Not I. In all of the many years during which I have tracked Israeli pre-election campaigns, I have never encountered a campaign season like this one.
I’ve been writing about the multiplicity of new parties, and perhaps that was a clue that I missed: an overt sign of divisiveness. And divisiveness is what we have, big time. It’s almost as if something toxic has been released in the air that brings out the worst in everyone.
It pains me to write this. In truth, I would prefer not to write this. But my choice is to tell the truth, or to not write at all. And so, I will write.
I cannot – I do not wish to – describe all of the divisiveness in blow-by-blow detail. Bennett has what to say about Netanyahu, and Netanyahu has what to say about Bennett. Eli Yeshai has something to say about Shas’s Aryeh Deri. Bennett warns that Netanyahu will invite Gantz into his coalition; Netanyahu claims Bennett’s people are speaking to Gantz.
Without question, the incorporation of Otzma into the Bayit Yehudi list has exacerbated tensions. But while there might be reason for some discomfort with Otzma, the response to the possibility that this group might receive at maximum two seats in a 120 seat Knesset has been over the top hysterical. It was neither helpful nor enlightening, for example, to learn that Avigdor Lieberman thought the members of Otzma were “delusional,” and that he intends to snub them in the Knesset (should they get in).
I had planned to examine issues regarding the inclusion of this faction in today’s posting. I had even started researching and writing. But I have tabled it for my next posting. While this matter raises questions of importance, it is not the first order of business: there are other pressing matters to consider.
And I think the existence of these pressing matters is precisely what makes the divisiveness so distressful.
It is time for the right wing to get its act together, with all factions focused on issues of deep national concern instead of on each other.
At present, Gantz’s Blue and White party and Likud are running at almost a tie in the polls. However, the right wing bloc is showing higher numbers than the left.
After the election, President Rivlin will meet with the leaders from each faction to ascertain their choices for prime minister, i.e., whose coalition they prefer to join.
It is thus possible that the leader of the party that received the most mandates might not be able to put together a coalition. While this is hardly a routine occurrence, it has happened: Tzipi Livni (who had been elected head of the governing Kadima party) was charged with forming a new government when Prime Minister Olmert resigned. She could not do it.
It is concern with establishing a solid coalition bloc that motived Netanyahu to push for the inclusion of Otzma in the Bayit Yehudi list.
Jared Kushner, a key Trump advisor and head of the team putting together the “peace plan,” gave an interview to Sky News Arabic on Monday. The interview was given in English but then translated into Arabic (which to the best of my knowledge he does not speak).
I would like to focus on a couple of specific statements he has made. If I hadn’t retrieved the text of his interview I would have had trouble believing he said these things. But, alas, he did (emphasis added):
“The political plan, which is very detailed, is really about establishing borders and resolving final status issues.
“The goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the borders. If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror, you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a lot more opportunities.”
Allow me to repeat this: “the goal is…really to eliminate the borders.”
We must assume, I think, that while he did not clarify this, he is speaking of porous, open borders and not the total elimination of all political borders. But this still presents huge problems.
“I think the two [economic growth and political resolution] are very much linked together. I think we have seen a lot of efforts to stimulate the Palestinian economy over the years. The Israeli economy has been booming, but the Palestinian economy has been held back because there is not peace.
“Every time there is a terror attack in the West Bank, the people who are the most fearful are the 160,000 workers who cross over into Israel every day because they don’t want their flow restricted.”
How dare he!!
How does he assess fear of job loss as more weighty than fear of dying or losing a loved one?
This man, who moves in moneyed circles, persists in his belief that money trumps (forgive the inadvertent pun) ideology and that the issue of terror can be resolved by providing economic enhancement and incentives.
A basic reality has not sunk in for him: there could have been prosperity in the Palestinian Authority areas a long time ago, if only the more-than-generous funding provided by the international community had gone for development and not terrorism.
I think Lieberman has it all wrong. It is not Otzma that is delusional, it is Jared Kushner and company.
Who could have imagined this?? This level of naiveté and foolishness.
It behooves the factions within the right wing to come together, garnering all possible strength to stand against this. Gantz would eagerly embrace some notion of “two states” – who knows, maybe even with disappearing borders to reduce fear.
The position being advanced by Jared is also astonishing in light of Trump’s very appropriate position that a wall is needed at the southern border of the US to provide security for Americans.
How can the president advocate this and at the same time endorse a team that proposes eliminating Israel’s borders, even figuratively speaking?
All is not dark in the world, however, and so, some good news items follow:
Israel has opened its 11th embassy on the African continent. This one is in Rwanda.
Here you see Prime Minister Netanyahu (who deserves much credit for this diplomatic success) and President Rivlin with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
For many years the myth persisted that the military and the political arms of Hezbollah were separate entities. Thus there was a time when many governments recognized the political arm as legitimate while labeling the military arm a terrorist entity. The number of governments prepared to sustain this position diminished over time.
Now UK authorities say they are no longer able to distinguish between the group’s military and political wings and the UK Parliament is about to pass new rules classifying Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) said the decision was made to proscribe the group in its entirety because Hezbollah was “continuing in its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East.”
This is of real import because Hezbollah is now part of the Lebanese government and has been awarded three cabinet posts.
The following is not only beautiful, it proves that great stuff is going on here in Israel on a caring human level, even as the politics cause heartburn.
A video of Israel’s first go-cart rally for severely disabled kids:
Denmark and Australia have both demanded that the UN Human Rights Council stop its highly biased treatment of Israel. The UNHRC has an agenda item (Agenda Item 7) that requires a debate at each Council session on the alleged human rights abuses of Israel. Only Israel: No other nation is thus singled out.
Australia has long been a friend of Israel, but I find the position of Denmark to be a pleasant surprise. It is a hopeful note.
Said Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson (pictured):
“As a member, Denmark will work for a council that treats all states in an equal and fair manner. It undermines the credibility of this council and its members when it insists on singling out one country, Israel…”
The Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index has placed Israel in 10th place in the world, among 169 countries assessed.
Factors such as life expectancy, tobacco use, access to clean water and proper sanitation are assessed.
Last year Bloomberg ranked Israel in sixth place with regard to having the most efficient health care system. Considering what we have to devote to security issues, this is pretty amazing.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.