show that those who will vote will divide up between the two major blocs in almost precisely the same way as they did in the previous two elections, which did not produce a government. This time too, neither bloc appears to have the 61 seats in the Knesset needed. One wants to say that a fourth election is unthinkable, but we said that about the third one.

Recently there have been revelations about possible illegalities involving a bankrupt company called “Fifth Dimension” connected to Benny Gantz, the opposition Blue and White party’s standard-bearer against PM Netanyahu. We’ve also heard about tapes of possibly improper conversations between Gabi Ashkenazi, one of Blue and White’s four leaders, and Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney general who indicted Netanyahu (conversations related to an entirely different ugly scandal around Ashenazi). None of this has even slightly moved the needle of the polls.

The right wing is certain that only a right-wing government will not do something stupid, like agreeing to a sovereign Palestinian state in the territories. It knows that only a right-wing government can be trusted to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley or Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It is more or less correct in this, although even a Netanyahu government is likely to bend to the winds blowing from Washington, in whichever direction they blow.

The left wing is certain that Netanyahu is destroying democracy in the country, but more importantly they are disgusted by everything about him, especially his greedy wife Sara and loose-cannon son Yair. They think he is a horribly corrupt criminal, an anti-Arab racist, and an embarrassment to the kind of state they would like Israel to be. They are hoping that his trial, which will begin the week after the election, will result in his conviction and a prison sentence.

And here are some facts that almost every Israeli knows:

  • With only a few exceptions, the top leadership of both blocs is both corrupt and untrustworthy.
  • Benny Gantz is a bumbler who is not competent to be Prime Minister, and he and his three partners agree about nothing except that they want Netanyahu out. It’s hard to imagine them governing if they were to attain power.
  • Netanyahu is brilliant and competent (although many hate him). A recent poll showed 45% of those polled saying that he was most suited to be PM, compared to 35% who chose Gantz. Netanyahu is not as bad as the indictments say he is, but he’s not averse to accepting “gifts” from “friends” who are rich people expecting something from the government.
  • All of them prioritize their own wants ahead of the needs of the country.

Polls say that Netanyahu’s Likud will get slightly fewer votes than Gantz’s Blue and White party, but will be unlikely to put together a coalition of 61, just like in the two previous elections. Gantz’s party may get two or three more seats than the Likud, but it will be even farther from the needed 61. The only ways for Gantz to form a government will either be for him to make a coalition with the Arab Joint List – which he will not do, because almost all Arab MKs are outspokenly anti-Zionist – or to create a minority coalition which will stay in power as long as the Arabs agree not to vote against it in a vote of confidence. This would give the Arab bloc a veto over any government actions.

Netanyahu campaigns by talking about his accomplishments, especially those that have come about from his relationship with US President Trump. He continues to remind voters that a Gantz government would need Arab support. Lately he has been talking about Fifth Dimension. Nobody cares.

Gantz campaigns by talking about Netanyahu’s indictments. A recent radio interview with a spokesperson for Gantz went like this:

Interviewer: Isn’t it true that you have no way to get 61 Knesset seats and that the only way you can form a government is with support from the Arab Joint List?

Gantz spokesperson: Maybe, but Netanyahu has three indictments and is going on trial soon.

Nobody cares about this either.

I haven’t mentioned Avigdor Lieberman yet. He could have put Netanyahu (but not Gantz) over the top, but he chose not to. His party leans rightward, and has been part of previous right-wing coalitions. But he found an issue that resonates with his constituents – Haredi draft-dodging – and his stubbornness on this has both helped him get votes and served as an excuse to avoid helping Netanyahu, with whom he is feuding.

The villains are multiple. There is Lieberman, of course. There are the Arab MKs, who do not represent moderate Arab citizens, but insist on espousing Palestinian nationalism, which is perhaps why only about half of Arab Israelis bother to vote. There is Netanyahu, who resisted any attempts to get him to step down in favor of other members of his party, and who has consistently crushed any possible challengers to his domination of the Likud. There are the people who suffer from Bibi Derangement Syndrome, who would rather see a nonfunctional government than one under Netanyahu. There are the right-wing voters who insist on voting for several small parties which are not expected to pass the 3.25% threshold, and therefore whose votes will not be counted at all.

Personally, I believe that a right-wing government under Netanyahu is the best outcome, although I would have preferred that he pass the baton to a successor. Nevertheless, it’s clear that he is extremely competent and able to carry out his duties to a reasonable degree despite the interference of his legal problems. Gantz and the zoo that he leads would be worse. Everything now depends on how effective the parties are in stimulating their voters to turn out, whether the small right-wing parties drop out, and so on.

We are sick of politicians. We are sick of the way their selfishness has prevented us from getting a government that could deal with the many issues facing the nation today, including the most important strategic ones. We are sick of having money removed from programs that actually help people, in order to fund the extremely expensive elections. If there were a button to push that would remove all of our politicians, we would push it.

Israelis aren’t “apathetic,” as the media – which loves the craziness of elections – says. We are furious. We just haven’t found that button.

Posted in Israeli Politics | 4 Comments