Monday, December 08, 2014

Netanyahu Springs his Trap




Netanyahu Springs his Trap

Posted By Steven Plaut On December 8, 2014 @

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may demonstrate foolishness regarding a great many things in public life, but no one ever accused him of demonstrating foolishness with regard to his own electoral prospects.  His enemies are suddenly foaming at the mouth.  In response to the remarkable jump in Likud popularity in the polls, they claim, Bibi has decided to pull a fast one and has decided to take the undemocratic decision of holding elections.  That Netanyahu's rivals claim it is undemocratic when elections are held is only the tip of their problems.  What really has them worried is that the Israeli electorate is about to sic itself against most of the non-Likud parties.

To a large extent, the real factor behind the dismemberment of the government coalition and the calling of new elections is the military operation against Gaza from this past summer.  The events surrounding those battles shook up the Israeli electorate and reshuffled the political deck.

The Gaza war made the Likud very popular.  The Jewish public almost unanimously supported the operation against the Hamas barbarians. Israelis do not think that too many Gazans were killed but rather that too few were.  The main complaint from Israeli Jews was that the Likud did not go far enough and ended the military incursions there too soon.

But the Gaza war also decimated the political base for the Likud's opposition.  In Gaza, Israel had carried out to the letter every "idea" of the Israeli Labor Party and its allies.  It had evicted the entire Jewish population of Gaza, removed every single Israeli soldier and military asset, turned the area over to the "Palestinians," ending every single vestige of "occupation."  The result was the raining down of thousands of rockets upon the Israeli civilian population fired from Gaza, some hitting Tel Aviv and some landing near the airport, plus the terror tunnels built to carry out large-scale massacres of Jews.  The Hitlerjugend on Western campuses may be marching around chanting that Jews are subhumans whose lives not worthy of being defended and protected, but no one is going to get very far in Israeli politics mouthing such a platform.  The huge bulk of Israelis see the Labor Party and the "center-Left" as directly responsible for turning Gaza into one huge rocket launching pad and putting almost the entire Israeli civilian population at risk, all in the name of "the need to end occupation."  Israelis now understand that Arab terrorism is not caused by Israeli occupation but by the ending of Israeli occupation.

That means that everyone knows that at the very first electoral opportunity, the Israeli voter will exact his revenge against those who turned Gaza into Hamastan.  That means the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni's "Tnuah" party, what is left of the once large Kadima bloc.

So the Labor Party, which in its first decades exercised a monopoly hegemony over Israeli government, is likely to fall in any new election far below the 15 parliamentary seats it managed to hang on to in the last elections (out of 120).

Livni's party is what is left from the larger Kadima party that implemented the Gaza capitulation and the conversion of Gaza into ISIS-South.  It managed to get 6 seats in the last election and was invited by Netanyahu to join his coalition.  There Livni herself pursued a leftist agenda within the government coalition.  As Minister of Justice, she appointed far leftist judicial activist court judges.  She also rallied in defense of the Islamofascist terrorist Haneen Zoabi, a Knesset Member from one of the Arab fascist parties, defending her from attempts to indict her for treason and terrorism.  There are serious doubts as to whether Livni's party will pass the minimum threshold and even make it into the next Knesset after the election.  The ultra-leftist MERETZ party, with 6 seats at the moment, is also likely to get pummeled in a new election.  Israel bashing is just not a great vote grabber in Israel these days.

They are not the only likely losers from a new election.  The wunderkind of the last election was TV personality Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party.  A bit of a Seinfeldian party, one about nothing, Lapid rode to power by painting himself as the voice of irate middle class Israelis upset at housing prices and determined to end exemptions from military service for religious yeshiva students.  After rising from nothing to 19 seats, Lapid was invited into the coalition and made Minister of Finance, a politically thankless position even for someone who had once taken freshman economics, which Lapid had not.  Determined to do "something" as Finance Minister, Lapid introduced a moronic proposal for reducing housing prices by increasing the demand for housing (granting new home buyers exemptions from Value-Added Taxes).   Then in recent months he introduced proposals for rent controls, price controls in some other markets, and boosts in the minimum wage.   Years ago I proposed requiring prospective Ministers of Finance to be able to get a B minus on an exam in Economics 101 and Lapid illustrates what happens when there is no such requirement.

Having delivered nothing, Lapid's party will probably lose at least half its electoral strength.  There is a popular Israeli pop song about "My heart is Racing a New Guy is Coming to the Neighborhood."   Well that new guy is Moshe Kahlon.  He is a well-liked good-looking ex-Likud politician with a very bright public image, considered honest and intelligent and clean.  He was the father of the reform and shakeup of the cell phone industry in Israel which resulted in sharp drops in prices for consumers.  He is setting up his own new party, so far unnamed, and it will run as the party of the middle class.  In other words, he will be out-Lapiding Yair Lapid.  His entry onto the stage dooms Lapid to an even sharper decline.

Yisrael Beiteinu, the party of sharp-tongued Russian immigrant strongman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is also due to take a drumming.  In the last election, it did not run as a separate party, but rather as part of a merger with the Likud.  So its own electoral popularity was not really put to the test, as it will be this winter.  In the past it managed to draw support from Israeli "hawks," above and beyond its power base among Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel, and was helped by being the party most hated by the Far Left.  But in the last election its ability to attract "hawks" was already being undercut by the emergence of Naftali Bennett's "Jewish Home" party.  And Lieberman has been involved in other shenanigans that are likely to undercut his popularity, such as his leading an anti-democratic campaign to shut down a daily newspaper because its editorial line is pro-Netanyahu.

Naftali Bennett's "Jewish Home" party was one of the great winners in the last election, winning 12 seats.  He would have likely done even better had not the Likud focused most of its attack ads and energies in the last weeks before the last election on attacking Bennett.   While Bennett and Netanyahu do not like one another at the personal level, and while the party has lost some of its glamour in some missteps and foolish policy positions, particular by Uri Ariel, Minister of Construction, Bennett's party is still the only reliably "hawkish" party left in the arena and is likely to benefit from the shifts in public sentiment.

The rest of the Knesset is unlikely to change much in the new election.  The religious parties and the Arab fascist parties will probably keep their strength at current levels.  The rump "Kadima" party of Shaul Mofaz will go the way of the dodo bird after the election.

The main net effect of the snap elections is likely to be a strengthening of the Israeli "Right" based around the Likud and a stronger Likud governmental coalition emerging.





Leadership in Genesis and in the Bible

By: Steven Plaut

Published: December 8th, 2014 
Latest update: December 7th, 2014

(This year the author, Steve Plaut, was the Chatan Torah in his Haifa synagogue.  The following is the Dvar Torah he gave at the kiddush that followed:)

I would like to speak to you briefly about the subject of leadership in the Book of Genesis and throughout the entire Bible. More specifically I would like to address the leadership role of Judah.

What exactly was it that qualified Judah for leadership? Indeed, Judah's leadership was not just in the generation of the biological offspring of Jacob but was an ongoing leadership that would last for many generations. Judah is described in Jacob's departing blessing thus: "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet until the coming of Shiloh." The last part of the sentence is considered to be an anticipation of the Messianic Era. Judah of course is the biological forefather of King David and so the Kings of Judaea and the future messiah all descend from Judah.

But what is so special about Judah? What was it exactly that qualified Judah as leader of his generation and even of the generations that follow?

Probably the most common answers to the question focus on the role that Judah played in the drama of the sons of Jacob and their adventures and challenges in Egypt, where - unbeknown to them - Joseph is the planning czar in control of the entire country. In particular, the role of Judah with regard to Benjamin is critical When Jacob hesitates in allowing Benjamin to leave home, Judah offers himself to his father Jacob as a guarantor for Benjamin. And then after Benjamin is arrested by Joseph's agents for the trumped up charges regarding theft of a chalice, Judah proposes that he himself be allowed to be imprisoned in place of Benjamin.

I would like to suggest that the real reason behind Judah's assuming the leadership role is not those incidents but rather a completely unrelated matter. It is to be found in a very different Biblical story, one of the weirdest of all stories in the Bible: the story of Judah and Tamar. As you recall, Tamar is the widowed daughter-in-law of Judah, who is reluctant to allow his eldest surviving son to marry Tamar. Instead, in order to establish a family, Tamar disguises herself and induces Judah himself to have relations with her, becoming pregnant with twins. The very presence of this story in Genesis is bizarre, and even more bizarre is its position in the Book - smack dab in the middle of all of the drama of the selling of Joseph into slavery, the subsequent rise of Joseph as Governor of Egypt, and the journeys of his brothers into Egypt to buy food.

Why was it so important to include the Tamar story at this point in the Torah? In part, it was to establish the earliest genealogical record for King David, the line from Judah through Peretz to the future king. But there is a no less important reason. At the end of the story of Judah, when his behavior has been "outed" by Tamar, Judah steps up and concedes that she is correct. I was in the wrong, says Judah, I regret my behavior.

That's such a big deal? Yes, that's such a big deal. Judah is capable of conceding that he was wrong, that he had made mistakes that he feels regrets. And THAT is precisely what qualifies him and his descendents for their future leadership role, holding the scepter and the ruler's staff.

To understand how amazing and unusual such behavior is, I would like to invite you to participate with me in a brief thought experiment. Try to think of OTHER figures in the Bible who similarly are willing to step up and admit that they had been in the wrong. You will quickly realize how rare this is and how difficult it is to point to other examples.

Indeed, it is highly instructive to point to the many leadership figures in the Bible who FAILED this "Judah Test," who were unwilling to step forward and admit that they had been in the wrong. Many such people were in fact the most important leaders of the entire Jewish people. I wish to review their failures not as some sort of attempt on my part to mock or belittle them but rather to emphasize how unusual such behavior is, how strongly it runs psychologically against the grain of human nature.

Let us begin with Moses himself, the most modest of all men. In Deuteronomy, in his long speech before the Israelites as they prepare to enter the promised land, he explains that he will not be going along with them. It was because of YOU, Moses berates the Israelites bitterly, that the Lord became angry with me and will not allow me to enter. Now our sages debate what exactly it was that constituted Moses' transgression, but they all agree that Moses transgressed. Moses however is incapable of coming to terms with this idea. So Moses himself fails the Judah Test.

What about his brother, Aaron the High Priest? He also fails it. As Moses descends from Mt. Sinai and sees Aaron with the Golden Calf, Moses screams Gevalt! (evidently they spoke Yiddish among themselves), brother what did you do? Well, says Aaron, the nation was running amok, going postal, they threatened me, I was afraid for my life, they killed Hur, so I did what I did. No admission of guilt. No contrition. No confession of error. Aaron gets an F in the Judah Test.

Joseph was the traditional challenger of and competitor with Judah for the leadership role, the "crown" of his brothers, both in the generation of the sons of Jacob and also in later generations. The kings of the northern kingdom were from the tribe of Efraim, descendents from Joseph, and there is the future "anointed son of Joseph" predating the "anointed of King David" in the messianic era. When Joseph is at last reunited with his father Jacob, there is no apology for never having sent a fax or SMS text message all those years letting Jacob know that he was alright, no apology for suspecting Jacob of complicity in his sale to the Ishmaelites, no admission of error. Joseph also fails the Judah Test.

Then there are the parallel twin stories involving Abraham and Isaac, in which each misrepresents his wife as his sister, leading to messy and dangerous political developments. All ends well, of course, But one might have expected an apology and admission of guilt, if not towards Pharaoh then at least towards your wife, sir!

There is in the Torah a special sacrifice in the Temple performed by the Nasi or tribal prince/president who has erred. There is also a well-known saying that happy is the generation whose Nasi errs, meaning the generation that has a Nasi willing to admit that he has erred. Such a Nasi is a great asset politically. The only problem is the lack of records of princes or kings admitting to error and offering the Nasi-Error sacrifice, and may be forgiven for being skeptical about how often such people actually emerged in leadership roles.

There is one glaring counter-example to this sorry track record, a leader who DID in fact admit freely that he had been in the wrong and who expressed regret and penance. That is King David, in the matter regarding Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite, and the Prophet Natan. But upon contemplation, this is not really a SECOND case in the Bible of a leader satisfying the Judah test. Rather it is the original case itself. The "Judahness" of Judah manifests itself in David, who is himself the scepter of Judah and ruler's staff. This is not a separate incident of willingness to admit error but a continuation of the original incident involving Judah himself!

There is one other place where we find numerous cases of people admitting to error and confessing mistakes. That is in the Talmud, which is filled with instances of sages stating a position, listening to counterarguments, and then conceding they had been in error. These of course are generally not political leaders but educational and spiritual leaders. Nevertheless, I find some of the charm of Talmudic discourse to be precisely this feature, the willingness of the players to concede error and admit mistakes. It occurs to me that part of our willingness to accept upon ourselves the halakhic authority of these sages so many generations later may be in part because these are people capable of admitting error and expressing regret.

May it be the fortune of the people of Israel that we be graced with leaders who are capable of admitting that they have been in the wrong and of confessing to error!





Hebrew University - Apartheid "Survey" Sponsor Amiram Goldblum (Dept of Pharmaceutical Sciences) Says Waving Israeli Flags Makes You a "Judeo-Nazi"

Professor Amiram Goldblum, a senior lecturer at Hebrew University and co-founder of the extreme leftist organization Peace Now, has made use of his Facebook page to tear into the nationalist camp, the Jewish Home faction and religious Zionism.

"Let someone dare say that this is not Judeo-Nazi youth," wrote Goldblum next to a video of the "rikudgalim" flag dance celebration on Jerusalem Day. "The Arabs are under curfew in the streets of the Old City. The apartheid that exists beyond the Green Line is in Jerusalem now. Jewish youths are raised on the monstrous style that we have seen in other places."

Prior to Jerusalem Day, Goldblum said that the right wing camp makes the historic day "look and sound like the neo-Nazi march through Skokie... let the call resound: fascists of the world, unite – the Golden Dawn from Greece, the religious right in Israel, brothers in fascism."


See also

Hebrew University - Mister Apartheid, Amiram Goldblum (Dept of Pharmaceutical Sciences), Takes to Social Media toContinue his International Call to Undermine Israeli Sovereignty


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