The Great Speech Drinking Game

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Israeli Elections, Pt. 5

Welcome back to this fine educational family feature. I apologize for the long time since the last post, but there were people shoving money at me and the bills don’t pay themselves.

As can be expected from the first half of the last month of the campaign, there has been much going on, from Bibi’s personal housing troubles to a scathing report by the State Comptroller about the performance of Bibi, and the administration before him, in handling Israel’s oppressive housing price bubble. Housing prices have doubled over the last decade while wages, of course, have come nowhere near that level of growth, leaving people to spend ever more of their income just to keep a roof over their heads. Bibi’s initial reaction, via Twitter, was priceless: “While we talk about the cost of living, I do not for one moment forget life itself. The greatest challenge to our very lives is a nuclear Iran.” And surely, comrades, you don’t want Jones to get the bomb!

All this (and the hilarious 20 minute video in which Bibi’s wife shows a celebrity designer how shabby and not at all extravagant and out of touch the official residence supposedly is [she showed him mostly the work and staff spaces, not the plusher upstairs living quarters]) deserves a post of its own. But as tomorrow is the Bibull in the China Shop show, it is more urgent to say a few words about the speech, Iran and the dread Ayatollah Nuke.

The Great Speech Theory of History

As for the speech, there is a simple point which I feel is overlooked: The line pushed by those who support the speech is currently: Whatever you feel about how the speech was handled, the issue is too important to let that get in the way. But the reality is that the whole point of this speech is to convince Congress to go against White House policy on the issue, and so the how becomes crucial. Netanyahu is far from ignorant of American politics, even if his conceptions of it belong somewhere in the early 90s at the latest. He knows that Republicans alone cannot win it for him.

Sure, theoretically they have majorities in both chambers and can push through a bill rejecting the as-yet undeclared Iran deal (ignoring for the sake of argument that the Democrats in the Senate can stall anything they want to enough). President Obama has promised to veto such a bill. So you need two thirds in each chamber to overcome that. That means a lot of Democrats. By conniving with Speaker John Boehner to engineer the invitation to speak before Congress as a dis of the White House, timed to steal Obama’s positive domestic momentum, and later by dissing an invitation from Democratic lawmakers to explain himself to them, Netnayahu has made it absolutely impossible to find enough Democrats to agree to overturn a Democratic President’s veto on on issue that has been purposely turned into a partisan pissing contest.

There are two main ways to explain Netanyahu’s insistence in the face of all this:

1) He has a romantic, not to say magical, belief in the power of a speech (not just any speech, but one by his own Winston-Reincarnated self) to overcome the stark political considerations laid above. It’s not the information he has to offer – that can and is disseminated to lawmakers on an individual basis with no need for a public showdown with the administration. Rather, he expects that the impact of the spectacle will be such that Democratic lawmakers will be left with no choice but to ride the overwhelming popular sentiment created by The Speech.

2) He knows that the actual effort will fail. Bibi (as well as many others, of course) has been talking about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran for over a decade now. Each year has been the crucial, fateful, make-or-break year on the issue, coming and going without making or breaking, only for the following year to be declared the one over and over again. Now, personally I believe that while it’s necessary to take steps against such a development, ultimately it’s useless to try to prevent a country like Iran from getting nuclear weapons if it really wants them. Iran is too populous, educated and rich a country for that. I know all about their economic problems but the regime has and always will have enough cash at its disposal. If dirt-poor, less advanced Pakistan can get a bomb, you’re not stopping the #2 petrol giant in the world from getting one. Not forever anyway.

The Cassandra Gambit

So, to return to the mighty orator, he knows that either a deal with Iran or Iran finally crossing the whatever technical threshold is now inevitable. He does not expect his speech to move enough Democrats to block the deal. He will ignore the fact that it was inevitable anyway, and position himself as the unheeded prophet of doom (glossing over the fact that he failed in six years at the helm in preventing said inevitability, despite selling himself in both elections as the only man for this specific job). Finally, He will ignore that, Iran’s breakthrough having been inevitable with or without the deal, the deal will mean the difference between the same danger with and without an inspection and early-warning regime. What’s important is that someday Iran will have the bomb, be it officially acknowledged or like Israel, on an everyone knows “obscurity” basis, and Bibi will be able to run around, his few remaining hairs blowing Cassandra-like in the breeze, and bray: TOLDJA!

And domestically? There’s a narrow plurality, within the margin of error, for those in favor of the speech here in Israel over those who oppose it (47%-42% I think). Problem is the issue itself ranks low on the “give-a-shit-meter” for most Israeli voters. So any expectation that this will deliver an extra seat or two that will seal a win seems farfetched to this humble observer.

That leads us, finally, to Netanyahu’s belated and panicking reaction to the fact that the America of 2015 is not the one he’s always prided himself on knowing so intimately, the one that is “very easy to move,” as he once bragged. Netanyahu apparently agrees with the more triumphalist demographic projections on the left, foreseeing a growing Democratic majority and a diminishing commitment to supporting Israel at all costs among young Americans – both the Jewish minority and the population in general. There have been reports that Bibi has “written off’ Obama. The way this speech has been handled, if we insist on ascribing it to more than a clusterfuck that got out of hand, implies that it’s not just Obama the PM has written off, but also the half or so of America that he represents. That’s a thought to drive many people to drink.

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I hope to write a separate campaign update, but while you devise a drinking game for for PM Oratoryahu’s great speech*, keep the above in mind. Thank you for hitching and please comment or donate before you leave.

* (Yeah, I clikbaited. Make up your own. Key words: Holocaust (+ any reference by date or euphemism), Jewish, Right to defend)

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Restart, Spin and Godwin in the #Israelex

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the #IsraElex, Pt. 4

It’s been a week, but it seems like much more. The #IsraElex campaign has switched into high gear with a number of plot changes and issues big and small. Welcome back to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Israeli Elections.

The contender to replace Bibi’s Likud as the ruling party, Zionist Camp, has fired its campaign team and rolled out a new, much more aggressive line of ads, finally attacking Bibi’s record and not just saying “It’s Him or Us” and promising absurd nonsense like “Zero Poor Elderly Within A Year.”

The new billboard banner (rolled out for trial under the name of the party’s youth staff) reads: “Only a sucker votes for Bibi.” The determination not to be a sucker – a “Fry-yer” in Hebrew, – is considered to be the quintessential Israeli trait. Kinda ironic, if ya think about it…

Zionist Camp’s new svengali is ad man Reuven Adler, who last thumped Likud for Kadima and Olmert in 2006 and surprisingly outscored them for Kadima and Livni in 2009. (Livni then failed to form a coalition, so Bibi became PM, but Adler delivered in terms of electoral results, narrowly outdoing Likud by a seat.)

“One in three children are hungry – and he buys breakfast for 20,000 shekels. Only a sucker votes Netanyahu”

Stick It To The Eggheads

But this (Zionist Camp’s reboot) failed to grab top headlines in light of the beside-the-point stupid uproar du jour, or de la semaine as the case may be. The reigning Levy-weight champion of the world, Bibi Netanyahu. is anxious not to talk about his actual record OR plans for the future (the party has no platform for the upcoming elections and Bibi practically never takes questions from the press). So he masterfully created a lil tempest in a teapot that won’t lose him a single vote nor garner the opposition any.

The Israel Prize, the country’s highest civil award for accomplishments in arts and science/education, is awarded by a panel of judges, who are appointed by the Minister of Education. That portfolio is currently in the hands of the PM, as it was vacated by Shai Piron, a member of the centrist Yesh Atid party, when the coalition fell apart and early elections were called.

So Bibi, ignoring the supposed tradition that says that you don’t do drastic things in election time (a tradition often violated, as a glance at Israel’s military history can show), used his power as acting Minister of Education to dismiss two of the judges on the panel. His excuse was that the panel is a cabal of establishment academia, which of course means leftists, and he wishes to “open the process to other segments of society.”

Problem is that the Israel Prize isn’t provenly biased against right-wingers. Former Minister of Ed. Limor Livnat screeched that “Naomi Shemer [quintessential Israeli folk songwriter and composer), Moshe Shamir (intellectual novelist) and Ephraim Kishon (internationally beloved humorist) never got the prize cause they weren’t from the ‘correct’ side of the spectrum!!”.

You know how this ends, right? All three were awarded the Israel Prize, in 1983, 1988 and 2002 respectively. (No correction and apology issued from the venerable Ms. Livnat, who was taken to task by Shemer’s grandson on facebook). Now, the Israel Prize IS indeed severely biased – against women (only around 25 17%) and Mizrachim (Jews of Mideastern and North African descent, around 8% of all prize winners) and of course non-Jews (no Arabs ever save for one Druze). In other words it’s by and large a white male mutual admiration society. But that doesn’t get the base’s blood roiling as much as “damn secular lefty eggheads looking down on us patriotic folk,”

So Bibi got to pose a little to the base as taking care of the hated leftist conspiracy against good regular peeps (at the expense of Bennett, who is now averaging a disastrous no-gain), and got to spend another week away from anything that would really cause a groundswell against him.

Shrinking Left Hits Back

Meretz has decided to start fighting hard for the 1-2 seats that have left it for Zionist Camp. It began by hurling a nasty (but justified) one at Zcamp’s #2 Tzipi Livni for her many switched allegiances over the years (Left Likud for Kadima, left that after losing a leadership primary election, then to the “left” with Labor). A bit overdone with the alarmist AV, I thought, but the sentiment was right.

Flip Flop Blues

Finally Approaching touchdown, a hearing was held at the Knesset’s elections committee on motions to disqualify MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad/Joint Arab List) and Baruch Marzel (#42 on the Yachad list, heads the Judo-Nazi “Power to Israel” faction). The DQ passed by foregone conclusion. Now the Supreme Court decides). Zionist Camp, though, set records for flip-flopping on this issue. First they said they’d vote yes (contrary to their stance on the very same question two years ago), then the Arabs made it clear that this would have consequences the day after the elections so ZCamp said they were reconsidering. Then they voted yes anyway. Sad part? It’s utterly possible they garnered a vote or two by doing so. Blegh.

The Eternal Jew

This just in! And you gotta fuckin’ see it to believe it. People thought Bibi’s new “Zionist Camp will bring ISIS to your doorstep!!!!”  video was offensive, but now the Samaria Settlers Council – the mainstream of Jewish Home’s base – have released this video. It’s subtitled in English so, um, enjoy, I guess.

The only thing that begs explanation is the name of the newspaper read by Mr Sturmer (Get it? Get it?). “Hasmol” means “The Left” in Hebrew. (In other news, a 75 year-old Jewish man in Paris was reportedly arrested for scribbling antisemitic graffiti. Dunno what brought that to mind.)

This is really what these elections are, or at least should be about – drifting closer to this insanity or making a serious course correction. The holocaust happened to all Jews on some level. The only difference is who has left the concentration camp behind and who’s still trapped in it.

Polls!

We gots lots and lots of new polls – 7 in the week since we last spoke – and the average numbers (rounded* to make exactly 120) are as follows:

Likud 25

Zionist Camp 24

Jewish Home 13

Joint Arab List 12

Yesh Atid 10

Kulanu 8

Shas 7

United Torah Jewry 7

Israel Beitenu 5

Meretz 5

Yachad (Shas’s ousted ex-boss and the Judo-nazis) 4

In terms of blocks: Right wing 42, left wing 41 (assuming the Arab List gets over the fact that Zionist Camp supported the motion to disqualify MK Hanin Zoabi from running this week…) with 37 left in play. Of these, Kulanu (8), Israel Beitenu (5), Shas (7) and UTJ (7) are considered more likely to cut a deal with Likud, giving Bibi enough for a coalition and a win. However, the religious parties have a huge grudge against Netanyahu, so they could be bought. Same for Kahlon, who left Likud to start his own party. Can’t see Liberman crowning a left-wing government. Maybe if Merertz is left out of it, which makes his contribution equal to his cost…

That was the update for this week, one month before the polls open. Keep visiting for more and thank you for flying the Hitchhiker skies**.

* Likud, Zionist Camp and Jewish Home are actually each polling one seat lower by just a bit. I rounded them up to make 120 seats. 

** Your appreciation for the content can be shown by sharing, donating (top of the page to the right), or not least by commenting. Thanks.

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Israel’s Left Loses Steam

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Israeli Elections, Pt. 3

A good elections blog explains what you already know everyone’s talking about now. A great elections blog tells you what everyone will be talking about tomorrow, and explains that*. Judging by that standard, this fine educational feature did quite well with its last installment, edifying its readers about the V15 brouhahah a full news-cycle or so before Likud embarked on a major attack about it and made it headline news in virtually every website and blog discussing the elections.

So people are still talking about it, but there’s a new twist – only it too fails to rise to the level of real scandal. The right is claiming that V15 constitutes illegal campaign funding because the One Voice (“Kol Echad”) NGO that’s coordinating the PAC received donations from the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Now, this is true as far as it goes. However, the devil – or salvation, for the accused left – is in the details. Prior to the calling of new elections, One Voice wasn’t in the business of calling for a change of government. It was (and is) dedicated to mobilizing public opinion in favor of the two-state solution. Before elections were called, it wasn’t calling on people to replace Netanyahu. It was calling on people to petition him as the man in charge in favor of action towards of a certain policy – one that Netanyahu professes to endorse as well, mind.

It was as such that One Voice received donations from the US government via its Tel Aviv embassy – which is fine since the two-state solution is openly a cornerstone of the US vision for the region. The last such donation was received 6 months ago – long before elections were called. Since One Voice has transformed into a partisan entity (Semi-. They don’t endorse a specific candidate, but rather call on the public to vote for any party left of Likud so that a more peace-process-oriented government can be elected), it has not received any donations from any foreign government, including the US.

All that notwithstanding, Likud has kept its slender lead in the polls, averaging precisely 25 in the 5 new polls since we last spoke. Zionist Camp, which flubbed its economic platform rollout this week (see more below), is averaging just a tad under 24. Full poll averages and calculations at the end of this dispatch.

Don’t Hide Your Stars

While Likud has been enjoying its resurgence in the polls and mostly avoiding any self-caused injuries, Zionist Camp had a pretty bad week which illustrated its embarrassing lack of an actual campaign. Early in the week it held a press conference to reveal its economic program, crafted by the party’s outsider candidate for Finance Minister, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg.

Alongside the man himself – no big favorite among the base, not a significant draw to any part of the electorate – were the two leaders of the list, Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog and HaTnua’s Tzipi Livni. Conspicuously absent: All the hot social justice stars who placed 2-3-4 in the Labor’s primaries, long-term worker’s rights advocate (and former Labor Chairwoman) Shelly Yechimovich and two of the top 5 figures of the massive 2011 social protests, Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli.

When asked as to their absence, Herzog glibly said that “they’re not here because they weren’t invited.” He totally didn’t seem to get that this does not speak well of whoever did the not-inviting.

Watch Stav Shaffir rip the right a new one in Knesset and tell me if you’d be hiding that on the campaign trail…

Don’t Join The Herd

The contender party further alienated its base by joining in the demands to disqualify MK Hanin Zoabi (of Arab-nationalist Balad and the Joint Arab List) from standing for election. Why? The usual. She’s a traitor etc, etc. Now, Zoabi does delight in seeing how close she can skirt the letter of the law without crossing it (and sometimes in bluntly ignoring it to do what’s right in her eyes, using her parliamentary immunity to get away with it).

However, painting her as a demon that simply must be exorcised from the body politic is an old obsession of the right. Just two years ago Herzog opposed the demand to bar her from running, saying “If you take out a brick, you dismantle the whole building. It’s a slippery slope.” What’s changed? Nothing significant. She’s made some very offensive statements, but nothing to compete with actually being on a ship trying to defy Israel’s blockade on Gaza – which wasn’t enough for the Supreme Court to accept her being DQ’ed by the Elections Committee last time.

What’s changed is that this time Herzog and Livni think they have to tack right to compete with Likud for the middle. I believe that is a wrong understanding of how electoral physics work. For a party in Zionist Camp’s position, what needs to be done is to clearly define itself as an alternative to the two secular centrist Parties, let alone to Likud. Joining in the rabble cries to disqualify someone whose constituency regularly reelects, just because she really pisses us off with her opinions and dares to speak them, is not the way to do that. You want the crown, you better lead and hope folks follow. Not follow the herd.

Shadow On The Right

What else? On the far edges of the Jewish right, where stated legislative goals become nigh-on impossible to distinguish from the Nazi Nuremberg laws, the former Chairman of Shas (the Sephardi-religious party) Eli Yishai, who was forced out a couple of months ago, has joined forces with the extreme right wing forces of “Power to Israel”. Together, they are finally polling above the threshold and winning 4 seats– which causes a commensurate ripple of seat losses at least halfway across the electoral map (since there are now only 116 for everyone else).

The Casino Scandal That Wasn’t

Before we go to the numbers, on Thursday Haaretz ran a blog post by veteran columnist and regular contributor Uri Misgav, saying a “very senior Japanese official” claims that Netanyahu asked the Japanese government to abolish its long-standing policy and grant his sugar-daddy, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a license to open one of his cash-suck factories on Japanese soil. If true, this would be textbook corruption on a vile scale.

However, within less than a day the item was taken down – but no apology was issued. It’s been reported by some that Haaretz has caved to an Adelson threat – but not one of a lawsuit. See, in addition to blowing $3 million a month on a free daily that functions as a Bibi cheering section, Adelson also holds the fate of Haaretz in his hands.

How? Well you know that print newspapers are a dying, money-losing enterprise, and an elitist paper in a small country like Haaretz doubly so. Haaretz is kept afloat by the fact that Adelson pays to print his rag at Haaretz’s printing press.

(Update: My bad. Such was the case until a year ago, when the Maariv newspaper went bankrupt and Adelson bought its printing press. [I knew this was being discussed, didn’t remember/realize it already happened.] This only makes the whole story more pathetic for Haaretz, but I apologize for the outdated info). Thanks to reader Lior Lubelsky for the heads-up.

But whatever the excuse, you don’t run that shit if you’re not prepared to defy the threats you know will come from the relevant parties. That is just not professional conduct. I actually believe it happened, but that’s not the point.

Finally, just to remind everyone what kind of person is at Israel’s helm: Bibi has announced that in an unprecedented move for a major (ruling!) party, Likud will not present an actual platform (the document that states what the party intends to do with the voter’s mandate). Why? “Because the media will use it to attack us”. Trust me, I’ll take care of you – but I can’t tell you how or my opponents will have a field day. Democracy, everyone! Big hand!

OK, polls** (average of the 5 new ones):

Likud 25, Zionist Camp 23, Jewish Home (hard right) 13, Joint Arabs 12, Yesh Atid+Kulanu (Jewish secular centrist parties) 19, Shas (Sephardic religious) 7, Torah Jewry (Ashkenazi religious) 7, Meretz 5, Yachad (nazi-like right wing) 4, Israel Beiteinu (right wing pretending to be center, embroiled in huge corruption case) 5

In bloc math it stands thus: Right wing 42, left wing 40 (with the Arabs in a blocking formation against Bibi), 38 up for grabs strewn in between. 61 needed to form a coalition, and in reality you want it more stable than that. Upon a closer look the left is in worse shape because Kulanu (8 seats as things stand now) and Israel Beiteinu (5) are considered to be more likely to cut a deal with Bibi than with Herzog. Shas (7) has actually announced this week it won’t sit in a “left-wing government” but as they like to say on Game of Thrones – Words are wind.

But there are 5.5 weeks left and much can change. I will do my best to keep you updated as it unfolds. Until then, thank you for reading. Please share and comment.

 

* Yes, I hear you, a great elections blog would publish more than once or even twice a week, and the way to get me to do that is to comment below. If you really want me to feel obligated (and if you appreciate the content to that extent) there’s a “donate” button at the top of the page…Most obliged.

** As usual, polling data courtesy of Project61 by my twitter buddy, the nice guy with the abhorrent views Nehemia Gerhshuni

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Jewish Goals, Arab Joints And Bottlegate

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Israeli Elections, Pt. 2

Welcome once again.

Since we last spoke there have been weekend polls. Remember that 2-3 seat lead challenger Zionist Camp was enjoying over incumbent Likud? Gone. Polls show the two either tied at 26 or Likud leading 27-26. It’s way early, but we report the heartbeat of the campaign as it happens. The slim sliver of light in the polls for the left side lies not in Meretz’s court, as the Jewish left-wing party now seems closer to 5 seats than to 6. However, Zionist Camp has not lost any strength, and is rather solidifying at 26 across all three weekend polls.

Likud’s gains come mostly at the expense of its own flanker, right-wing Bayit Yehudi (“Jewish Home”), and at the expense of the two secular right-wing parties, former Likudnik Moshe Kahlon’s “Kulanu” (“All of us”) and former TV pretty-boy Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (“There is a future”). BY is down to 15, 14, and 12 – bad news for what was supposed to be the juggernaut of this election cycle. (See more below.)

Both Likud and Bayit Yehudi are attacking “the left” (this btw seems to be the gist of both their campaigns in general – we hate the left! We hate ‘em more! etc,) this time for the existence of a nefarious group of donors (mostly American) and receivers (in Israel) named “V15”, plotting to effect democratic regime change against Bibi. (Foreign money to sway the elections!!! is the charge).

This is particularly rich coming from Bibi, whose donor list is massively tilted outside the country he’s fighting to stay in charge of. His sugar daddy is US multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who burns $3 mil a month to run a free daily mass-circulation newspaper dedicated to support of one single politician. Bayit Yehudi also get tons of their money from rich American and French Jews.

Used to be the right would claim the problem was that, unlike the right’s private (mostly Jewish, with the odd antisemitic “Pro-Israel” evangelist) donors, the left’s civil society foundations took money to influence Israel’s business from foreign governments (such as arms of [or mainly supported by] the European Union that exist to support causes outside Europe).

This time that dog won’t hunt, so they’re trying to cry that some of the political machinery that works for President Obama’s campaigns is suddenly helping the dastardly dread Left here in Israel. This would fly a tad better if the Prime Minister crying foul hadn’t just recently been seen in the process of letting the Republican Speaker of the House use his magen-david-tattooed dick to piss on said Democratic President…

Welcome to Jamaica, have a nice day...  3bf84c72e5704fd691f6eb9b52da3dc0

Besides, ain’t nothing new about the political help either. Clinton’s team of Stanley Greenberg and Jimmy Carville (I love Jimmy) worked for Ehud Barak against Bibi in 1999. Republican super-adviser Arthur Finkelstein worked for Bibi since 1996.

Another scandal currently rocking the so-called start-up nation is known as BOTTLEGATE. Bibi’s wife, Sarah Netanyahu, has a long history of allegations of unstable and abusive behavior. With this scandal, for the first time, the claim is surfacing that the problem is alcoholism (rather than, as was suspected before, a mental-health condition she was refusing to take medication for).

Now this is gonna sound bizarre, but it’s true: Apparently the Prime Minister’s house buys a shitload of alcohol (in addition to large amounts of soft drinks of course). That’s not the point, although the numbers (spent mostly on one type of $22/bottle red wine) are kinda staggering ($25K over two years, but a peak of $12.5K over a 3-month period with no unusual entertaining patterns). Now the vino was bought on the taxpayer’s dime and in principle that’s fine. Point though is she’d have the staff collect the bottles, take them to the recycling plant like a good citizen – and pocket the cash.

I mean, the bottle deposit refund should go back to the actual payer, right? Not like the public coffer, but the Official Residence budget. At least that’s the way I (and the law, apparently) figure.

I’m sure it’s nice, but that comes out to quite a bit of wine.

Bibi and Sarah are rich. Their declared net worth is slightly over $10 million.  That’s more here than it is in the US. He’s not the richest politician, but he’s done well for himself for someone who for most of the past 30 years has been earning a government salary and enjoys the high life. The idea of his wife scheming to cheat on bottle refunds seems outlandish – but we know that she “voluntarily” returned about $1,000 (4,000 shekels) worth of back deposit money. A guy who used to work at the residence (and is currently suing her for treating him like crap) claims that the real figure is probably closer to six time that amount over a 4-year period. Some would call it petty cash but, you know, WTF?

The other big story was Bennett’s scoring into the wrong goal. Twice. Bayit Yehudi were getting rave reviews (professionally-speaking) from knowledgeable observers for their campaign until last week, and Chairman Naftali Bennett apparently decided he could pull stuff from his backside and people would call it a rose. He decided to wink to the low-class, low-income, low-brow electorate by using one of his reserved seats in his party’s list to guarantee a Knesset seat at the 11th spot for former local soccer god and shampoo model Eli Ohana. Ohana was one of Israel’s greatest on the field, but absolutely mediocre both as a coach (where he got jobs either through politics or because it was his old team Beitar Jerusalem) and as a TV analyst.

 Eli Ohana 

When it was first announced some would-be-shrewd observers praised the move, saying it would sway some of Likud’s die-hard electorate. We’ll never know cause the BY base was not having it. The base threw a shitfit, replete with gems like Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked trying to placate hundreds of irate activists over whatsapp with: “look, we needed someone who’s Mizrachi and grew up poor”. In US-speak, that’s “we needed a token ghetto candidate”. One prospective MK actually quit over it and another turned down an additional reserved seat (over a slightly different political blunder by Bennett).

Despite accepting and recording a campaign video (“I grew up poor, but I was proud of my country, when I wore its colors on the field and now…”) Ohana withdrew after a couple of days, saying “Hey, I didn’t know y’all would have such a conniption…” The party came out of the whole affair looking both inept politically and kinda racist (towards Mizrachi Jews and not just Arabs), as evidenced by the polls.

Lastly, there was some shooting up north as you may have heard, and that may have helped Likud in the polls in a “rally ’round the leader” kind of way. Israel had recently killed a senior Iranian officer scouting the border on the Syrian side with some Hizballah people. This week Hizballah killed two Israeli soldiers with an anti-tank missile at a patrol jeep. Bibi huffed and puffed but quickly reached a tense “neither of us wants blood right now” understanding with Hizballah. Zionist Camp Leaders Herzog and Livni didn’t cover themselves with any glory in the response, but rather went to pose near the border in leather jackets and shades along with their shadow-Minister of Defense. Meretz tried to mend fences with its hardcore base by taking a clear stand against any escalation, but got hit by a TV expose on its connections with the corrupt National Jewish Fund (controls 13% of the country’s land).

Speaking of the polls, we’ll wrap up with a quick breakdown of what they (average of last 3) mean in the big picture:

Right-wing bloc: 40

Left-wing bloc: 31

Center secular: 21

Ultra-religious: 15

Joint Arabs: 12

While both blocs could conceivably persuade all  of the secular center and both the religious parties to form a coalition with them, the 12 seats of the Joint Arab List will only be used against Bibi. They don’t want to sit in the coalition (that’s too much complicity in Israel’s actions for all of them and in its very existence as Israel for some), but they will join a blocking formation against the right and generally support a left-wing government against a vote of no-confidence. So in some ways it’s Left bloc 43, Right bloc 40, 37 in play for both sides. The whole Arab vote issue deserves a post of its own, which I know I promised. Coming up real soon. Until then, thanks for hitching and hitch me up with a comment so I know you made it this far. Most obliged.

* Polling data courtesy of the excellent polling collation and analysis “Project 61“, by my right-wing, religious* twitter buddy Nehemia (The Wunderkind) Gershuni.

* Abhorrent views, but hell of a nice guy other than that…

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Israeli Elections: Pt. 1

Friends, Americans*, Countrymen, lend me your ears (eyes, minds, work with me here). I come not to confuse y’all but to break it down. To tell the truth, I wasn’t even feeling terribly inspired to tell you folks all the ins and outs of the Israeli election, but ole @johnboehner decided to force our PM on your politics and himself and y’alls domestic strife on our politics, so I guess y’all interested parties now and deserve an explanation on what in tarnation all the ruckus be about. Settle in, grab a sip and a bite, this’ll take a few.

* I'm American by birth. I get to say that.
Non-Americans welcome along for the ride, of course.
Apologies in advance for the yankee-centric imagery

Israel, which in the spirit of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can be termed “mostly a democracy**, is having general elections.

** (that it to say, it is a democracy to most - 
not all - of those it controls)

Q: When?

A: March 17

Q: Who’s up for election and re-election?

A: Everyone. The entire legislature (Knesset), the majority of which appoints the government and the Prime Minister (so that job’s up for grabs as well).

Q: Who’s running?

A: Lots of folks. A dizzying, GameofThrones-like array of characters and allegiances, but I’mma break it down for y’all.  (let it be broke, mofo!***).

*** (This is an invitation to play "place that quote")

The two main, and practically sole contenders for Prime Minister are the incumbent, Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu (you can call him that), and the challenger, Labor Party Chairman Yithak “Boujie” Herzog (but don’t call him Boujie! He’s trying to brand as serious and PM-worthy, and that’s too cutesy and soft a nickname his momma tagged him with).

Who are they? Well, if you don’t know (and have some opinions about) Bibi chances are slim you’re reading this, but see here (reference link under construction) for a summary of him (and others) as candidate and PM.

Quick bio recap:

Netanyahu (65) is the son of a world-famous expert on Medieval Jews in Muslim and Christian Spain. Eternally Bereaved Brother of mythological ground commander of the legendary Entebbe hostage rescue, Yoni Netanyahu.

Bibi (who also served in the fabled Matkal commando unit, but at lower rank) was living at the time in the US, under an American name, with a non-Jewish wife. The death of his brother, whom their father had always groomed for public greatness, summoned Bibi back to the fold to take the mantle upon himself, which required among other things getting rid of the shiksa spouse. Bibi, with polished English uncommonly good in Israel (especially back then) and fine debating skills, climbed quickly in Likud, rising from UN Ambassador, through Deputy Foreign Minister, to win control of the party in 1992, first becoming PM in 1996 (till ’99, then again from 2009 to now).

Herzog (54) is the son of Israel’s sixth President, Chaim Herzog, who had also been a military general and Ambassador to the UN, where he won undying fame for contemptuously ripping the Assembly General’s 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism on the UN podium. His son Boujie served in the military as well, rising to Major, and then became a lawyer, inheriting a partner’s position in one of Israel’s most powerful law firms.

His first national political exposure came in 1999, as campaign manager to a victorious Ehud Barak and Labor campaign, and immediately thereafter as Secretary of the Cabinet under Barak. He came into the spotlight in unflattering circumstances, when he refused to cooperate (basically taking the fifth, in US terms) with a police investigation regarding campaign violations. He has since served in four consecutive Knessets (since 2003) and served as Minister of various departments on behalf of Labor as a junior coalition partner (including in Bibi’s 2009-2013 administration.) He has been Housing, Tourism, and Welfare Minister, as well as holding lesser portfolios.

Early elections were called in early December after Bibi and his main coalition partner, centrist Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party (19/120 Knesset seats), each lost the ability to work with the other at all. Lapid was joined by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni with her 6-seat party in leaving the coalition (well, technically being fired by Bibi, but deliberately bringing things to that pass). Since then the twists and turns have been thick and heavy, but I’ll try to pick a minimum of crucial ones to the big picture.

Remember Tzipi Livni? Leaving the coalition with her 6-seat party? Well, after polling at the edge of survival**** for a week or two, she made the first splash of the election by negotiating a very favorable (for her) deal to unify with Labor (15 seats/120 in the outgoing, polling a tad better at this point). Usually when a party A unites into a single list (that is, not merging parties, but running as a single unit in a given election) with party B, and party A is 2.5 times bigger, the head of party B gets the number 2 spot and a few reserved seats in the unified list for their people, and consider themselves to have done pretty well. Livni not only got the number 2 spot in the unified list (and guaranteed spots for 5 more people under the 25th spot), but an agreement that should Herzog form the next coalition, he would rotate with her after two years. If Herzog did not prove terribly sharp bargaining skills (always a must for leadership in the land of bazaars) he did prove he was fully willing to put ego aside in order to maximize any possibility of actually winning the elections and switching the course of the country after 6 years of Likud and right-wing policies.

**** (there's an electoral threshold, currently set at 3.25% 
of all votes, which translates to 4/120 Knesset seats)

However, a deeper reading of this deal will show that while Livni drove a fantastic bargain, it’s mostly a prestige paper achievement. Sort of similar to a pro athlete’s bombastic new contract: “100 million for 6 years!!! – of which 2 years and 25 million are guaranteed.” The athletes are not that dumb. They know this, but there is symbolic capital in signing a 100 million dollar contract, even if you won’t actually get most of that. Livni is not likely to get to be PM even if Herzog gets to be PM for two reasons:

a) After two years he can refuse and dare her to take her 6 seats and leave the coalition. Chances are he’ll still have a slim majority in Knesset if he managed to form a coalition in the first place.

b) Now that Livni got such a deal, any prospective coalition partner with the most seats behind him (a number bound to be greater than 6) will settle for no less. So even if there is a rotation, it won’t be with Livni. But hey, props on your 100 mil contract, playa.

The practical upshot of all this is that as of this writing, the gamble Herzog and Livni took has paid off pretty resoundingly. They Labor and livni’s “Hatnua”party held 21 combined seats in the outgoing Knesset and never polled higher between the calling of the election and the deal. They immediately polled at around 22 following the deal and have been averaging 25 over the past few weeks – maintaining a slim 2-3 seat lead over Likud.

So, why are the headlines not screaming “upset!” yet? Glad you asked. In the Israeli system (a parliamentary one as opposed to a presidential one like in the US), there is no separation in elections between the legislative and executive branches. You don’t vote once for the guy in charge and once for you personal rep to look after your share of the pie. You vote for your favorite party. If it’s the largest one it normally (but not always) gets to be at the head of an alliance of parties called a coalition, that form a majority in Knesset (i.e 61 or more/120). If you voted for the second smallest party you normally (again, not always) get to spend the term rooting for the team on defense that’s trying to cause a turnover and regain possession of the ball.

This leads us to the second crucial difference between the systems: In the US, short of praying for a President from the other party to die or trying to cook up grounds for impeachment, there’s nothing for the party out of power to do but wait 4 years for the next round (it can form a majority in the legislature and use that to impede the President, but it can’t seize the executive branch). In a parliamentary system where power depends (always has here) on coalitions, the party out of power can spend its time trying (as Sun Tzu recommended) to break up its opponent’s alliances. Once you convince enough coalition members to defect, the government no longer has a majority in Knesset. When that happens a “vote of no confidence” is called. If such a vote passes by absolute majority, new elections must be held. The shortest-lived coalition in Israel’s history was Ehud Barak’s Labor-led administration from 1999-2001 (lasted 20 months). Several lasted the full four years or close enough to it. Sometimes the main party in power will engineer a fight with its coalition partners in order to call for early elections when it believes it will gain more seats in a new election than it has without them. Sometimes it’s the junior ally who makes that calculation and picks an issue to split over.

Why am I explaining all this? Because even if the election results match the current polling, Bibi will have a better chance at a stable coalition (one with as few partners as possible, to minimize the different vectors pulling it apart with their different demands and interests). Bibi and Herzog each have one natural ally to the radical end of them – Bibi a right-wing ally (the mostly religious Bayit Yehudi party, under high-tec rich guy Naftali Bennet) and Herzog a left-wing ally (the mostly-white-bread liberal Meretz party, under career politician and activist Zehava Galon). Even if Bibi finishes with three seats or so fewer than Herzog, he has the stronger basic building block for a coalition with Bayit Yehudi, which is polling at 15-16/120 seats, compared to 5-6 for Meretz.

Is all lost for those hoping for a change in government? No, but at current results, it will be an uphill battle for Herzog to be the first to complete a puzzle with 61 pieces or more. Here’s how it works:

The President chooses who will be the first to “get the ball” so to speak and receive two weeks to attempt to score by putting together a coalition that will pass a vote of confidence in Knesset. (President is a mostly ceremonial position. This is his most influential role.) The process is that after the votes are counted and the seats in the new Knesset are assigned, the President calls the heads of the parties and asks for their recommendation as to who should be chosen to form a coalition. If a clear majority of the Knesset recommends one guy, it’s over and that person will, barring bizarre developments, quickly conclude coalition deals with enough partners and be PM. If there is no clear majority it’s completely at the discretion of the President, who still has to take into consideration who has the more realistic shot to get it done so as not to waste the nation’s time.

Now, if a candidate gets the first shot but doesn’t have a majority already agreeing to form a government with him, he has to negotiate with each partner he can possibly work with and give them a piece of the pie. This is where the other party can play active defense: It can also negotiate with all the other (or any of) the other parties and try to persuade them NOT to sit with the party that got the first crack. If they succeed in putting together a majority in Knesset that refuses to sit with the other guy, they have created what’s known as a “blocking bloc” (sounds bad in English, I know. Call it a blocking alliance or whatever). Having managed to cooperate on denying the leading candidate the job, such a blocking coalition will usually manage to form an actual ruling coalition together and enter into power. This is Herzog’s most realistic path to the crown. Bibi will get the first nod because he has a solid 38-40 seats (at current poll numbers) whereas Herzog will only have 30-32 (again, at current numbers. Lotta football to be played here yet). The rest of the parties mostly lie generally in the middle between the two, be they center-secular or religious parties.

The one exception to the above is the secret ace up Hetzog’s sleeve – the Joint Arab List. This list, a new election-specific union of the three Arab (or Arab-majority) parties is a huge story in itself, and one which will wait till the next chapter in this series*****.

***** This takes time to write and format and upload. 
If you found this content helpful and want more 
you have to let me know, 
or more pressing (and remunerating) demands on my time 
will inevitably win out. 
Speaking of which - if you really dug it and want more, 
there's a "donate" button, 
but a share and even more so 
a comment are no less important. 

(of course, if a bunch of you silently donated I'd say thank you 
and live with that too, but a rolling discussion is half the fun...).

Thanks for reading.

Update: Fixed the comment problem. Donate button’s stuck at the top of the page. You may also comment on my facebook page or hit me up on twitter.

 

Posted in Israel, Israeli politics | 2 Comments

A Short History of Zionism, Chapter 1

Following is an excerpt from the book “A Short History of Zionism” I am currently writing. If you wish to support this endeavor, please contribute here. If you are unable to contribute but wish to show your support, please spread the word on social media, your own blog and anywhere else you see fit. Thank you. 

 A famous story, now debunked, tells of Chinese premiere Zhou Enlai, who was asked during US President Richard Nixon’s famous visit to China in 1972 what he thought about the French revolution. Zhou, the story has it, said that it was “too early to tell,” thus encapsulating the difference between Occidental and Oriental historical perspectives in four pithy words.

Zhou, it appears, was asked and answered about the much more recent 1968 student uprisings throughout the Western world, but the story has stuck; not least, because the French revolution really was an event of momentous, far-reaching implications, far beyond the question of who would rule over the French, some of which took many decades to unfold.

The uprising of the French bourgeoisie against their decrepit monarchy, and the subsequent Napoleonic wars, did more than shatter the walls and castles of the feudal way of life. They also served to bring down the walls, half forced from without and half self-erected, of the Jewish ghettos throughout western and central (and, to a lesser extent, eastern) Europe.

Although they were fighting for an autocratic ruler who would soon crown himself Emperor, the soldiers of Napoleon fought in the name of the democratic, humanist ideals of the revolution, and they brought that spirit to the lands they conquered throughout the continent of Europe. Even when they ultimately lost, as in Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia, they penetrated deep enough to ensure that the ideas they carried would infect the local populations to irrevocable effect.

This development was accelerated, like a fire by drought conditions, due to a process internal to Jewish communities known as the Haskalah, which took place in the from the mid 1700’s into the early 19th century. This word, literally meaning “education”, is more commonly translated in this context as “enlightenment”, as it sought to incorporate into Jewish life and Jewish thought the values of the European enlightenment movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. This movement, however, was limited at first to a small part of the Jewish population that had both the education and means to interact with the general public and study the European thinkers. Most of the Jewish population of Europe was slowly rebuilding from the massive death-count of the 1648-9 pogroms in Eastern Europe (and the coincident general vicissitudes of the Thirty-Year War in the center and west of the continent, which ended at the same time).

Ideas do take time to seep through the populace, more so in times predating our modern forms of mass communication. But within two generations of Napoleon’s fall, thanks to the new ideas of freedom, equality and the relation between the individual and the state, Jews were granted equal rights under the law in the vast majority of western and central Europe, in a process known as “Emancipation.” The walls of the ghetto could no longer stem the flood of new ideas into the Jewish community, or the flow of talented Jews rushing to take their place in the intellectual life of the continent, internalizing its latest ideas and applying them to their own circumstances.

 ***

The first new idea the newly liberated Jews had to internalize – or rather, process and find a way to counter – was that their very identity was passe’ and that Judaism had outlived its historical usefulness. Of course, this wasn’t really a new idea, as Christians had been proclaiming it ever since they began distinguishing themselves from Jews some 1800 years earlier, but since Hegel the claim had a philosophical veneer, and not just a religious one.

The first person to take up the challenge was a man named Rabbi Nachman Krochmal. He was born in 1785 in the town of Brody, in the region historically known as Galicia, then considered part of Poland and now in current-day Ukraine. Krochmal was born to a religious family and his early education consisted of religious studies and Jewish philosophers, such as Maimonides and Ibn Ezra. However, at a young age he met a group of “Enlightenment” types, and through them was exposed first to Jewish Enlightenment thinkers, such as Moshe Mendelssohn and Salomon Maimon. Then he learned German, so as to study the great thinkers of the age – Fichte, Schelling, Kant and Hegel – in the original. He soon became one of Polish Jewry’s leading lights and gathered a significant following. However, his great work, “Moreh Nevochei HaZeman” (Guide for the Perplexed of the Time) was only published posthumously in 1851 (Krochmal having died in 1840), by his student Yom Tov (Leopold) Zunz.

Like Maimonides before him, (and like Philo of Alexandria, who wrote around the time of Jesus), Krochmal attempted to reconcile Judaism with the leading philosophical currents of his day, hence the title of his book, which is very similar to the great Maimonides work “Guide to the Perplexed” and not at all by coincidence. Krochmal attempts to use the Hegelian method and toolbox, so to speak, while countering Hegel’s specific claim that the historic relevance of Judaism – and, by extension, of the Jewish people – has expired. He accomplishes the first part by accepting the model, ascribed to by Hegel and others, which holds that every civilization has three eras: that of growth and development, that of endeavor and great deeds, and that of degeneration and decay. However, he argues, the Jewish people are unique in that they have not one but at least three distinct such cycles (the first being from Abraham to the destruction of the first temple, the second coinciding roughly with the existence of the second temple, and the third from the writing of the Talmud to the devastating pogroms of 1648-9, with a fourth cycle about to begin). This uniqueness, Krochmal argues, is due to Jewish nationality being rooted in spirituality, in fact deriving directly from the “absolute spiritual” of Hegelian thought.

Whether or not one agrees with this somewhat self-congratulatory analysis, it was presented in a deft and nimble enough manner to enable Jewish intellectuals to embrace the core of European thought, while holding on to their own group identity, and it got the ball rolling.

 ***

Meanwhile, Jews throughout Europe were discovering several unpleasant truths regarding the supposed blessings of the emancipation. The first was that being allowed to mingle in general society, and compete with gentiles for jobs, significantly increased tensions and antisemitism. The second was that in return for being afforded legal equality under the law, Jews were tacitly being required to renounce any and all group identity beyond that of a religious community. Ironically, just as many Jews were shaking off the reins of religion, they discovered that they didn’t really want to do that – that there was something, beyond the commandments they were no longer keeping, that connected them to one-another.

But it wasn’t just how they saw themselves. A famous political science quip holds that a nation is a group of people with a common misconception as to their origins and a common dislike of their neighbors. By this measure, the Jews, emancipated or not, didn’t really fit in with the societies in which they lived. They didn’t share the much of the common culture (religion, holidays, etc.), had their own language, and also their own origin story. Plus, they felt much the same about Gentiles of “their” nation as the ones across the border. The Gentiles knew this and never really accepted the Jew as “one of them.”

Some, like the new Reform Judaism movement, which was founded in Berlin in the 1840’s (and even included the aforementioned Leopold Zunz), welcomed this line of thought, which viewed Judaism and Jewishness as nothing more than a religious identity (and a diluted one at that). They insisted that they were as German as any Junker, just “Germans of the faith of Moses”, but many others rejected both Reform Judaism itself and its disinterest in Jewish group-identity.

One of the most prominent standard-bearers of this rejection was a man named Heinrich Hirsch (Zvi) Graetz (1817-1891). He received a religious education at Wollstein Yeshiva, and taught himself languages and secular studies. At first his attempt to enter a general university was rejected by the authorities, but Graetz showed great tenacity, arranging a sort of apprenticeship for himself under one of the great rabbis of the day, and finally gained admittance to the University of Breslau (current day Wroclaw, Poland), where he studied philosophy, history, physics and oriental studies. In 1845 he completed his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Jena (now known as Friedrich Schiller University). His thesis, on “Judaism and Gnosis”, was written in Latin.

After acquiring said degree he began teaching at various Jewish schools, and busied himself with fierce attacks on Reform Judaism, as well as the composition of his magnum opus – The History of the Jews, in 11 volumes. The composition, which is riddled with inaccuracies, methodical deficiencies and downright sloppiness, was nonetheless heralded as a seminal work at the time (and served as the basic text on the subject for decades afterward), being the first ever attempt at authoring a national history of the Jewish people – or at least the first since Josephus, 1800 years prior. It set the foundation for looking at the Jewish people as a nation with a unified culture and an ongoing history, rather than just a religious group. This was in keeping with the new vogue in Europe following the French revolution, where nationality was becoming the foremost frame of reference for the individual and for groups.

These two, and particularly Graetz, were to set the stage for the appearance of the first truly Zionist text, written by a man who has the distinction of being heralded as the founding father of two great historical movements. We shall introduce him in Chapter 3.

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Arik and I Won’t Change The World, After All

When news came earlier this week that a legendarily reclusive and utterly iconic Israeli singer, actor, comedian and all-around culture symbol would begin publishing a weekly newspaper column, I had one of these weird excited-trepidation moments. It could be really cool or really disappointing, and you find yourself immensely invested emotionally in hoping it won’t be the latter. A few days later, tonight, out of fucking nowhere, he had a heart attack and passed away. I am writing this as tears dry on my cheeks.

My entire Hebrew feed is in shock and mourning. Like someone tweeted, nobody can remember when everybody’s reaction to a news event was so uniform. (update: almost. But it’s like 90-95% which is unheard of). No cynicism, no snark, just degrees of sadness.

Arik Einstein (Jan. 3 1939 – Nov. 26 2013) was for many people, without hyperbole and with perfectly good reason, Israel encapsulated. He was the golden boy. A star with the most common touch and not a shred of pose. Effortlessly talented in basically every stagecraft but dancing. An iconic singer and songwriter, the star of Israel’s most iconic comedy film and first great comedy TV show; hell, dude was even a national high-jump and shot put champion in high school. The soundtrack of our lives for decades.

Although he wrote the lyrics to an astonishing number of universally loved Israeliana standards, his greatest talent was as a singer. Without any astonishing vocal range, he could effortlessly reach the pinnacles of delivery in a variety of styles, with pitch-perfect emotional touch. He could be a romantic crooner and a sneering rocker, a sly jester and a wide-eyes dreamer, and always someone you felt you knew, even after he lived reclusively for decades. He had #1 hit singles with lyrics by Israel’s national poets, Chaim Nachman Bialik and Nathan Alterman (among many others) and melodies by Israel’s top composers, and he had #1 hit singles with more “frivolous” pop and rock lyrics and arrangements, with nonsense songs and kiddie album songs. Not just #1 hit singles either – landmark songs that stand the test of time. We’re talking songs so iconic you can’t help but identify with even as you notice how “corny” the lyrics (mistakenly or not) seem. Songs that capture, in plain language but finely crafted, the essence of the Israeli (Jewish) experience.

Some will just have to start as soon as possible with the sociological deconstruction of it all (which is both unavoidable and necessary, just not right now, OK?), using the occasion to point out that Einstein really represented the more privileged side of Israel’s Jews. The white side. And that like Chuck D famously said about Elvis, there are neighborhoods where Einstein wasn’t that relevant at all.

Well, in response to that, before I offer you a quick overview of Einstein’s long and fruitful career, let me just offer a quick story from personal experience: My best friend in elementary school came from a pretty old-school Iraqi-Israeli home. His parents and their contemporary kin were born and raised in Baghdad spoke to each other mostly in Arabic and listened mostly to music in Arabic, which my friend was also into. He was the first to introduce me to quality old-school Israeli “Mizrachi” music, of which he had an impressive collection. In short, dude was heavily grounded in his Mizrachi heritage, ok? And yet, he also fucking LOVED Arik Einstein. And there are many like him. It is far from only European-descended Israelis who are in mourning right now.

Einstein covering The Beatles “Do You Want To Know A Secret” in Yemeni folk-song style

**

 In Israel, the “60’s” happened at a delay of close to a decade after the US and Europe. The 70’s were Israel’s breakout decade from the musty propriety of the WW2 generation, and Arik Einstein is undoubtedly the person you find at the largest number of seminal junctions in that period.

In 1956, in his senior year in high school, Aryeh Einstein, son of well-regarded stage actor Yaacov Einstein of the Ohel Theater, won the national championship in the high jump and the shot put. He was also a promising basketball star, and planned to spend his upcoming compulsory military service as a sports instructor. Short-sightedness, discovered in the pre-draft military checkups, put an end to that plan, and his father encouraged him to try out for one of the military music bands which at the time created most of what Israel had by way of pop music, featuring crews of fresh young talent managed by the biggest stars in the business. He was accepted to the Nachal band, following an audition by Chaim Topol (of “Fiddler On The Roof” fame) and future creative partner Uri Zohar, and the legend was born.

During his time in the military band he acquired the more hip and contemporary “Arik” handle instead of the more prim and proper”Aryeh”, and had several big hits which positioned him as a new star. Upon discharge in 1959 he immediately joined the entertainment scene in full effect on several fronts. He joined the “Sambatyon” satirical review and the “Scallion” (“Batzal Yarok”) pop band, made up of star ex-military-band members like himself. He immediately became an instant A-list, buzz-of-the-town success in both. Even a legendarily vicious theater critic wrote highly of his acting, and the radio couldn’t stop playing his hit songs.

Einstein with the “Yarkon Bridge Trio”, “A Sign That You’re Young”, Mid 60’s. note the heavy French Chanson influence (in the arrangement of the trad Irish folk melody), which was big in Israel at the time.

A year after leaving the army he had a solo album, but his great successes of the early-to-middle 60’s were mostly as part of collaborative efforts ranging from large all-star review troupes to trios and duos. The list of acts and hits would mean little to those that don’t already know them, but suffice it to say it is a long list, and includes songs people born 20 and 30 years after this time still know and like.

In 1966 Einstein joins forces with a troubled musical and lyrical genius named Shmulik Kraus and his American-Jewish girlfriend, a stunning blonde with an angel’s voice named Josie Katz. With this lineup, titled “The High Windows” (a phrase equivalent to “high office” or “high places” in English), Arik began singing real pop music as the term is commonly understood in the West.

Like true rock legends, the High Windows managed to get into their share of controversies, with the religious segment of the population over “Yechezkel”, a trippy-party rendition of the biblical prophet Ezekiel, which included scandalous irreverent lines (for the time” like “Two angels he fondled and hugged / The Prohpet Ezekiel knew how to have fun”. Concurrently, they fearlessly got in the face of patriots and establishment herds everywhere over “Chocolate Soldier”, a mocking anti-war ballad, written by genius satiric playwright Chanoch Levin,  released at the height of post-Six-Day-War euphoria and militarism.


The Electric Ezekiel Acid Test


Chocolate Soldier

While touring with Kraus and Katz, Arik Einstein, who throughout his career managed to collaborate with a consistent succession of top-notch partners, meets the man he would be perhaps most associated with, musically at least – the father of Israeli rock music, Shalom Chanoch.

 **

In 1969 Einstein recorded the single “Prague”, written by Chanoch in protest of the Soviet crushing of the Czech revolution. That year he, his erstwhile boss in the military band Uri Zohar, Chanoch and many others (quite a few of whom are big household names in Israel to this day) informally form what would come to be known as “The Lool (chicken coop, and also a baby’s pen) Group.” Somewhat similar to the Merry Pranksters of San Francisco psychedelic era lore, many people later claimed to have been “in” the group (at the margins, which were sizable), only to have others claim they were just occasional hangers-on. Any claim to having been associated with the Lool Group is still strong currency in Israel, even if any credible claimants are collecting Social Security by now…


Prague. “To the dream-captured city, a heavy foreign shadow came / and the moon in red its kingdom stained”

But the core “Lool” group is undisputed, and the great star in the center of it was Einstein, alongside former military band boss Uri Zohar on one hand, and Shalom Chanoch on the other. The TV show the group put on early in the days of Israeli TV, mixing comedy with music, was what gave the group its name. The comedy ran from biting satire, like the still perfectly relateable “ALiyah (Immigrants)” skit, showing each wave of Jews arriving in their new country while the older inhabitants (starting with Arabs, of course) greet their arrival with apprehension, disapproval and the recurring, now iconic Arabic curse Ina’al din babur illi jabkum (literally “a curse on the ship that brought you. Figuratively, of course, that “ship can mean “womb”), to less politically charged zany silliness. The music mixed easy-listening, perfectly crafted ballads with ground-breaking (for Israel at the time) rock music.


The Immigrants. “Ahmad, Who are those? – The Jews. “A curse on the ship that brought them” […]  <b>”Pappi…?” – Ja? “Das is Palestina…?” – Ja! “But it’s all sand…?” – Nu, ve vill make ze desert bloom, dumkopf!</b>

In the comic bits he shared equal glory with Israel’s national funnyman of the time, Zohar; on the music end he shared the spotlight with Chanoch, who wrote the music and played the guitar and also sang; but only Einstein starred in both acts. When singing, he employed his full emotional range, from the romantic to the sly to the naïve and earnest, and to simple joy; alternately, he was displaying rare mimicry chops and comedic timing in the skits.

With Chanoch and others during this time (early-to-mid 70’s) Einstein was instrumental in Israel’s fledgling steps in rock music. His voice carries dozens of the key songs and charts the growth of the genre. If Einstein spent the 60’s as Israeli music’s naughty but nice standard golden boy, he spent the 70’s as its undisputed titan. Israel’s first full-fledged, multi-disciplinary rock star, with all the wild living, controversies and massive critical and commercial success that implies. He was our Fonzie and Lennon and McCartney and Springsteen all rolled into one. The dude most women would love to be with and most guys would love to be – and so cool and mellow underneath it all that most couldn’t even begrudge him any of it.

He spent most of the 60’s within the structures and rules of the Israeli music business. In the 70’s he rewrote them with almost every new album and venture. Every single year from 1969 to 1981 finds him contributing at least one song that was both huge at the time and still works today – often far more than just one. He collaborated with Chanoch early and late in the decade, and in between he worked with other crack composers and arrangers like Mickey Gavrielov, Shem-Tov Levi and the great guitarist Yitzhak “Churchill” Clepter, producing some of the seminal Israeli pop and rock anthems; from the raw and rambunctious “What Do You Do (when you get up in the morning) and “Turkish Coffee” jams (the latter a clever self referential parody about a hotshot songwriter with writer’s block) in 1970-71 to more polished, up-to-global-contemporary-standards work like 1983’s “Fragile” (with Clepter providing the tune and some classic licks).


What Do You Do When You Get Up In The Morning? The Same Things, But slow (1970)


“So drink some Turkish coffee and wake up, you’re the poet! Drink some Turkish coffee, it’s far out, cause if you won’t sing, who will?” (song 1971, clip 1974)


Fragile, 1983. Polished, globally up-to-date rock

Other bedrock singles include the optimistic anthem “You and I Will Change The World,” the introspective “Why Should I Take It To Heart” and “What’s With Me”, the stream-of-consciousness road-trip anthem “Drive Slowly” (which packs the entire Israeli experience into three stanzas and a chorus, replete with realizing you’re approaching the Gaza Strip and hoping nobody throws a grenade or something at you). Also from the period: the wide-eyed, proudly provincial at heart “San Fransisco On The Water,” describing a awe-filled pilgrimage to the West Coast, to all the sports and music and cinematic landmarks, only to find that it’s not as much fun without his lady, and that deep down he’d rather be home with his friends and homeland sights. That’s just a selection from the first-team all-star lineup of his repertoire. Seriously. We haven’t even touched on the great renditions of serious poetry in pop form – a sub-genre he helped pioneer and perfect, taking the highbrow top shelf of modern Hebrew poetry and endearing it to the masses in perfect pop/rock flavor.


You and I will change the world. They’ve said it before me, it doesn’t matter; you and I will change the world.


Drive Slowly. “And I’m thinking, pretty soon it’s Gaza, just don’t let a grenade fly, and blow us all to hell.”


“Sitting in San Francisco on the water, washing my eyes in the blues and greens […] watching Dr. J rip the nets, and Kareem Abdul Jabar touch the sky”

(The heavy sprinkling of sports metaphors above, by the way, is no coincidence, as the former champion athlete remained a passionate sports fan to his very last day. He was famously a staunch supporter of Hapoel Tel Aviv and a soccer, basketball, and track-and-field fanatic; In addition to all his many proven talents, Einstein had the memory and endless appetite for names, dates, stats and more to have filled in successfully for any sportscaster, has the opportunity ever come his way.)

 

In the 70’s Einstein also took part in some formative, defining chapters of Israeli cinema history (although his debut on the screen was much earlier, with a supporting role in 1964’s seminal Ashkenazee/Mizrachi, veterans vs immigrants comedy “Salah Shabbati”). In 1972 he starred in Uri Zohar’s beach-bum bittersweet comedy “Peeping Toms” (“Metzitzim”), which depicts the laid-back beachfront culture of Tel Aviv while following the misadventures of Eli the rock club singer (Einstein, playing a character who although married and a father, stereotypically never has a problem in hooking up the one-night stand) and his buddy, the slobbish, sexually frustrated and predatory lifeguard ‘Gutte’ (Zohar). The movie – initially a commercial and critical failure, but since rediscovered, re-evaluated and a massive cult classic to this day, with dozens of lines that have become part of the comedic vocabulary – would be the first of a trilogy, completed by “Big Eyes” (1974) and “Save The Lifeguard.” (1977).

 

Shortly after completing work on “Save The Lifeguard”, Einstein’s best friend Uri Zohar completed a process of becoming a devout orthodox Jew and quit show-business. Zohar and his wife were joined in this extremely sharp life-change by Einstein’s wife, Alona, who took the couple’s two daughters with her to Jerusalem reclusive ultra-orthodox Me’a She’arim neighborhood. Einstein responded with a touching ballad of longing for his departed friend and collaborator, “Hu Chazar Bitshuva” (roughly “He Got Religion”). Many years later, Einstein’s two daughters would marry Zohar’s two sons.

 

In 1980 Einstein released the album “Armed With Spectacles”, more than half of which consists of massive, time-tested, groove-approved best-of-worthy hits. This was the height of Einstein’s rock star period, and the hard living and drinking was beginning to take an evident toll. Arik dragged through the album’s packed concert tour, in Israel and Europe, with evident lack of zeal, and eventually simply refused to take part in the second, US leg of the tour. After one last show in late 1981 at the ancient amphitheater in Caesaria, Einstein announced his retirement from live music.

 

The wild-living star was discovering he had successfully sown his wild oats and was tired of staying in the fast lane and having all eyes on him all the time, whether he was in the mood or not; by the middle of the decade he was singing, with wry self-aware defiance, “I like to be at home… with the tea and lemon and the old books… with the same lover and same habits.” Not that this attitude came as a complete shock. Einstein always had a strong private streak, indignant at media prying. He penned not one but both of Israeli rock’s most memorable anti-paparazzi/gossip songs. “They Wrote About Him In The Paper” back in the Lool days and the vitriolic “My Little Journalist” in the Eighties.


Some people people climb mountains (“Yeah?”), some people skydive (“You don’t say..”), some people ride horses, (“uh huh…”) and some hike cross country. But me? I like to be at home […] with the same lover and same habits”

This settling down, with long time partner Sima Eliyahu (costar in “Metzizim” and other productions and mother of his younger daughter and son), didn’t diminish his studio output, however. He delivered a steady, reliable album a year through 1989, with each one adding to his awesome repertoire of true classics – even the children’s album “I Was A Child Once” he released in 1989. This period is defined by Einstein’s infallible taste in material and supporting cast, and flits effortlessly between nonsense pop, a burst of rock here and there, and heavy poetry with painstaking melodic arrangements.

 

After a four-year hiatus followed by yet another children’s album, Einstein resumed recording, his pace going down to around an album every two years, with some years seeing consecutive albums and sometimes a two or three year drought. Since the mid-eighties, Einstein has enjoyed grand patriarch status, if fading relevance, in Israel’s music scene. But almost every new album was highly listenable, very well produced, and most still contained a diamond or two, quirky like 1990’s single released for the World Cup, which consists of nothing but names of famous players, or touching like some of his latter-day joint work with Chanoch (Muskat, 1999), or collaborations with much younger rock stars like Peter Roth of rock band Monica Sex and others. He was well past his great days, but we were as thankful for those, and for whatever he felt like keeping on giving. Like a revered grandfather to millions of Israelis.


If you know your soccer, you can follow this “Hebrew” song

 

**

 

He seemed fine, dammit – as much a we could know about someone so intensely private. There had been news at times of less-than-perfect health (he was in his seventies, and had drank and ingested his share of stuff back in the day), but nobody (including those close to him, it is now reported) knew him to be seriously ill. He had just announced that newspaper column, promising himself and the readers not to be preachy and treacly, to keep it real and only write if he has something to say. Now, just like that, he’s gone.

 

True, not at 27 like too many legends but rather almost at triple that age; we’ve been blessed with a long chunk of Arik Einstein’s romantic, lyrical, comical and always ineffable stylings. But it still came out of nowhere, the way many other giants of music and popular culture were snatched away. Tomorrow, the Hebrew web will be full of eulogies and summaries, some of which will piss me off and some which will move me to tears. There will be lists and playlists top ten lists and separate articles devoted to the many stops and stages he charmingly skipped his way across. For the past few hours (it is now 3:04 am here) a candlelight vigil is being held at Ichilov Hospital where he died, in an outpouring of spontaneous grief the likes of which were last seen in the secular Israel when PM Rabin was murdered, 19 years ago. A massive Israeli symbol has passed. This day will be a milestone in the timeline of Israeli culture for many decades to come.


My personal favorite Arik song, an odd one for a fire-brand lefty – “Shulamit” (The Shulamit to whom this love song is addressed is the land, personified in feminine form) – a very nationalist, sensuous, almost liturgical poem of love for the land. “If the man surrenders before the sword, know he has no eternal love / but should he rise alone against a thousand, know that he is sworn to Shulamit”

 

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Riley Cooper Should Be Dealt With In-House

OK, after spending too many hours on a long political post (read here if you care about the whole Middle East thing) I’m gonna try to keep it a lot shorter* on this (less important, sorry NFL Nation) Riley Cooper business.

To recap:

Cooper, a marginally important player on the Philadelphia Eagles (yet one slated to see an increase in his opportunity to shine, due to injuries to others) was captured using the N-word in a belligerent manner, while apparently drunk and attending a concert (in a sea of white people) to a group of black security personnel at the venue.

Cooper immediately apologized with full contrition and no reservation.

Even this was apparently not enough for some in the Eagles locker room, including star running-back LeSean McCoy. Number 25 said he had lost the ability to respect Cooper. In operative terms for the business concern known as the Philadelphia Eagles, this means McCoy will find it very hard to put his body on the line so that Cooper, a man he cannot respect, will get stats and glory and a better contract. This is a major problem for the Eagles business plan going forward in the coming 5-6 months. McCoy is the greater asset to the Eagles business, which in turn is a part of the NFL business. Hence, Cooper had to step away from the Eagles operation so that it could learn to do without him or until such time as his more important teammates feel they can work with him again.

You know what? So far, fine. Really, not grudgingly or “even if so.” What Cooper said is not acceptable and McCoy and any other African-American on the Eagles needs to know they can look Cooper in the eye and not resent his presence or success.

So we hear Cooper will undergo some kind of “counseling” to teach him why what he did was wrong, even tho he did much of what human language is capable of to conveys that he gets it.

My problem: Why someone from the outside? What can someone outside that locker room tell Cooper about why that word is not acceptable even off-team and regardless of industrial relations related to your friggin livelihood’, (and that you’re never anonymous in public as part of an NFL team) that LeSean McCoy and Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nmadi Asomugha can’t tell him? There’s some intelligent, eloquent dudes in that foursome alone, with more perfectly assertive voices on the team. In the end, it’s those guys, and every other African-American on the Eagles**, that will have to determine that the “therapy” worked and that the issue is over with. Why not cut the middle-man? And not to condescend to Mr. McCoy or anyone else on the Eagles, cause they ain’t the ones that caused this damn mess and don’t need to be talked down to or even talked eye-to-eye to about shit, but they might feel better handling it themselves too.

 

Just a thought.

 

*500 and change. Better than 2100+

** Every African-American on the team except #7, who readily admits he ain’t in no position to be passin’ judgment on a motherf-in soul on earth***.

*** Hey, I made it through 2500+ words without dropping inappropriate shit tonight. Give a foul-mouthed jewboy a break!

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Neither Two, Nor States, Nor A Solution

The Holy Mideast Peace Process merry-go-round (the second longest running act on earth, the only one older being the occupation it pretends to be solving) is off for another spin. While the POTUS gets to largely keep his personal distance from the mess, he’s still invested to some degree. since Kerry’s prestige, or what’s left of it, is definitely laid on the line here, some of the White House’s is too. And while the US doesn’t have the ability to shape events that it once did, it still has enough clout that most media that wants to be recognized as “serious” has to take the charade seriously. So, let me break down why not only will these talks go no-where, but even if they did it would not lead to any good.

I’m betting you’ve heard all about how the most Netanyahu will be willing to give is still far from the minimum Abbas will be able to accept. Yet the counter for this argument is that the greatness of the opportunity will be forced upon our Bibi, and he will switch the recalcitrant Jewish Home (Settler-religious) party for Labor in his ruling coalition, and pass a deal that will actually result in something the majority of the world would be willing to call a “Palestinian State” and declare the whole bothersome business dealt with, moving on to other crap that needs attending to around the globe.

Further, intimate some reporters, Netanyahu realizes it’s his only way to keep the PM position (without the entire world letting Israel know it’s closed for business till a change in management happens) is to make some kind of deal happen this time, and he is even willing to do what Sharon did and leave the more right-wing-wing of his own Likud party behind and start a new party.

All this, we’re being told, will combine to align the stars as they were in 1977 and 1991-93, and force a real change in the ground rules. A new reality markedly better than the one preceding it.

Fine. Let’s grant that scenario, not even try to explain why it won’t happen. Not even go into whether residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (get to that in a sec) were really better off before Oslo. Flags, trumpets, ceremony galore and even a nice lil wave of Palestinian ex-pats flooding Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin, saying “It’ll never be my grandfather’s ancestral home in Yaffa, but let’d build some kind of Free Filastin. Yalla.

Remember Gaza?

First, as promised, there’s the pesky lil problem of Gaza. Sure, Israel would love to cement the land-locked “free” West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip being totally and permanently separate, but it ain’t gonna hold. a) there’s too much connection between people in both places and b) Even assuming the “Dafawis” (Palestinians from the WB) give up on their sea-side brethren, anyone thinking the most densely populated place on earth (the Gaza Strip of course) can be kept forever under a boot like that without exploding is ignorant of the basic dynamics of the world.

So as promised not two but three different political entities: Israel, “Free Palestine” and blockaded Hamas-stan. I think that makes three. So the “Palestinian Problem” (remember when it was the Jewish Problem?) isn’t solved, it’s merely sliced a bit thinner and painted different. And in the spirit of “not gonna even”, I’ll forgo a long explanation about why land-locked, mineral-poor “Palestine” in the West Bank will not really be a “State” but always a glorified autonomy, unless and until it merges with Jordan in a post-Hashemite reality. So only one actual sovereign and viable state.

So far, this was easy. The “Solution” part of the promised trifecta takes more words to explain.

Israel’s other Arab problem

You know who gets screwed the most here? Israel’s citizen-Arabs. The “’48 Arabs.”

As we speak of improving relations between Israelis and Palestinians occupied since 1967, Israel is implementing a policy regarding some of its own Palestinian “equal citizens” that is unmatched in its aggression since the rough and tumble martial-law years of Israeli history’s early third so far. I’m referring to the Prawer plan, which calls for the removal of 30-40 thousand Bedouins in Israel’s south, from one part of the Negev to the other, to be packed from dozens of small utterly rural types of dwellings into the 7 shantytowns Israel has created for the Bedouin population in the 1970’s, into which about half of all Bedouin citizens have since chosen to move. The other half prefer a more country style of living, and since they were already herded into a much denser area than their grandparents used to occupy before the establishment of Israel, they figure said state can and should just leave them be and recognize the few dozen little villages they’ve sorted themselves into since said herding by State.

But the State says no. Although the Bedouins are 25-30% of the Negev’s population, and although the number of of villages (places smaller and less urban than a “town”) for Jews in the Negev is well over 50, the government will only tolerate 11 such for the Bedouin population – the eleven recently-recognized villages in the Abu Basme regional council. How recognized are these eleven? Most still don’t have electricity or running water, and in some attempts to build even makeshift schools are met with SWAT teams and tear gas. The other several dozen thousand Bedouin folk live in places slated for destruction and forced removal.

Now, Israel’s advocates will tell you that there’s compensation involved for those made to relocate, and some cash (about $100M) even slated for enlarging the seven Bedouin towns to which these Bedouins are to be relocated. True, but without even getting into whether the compensation (and the harsh terms for those who don’t take it within a certain time-frame) are fair, there are still two major problems:

1) As stated above, Bedouins (a term roughly used here as equivalent to any non-Jewish , Arab-speaking citizen living south of the Hebron-Gaza line) make up about a third of the Negev’s population. Despite this, they are already only allowed to live in a small corner of it, and have less than one half their proportionate municipal area. True, in the category “local municipalities” (places smaller than a city but densely populated and urban to suburban in nature) half are Bedouin. But there’s only one Bedouin city to more than ten Jewish ones in that area and only 11 places smaller and more thinly-populated places than a town for Bedouins compared to 70-80 for Jews.

2) These people aren’t being moved because the state needs the land for mining, or office parks, or natural reservations or anything of the sort. The state intends for people to live there – just not Arab-speaking ones. Hebrew-speaking ones. Jews. Some will say: Israel uprooted Jews too! From the Gaza Strip when it disengaged from there! Yes, true. However, that was a place Israel decided to cease to control. At least on land. It is one thing to relinquish a territory, and another to say “No, this is still totally part of my sovereign territory, and I totally intend for people to live here, but only a certain ethnicity. In fact it’s so important to me to that they live here and not them, that I’m willing to go through a massive, divisive, potentially explosive process of shipping them out and shipping them in. Instead of just recognizing them where they already are. Even though they and them are all equal citizens, see.”

So we see that Israel is refusing to create or recognize places for this population (Non-Jewish in the Negev) that are either seriously upwardly-mobile OR seriously back-country (i.e. less influential but living on more land per person). The places it does recognize for this population it under-serves and treats as a problem child at best.

And guess what? Negev Bedouins have it better than most Arabs in Israel. For the Bedouins Israel has created 7 and recognized a further 11 new places to live since its founding. For the other 75-80% of its Arab population (about 15% of the total citizenry of Israel) it hasn’t even done that. Not a single new city, town or village for Arabs has been created by the State of Israel since its founding north of the Negev. There are no current plans to my knowledge to do so.

Therein lies the rub

OK, I hear you saying. That’s f-ed up and all, but where are you going with this and how did we get here from the other Israeli-Arab thing? Glad you asked:

You know how Israel in the past 15 years or so has added a condition to its terms for peace – recognizing it as a “Jewish State”? Israel managed to make peace with two of its four Arab neighbors without that particular language. It was simply recognized. But with the Palestinians, it has to be “recognize us as a Jewish State”. Now, please note that no-where does Israel officially refer to itself internationally as “A Jewish State”. Egypt, for instance, is officially The Arab Republic of Egypt. By recognizing Egypt and agreeing to formal contact and non-hostile relations with it, you’re recognizing it as it presents itself – an Arab country. Israel did not choose to call itself The Jewish Republic of Israel. Nor has the government officially announced plans to do so, despite legislative initiatives on its right flank to define Israel as “The State of the Jewish People.” So what gives?

Answer: “Recognize us as a Jewish State” is code for “In return for us giving up on direct, on-the-ground-control of the land in both the West Bank (with land swaps yada yada yada), you agree to leave us the f— alone about anything we do regarding the remaining Ay-rabs under our control.”

After the “immense sacrifice” of giving up the West Bank (lots of territory, few actual people need to move, cause, settlement blocs and land swaps and so on), the absolute last thing the Israeli electorate (the 75-80% of it that’s non-Arab) will be willing to hear is that it needs to be considerate of any more non-Jews.

If Israel is willing to show this kind of aggression towards the part of the Arab-speaking, non-Druze/Circassian citizenry that’s most willing to coexist with the state, even while dealing with pressure about the occupation and all, just imagine what it will be willing to do to Palestinians in the center and north of the country, who mostly don’t serve in the IDF (unlike most of the Bedouins, including the ones from “unrecognized villages,” who do), with a huge “get off my back, I just made historic, heart-wrenching concessions for these @#$%! people already!” card.

Backlash, not a solution

The development needs of ’48 Arabs, already flagrantly under-served, will worsen severely. The discrimination in everything from employment to government funding per capita to municipal territories will get worse for this minority… To retain even the level of inequality today will require an enthusiastic embrace of the state and all it stands for and forswearing any outstanding grievances or identity issues. And the reflexive response of most in Israel (and many around the world) will be “Let them move to the (“free” and “equal”) State of Palestine if they don’t like it.”

Why do I say this? Again: This is happening even now, as Israel is already dealing with pressure over its treatment of millions of Palestinians who aren’t even enfranchised. About a third of the Jewish electorate (at least) already supports some kind of legislation to make it clear that Jewish citizens are more central to the state. That’s before being forced to make any kind of concessions in the sacred West Bank. How does this trend not intensify tenfold after that? Even if only say a few dozen thousand (put of 600 thousand Jews living beyond the Green Line) need to be resettled, how does that not trump any and all needs of ten times that many Arabs? Defiantly so?

So we see that even if every dream of John Kerry’s comes true within the next year or two, we will only be switching a cessation of the discrimination and usurpation of roughly 60% of the total Palestinian population between the river and the sea, on roughly 20% of the land, for the increased oppression of the other 40%, over 78% of the land (the remaining being the “third state” in the Gaza Strip.)

In any event, the wound of 1948 finds no actual solution. The locus of the inflammation merely shifts. And this time, 25 years of progressively preparing the public opinion of the Jewish majority to accept the need for some sort of compromise will only serve as a backlash – equal force, opposite direction. But that’s OK. That’ll take a few more years to blow up. Neither President Obama nor Secretary Kerry will have to deal with that.

 

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