Monday, July 29, 2013

Releasing Palestinian prisoners: A crazy-stupid-brave thing to do

It demonstrates the strength of influence of the settler movement within the present government that, politically, it was easier for Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to the release of 104 Palestinian thugs, murderers, and terrorists than publicly acquiescence to a settlement freeze. It also says a good deal about Palestinian politics that it is important at all to Abbas, his cronies, and the Palestinian people to have those who have murdered Holocaust survivors, lynched IDF soldiers, and planted explosives at highway intersections back on their soil.

This just about sums it up:

As it happens, I think the release of these prisoners was a crazy-stupid-brave thing for Netanyahu to do. Crazy, because of the possibility of recidivism from this most violent of criminals. Stupid, because a settlement freeze announced publicly and enforced in full (at least outside the blocs) would have won greater acclaim. And brave, because Netanyahu is showing some commitment to the peace process with an action that will undoubtedly prove unpopular within his party and the nation at-large.

For why it will be unpopular, just read this list of the pre-Oslo prisoners up for release and their offences:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 Friday, June 28, 2013

If Netanyahu believed in peace, he’d leave the Likud

Depending on when you read this, is it possible that the disembowelling of the Likud by the most fanatical and idiotic of annexationists will have been completed.

The process has been short and swift. Prior to the last election, Likud primary voters selected a party list lousy with reactionary, myopic territorial maximalists: Ze’ev Elkin; Yariv Levin; Tzipi Hotovely; Miri Regev; Moshe Feiglin; and Ofir Akunis. In so doing, Likud voters pushed out a number of Revisionist Zionists who were considered to be too mushy, due in part to their respect of the most basic precepts of domestic and international law and norms: Michael Eitan; Dan Meridor; and Benny Begin.

Chief among those to benefit from the primaries was Danny Danon, a cheap and shallow charlatan and shameless self-promoter whose very name ought to make one’s skin come alive in irritation. Twenty-fourth on the Likud list in 2009, Danon shot up to fifth place in 2013, thus securing ninth place on the joint Likud Beiteinu list and the right after the election to demand for himself a cosy cabinet position.

All this is remarkable considering Danon is an astonishingly vapid and incurious man with no notable legislative or intellectual accomplishments who somehow became a deputy speaker in the last Knesset and Deputy Defence Minister in this one. Indeed, considering his main political proposal consists of annexing most if not all of the West Bank, never mind the Palestinians who live there, one might say his very existence is an anti-intellectual endeavour, or at least one not grounded in the real or substantial.

Danon’s principal interest, in fact, when not propagating land theft or attempting to suppress and denigrate Israel’s minorities is augmenting his international media profile and personal brand, doing whatever is necessary to grab five more minutes of airtime. This unappetising combination of self-aggrandisement and philosophical emptiness was best demonstrated when he considered inviting Glenn Beck – a man who has at the very least flirted with anti-Semitism in his criticism of George Soros – to address the Knesset Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee, about which he knows nothing at all. Only a shameless dope would consider this to be a tasteful or desirable thing to do.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another slap in the face from Netanyahu

From Peace Now:

Following a rumoured freeze, and Secretary Kerry’s continuing efforts to launch negotiations, Israel announces intent to establish four new settlements by legalizing existing illegal outposts.
 
On Tuesday, the Government submitted a formal response to Peace Now’s Supreme Court petition against six illegal outposts. In the response the government declares its intention to legalize four outposts, in isolated areas. 

The Civil Administration has been instructed to begin a process of legalizing the outposts of Ma’ale Rehavam, Haroeh, Givat Assaf, and Mitzpe Lachish. The former government had previously promised to remove the illegal construction built on private land, but had not declared its intention to legalize the outposts.

The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the petition on Wednesday, May 22nd.

All of these proposed new settlements — retrospectively legalised ones — are located outside of the Security Barrier and beyond the boundary line drawn by the Geneva Initiative, both of which form the basis for a future border between Israel and Palestine to be finalised in negotiations. This move is, therefore, another slap in the face delivered by Benjamin Netanyahu to his coalition partners Yesh Atid and Hatnua, his few partners for peace in the Palestinian Authority, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry who has been working diligently in recent weeks to restart the peace process.


View New settlements (16/5) in a larger map

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bibi: So, where’s the government?

Matt Yglesias posted this question on twitter the other day, I think it deserves a decent answer:

I’ll do the best I can, based on what I’ve read over the past long, long month and what I perceive to be happening post-election. The principal divide as it stands is between Benjamin Netanyahu on the one hand, and Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett on the other over the role of the haredim both in government and in Israeli society more widely. The specific issues which matter to both Yesh Atid and Jewish Home (and also Yisrael Beiteinu) are military service for all, a fairer housing policy, education and the implementation of a core curriculum in all schools, taking the rabbinate out of haredi control, and funding for the yeshivot.

(There is, also, a smaller parting over the role of Tzipi Livni as lead negotiator with the Palestinians, one which upsets both Lapid, who wishes to be Foreign Minister, and Bennett, who wants to wholly annex Area C of the West Bank and has condemned Livni possibly conceding Ariel or dividing Jerusalem in bilateral talks with Abbas and Fayyad.)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013 Wednesday, February 13, 2013

President Obama goes to Israel

President Obama will land in at Ben Gurion International Airport at around noon on Wednesday, March 20, where he will be greeted by President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu prior to an official welcome at the president’s residence. Hereafter, he will go to Yad Vashem in order to lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance.

Thereafter, Obama will visit Mount Herzl, where he will lay wreathes on the tombs of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin.

In the afternoon, Obama will conduct meetings with Netanyahu and various delegations in order to discuss the security situation in the region as well as the peace process. After a press conference, Obama and Netanyahu will take supper together, along with their staffs.

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(Source: ynetnews.com)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Friday, January 25, 2013

#IsraelVotes: Gathering the Loose Threads

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Such has been the pace of developments since the vote on Tuesday that there has barely been time to speculate — an excellent development, you might think! Already, it has become evident that an alliance between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid will be the basis of the next government of Israel. The only undecided how remains who will help prop this axis up.

For starters, Gil Hoffman in The Jerusalem Post reports that Netanyahu wishes to form a government made of 80 mandates so that if one party leaves, his premiership would not be brought to a close. Together, Yesh Atid and Likud Beiteinu have 50 MKs. It almost seems certain, according to Hoffman, that Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home will join as the third party, bringing the total up to 62 MKs. After that, Netanyahu is keen on adding the haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. This would make the magical 80 MKs. Lapid, on the other hand, is pushing for Tzipi Livni’s The Movement, while conceding that one of the ultra-Orthodox parties will have to be included. Shas and The Movement together would push the total mandates up to 79. If you include Kadima even, that makes 81 MKs.

If we take this reporting to be accurate — for the sake of argument — it almost going without saying that a Likud Beiteinu-Yesh Atid-Jewish Home-Shas-The Movement(-Kadima) government while being broad-based and covering most sectors of Israeli society would be extremely unstable and unwieldy. With this government, it would be rather difficult to pass a better sharing of the burden without the haredi parties rebelling and the left opposition consenting. The same can be said of any peace deal with the Palestinians, in that case with Jewish Home, some Likudniks, and maybe even the haredim rebelling. The kind of government Netanyahu and Lapid supposedly envisage wouldn’t last two years if they actually attempted to do anything substantive. It would be a case of tinkering with the status quo with that sort of coalition.

If Netanyahu chose to form a smaller government, then it would be a more nimble outfit, more capable of broader reforms. A government of Likud Beiteinu, Yesh Atid, Jewish Home, The Movement, and Kadima would have 70 mandates, and would for the first time in a good while have the power to radically alter the balance between religion and state in Israel, including wrestling the rabbinate out the hands of the ultra-Orthodox, instituting civil marriage, ending or reducing the massive subsidies currently granted to the haredi community, reforming the education system, and getting the ultra-Orthodox into military or national service (within reason). Replace Jewish Home with Shas, and any reform would be milder in flavour, more pinched, put at the same time perhaps progress on peace with the Palestinians — in theory — become more likely, since if haredi interests are catered to then generally speaking Shas will be satisfied.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
As Ronald Reagan used to say: Well…
As the chart shows (based on an average taken from the Channel 2, Channel 10, and Channel 1 exit polls), Yesh Atid stunned us all by far exceeding their projected 10 seats to gain 19 overall (possibly — these are exit polls). The decline of Kadima into oblivion (effectively, they might get one or two seats once the whole things shakes out) and rise of Yair Lapid in its place proves that there is the future (sorry) for centrist parties in Israel.
The other centrist (or centre-left, really) party to gain was Labor. The revival of this historic party was secured — a rise from eight seats to 17 — although their third place overall will be a disappointment to Yachimovich and her followers who saw themselves leading the leftist opposition. Meretz, meanwhile, more than doubled their allotment, rising from three seats to seven. Finally, Tzipi Livni’s Movement lost momentum though managed to hang onto the seven seats it in effect had before.
On the right, Likud Beiteinu continued their downward slide from 42 to 31 seats, while Jewish Home came out at the bottom end of their projected range of seats with 12. Talk of 16, 17, or even 18 seats turned out to be just that. As for the ultra-Orthodox, their parties both had relative gains on their previous tallies: Shas gained two seats, while United Torah Judaism gained one. The former will remain a key factor in coalition negotiations, no matter who’s doing the talking. Otzma Leyisrael and Am Shalem failed to register (though the former did score in the Channel 1 exit poll).
All in all, the balance between the left-centre-Arab bloc and the national-religious right moved towards the former, but still 61-59 to the right (compared to 65-55 four years ago). This negates the narrative of a massive rightward shift, though not to say that within the two blocs there haven’t been signs of movements in that general direction. On the right, the rise of Jewish Home and the fall of Likud demonstrates evolution towards a more religious kind of Zionism over Revisionism, with even less compromise on the Palestinian question. As for the centre-left goes, there has been a tilt away from peace and negotiations — or even talk of it — and towards a broad centrism based on domestic social and economic issues. Lapid, for example, believes in the wholeness of Jerusalem and of Ariel as part of Israel.
Thus, Benjamin Netanyahu is now (or will be) leader of the largest party in the Knesset, with centrist Yair Lapid as de facto Leader of the Opposition. Thoughts now turn to governance. More on that to come…

As Ronald Reagan used to say: Well…

As the chart shows (based on an average taken from the Channel 2, Channel 10, and Channel 1 exit polls), Yesh Atid stunned us all by far exceeding their projected 10 seats to gain 19 overall (possibly — these are exit polls). The decline of Kadima into oblivion (effectively, they might get one or two seats once the whole things shakes out) and rise of Yair Lapid in its place proves that there is the future (sorry) for centrist parties in Israel.

The other centrist (or centre-left, really) party to gain was Labor. The revival of this historic party was secured — a rise from eight seats to 17 — although their third place overall will be a disappointment to Yachimovich and her followers who saw themselves leading the leftist opposition. Meretz, meanwhile, more than doubled their allotment, rising from three seats to seven. Finally, Tzipi Livni’s Movement lost momentum though managed to hang onto the seven seats it in effect had before.

On the right, Likud Beiteinu continued their downward slide from 42 to 31 seats, while Jewish Home came out at the bottom end of their projected range of seats with 12. Talk of 16, 17, or even 18 seats turned out to be just that. As for the ultra-Orthodox, their parties both had relative gains on their previous tallies: Shas gained two seats, while United Torah Judaism gained one. The former will remain a key factor in coalition negotiations, no matter who’s doing the talking. Otzma Leyisrael and Am Shalem failed to register (though the former did score in the Channel 1 exit poll).

All in all, the balance between the left-centre-Arab bloc and the national-religious right moved towards the former, but still 61-59 to the right (compared to 65-55 four years ago). This negates the narrative of a massive rightward shift, though not to say that within the two blocs there haven’t been signs of movements in that general direction. On the right, the rise of Jewish Home and the fall of Likud demonstrates evolution towards a more religious kind of Zionism over Revisionism, with even less compromise on the Palestinian question. As for the centre-left goes, there has been a tilt away from peace and negotiations — or even talk of it — and towards a broad centrism based on domestic social and economic issues. Lapid, for example, believes in the wholeness of Jerusalem and of Ariel as part of Israel.

Thus, Benjamin Netanyahu is now (or will be) leader of the largest party in the Knesset, with centrist Yair Lapid as de facto Leader of the Opposition. Thoughts now turn to governance. More on that to come…