Israel’s do over of its national election is in about 5 weeks

We know now who the parties will be that will contest the do-over election that’s set for mid-September. In April, Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party won 35 of the 120 Knesset seats, and tied the newly formed centrist party, Blue and White, co-led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. But because the right wing parties tallied 65 seats total in the last election, Likud was given the opportunity to try to form a government. To do that, you need a coalition of parties with a minimum of 61 seats, and you have 42 days to get it done, or else the (largely ceremonial) President of Israel can choose another party to try to form a government.

If you remember, Bibi was able to get a coalition of 60 seats, but one of the right-wing parties, Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, refused to join the Netanyahu led government. They won 5 seats. The stated reason Lieberman gave for holding out was his ideological determination to insist on several laws that would discontinue military service exemptions for ultra-orthodox yeshiva students. Lieberman’s party is an avowedly secular, xenophobic, Jewish nationalist, pro-settler party. Few people thought he would actually hold out for the full 42 day coalition-building period – everyone thought he was taking a severe bargaining position. But he did.

Before the Israeli President could pivot and offer Blue and White a chance to have 42 days to form a government, Likud called the Knesset into session and called for a vote to form and then immediately dissolve the legislature. This was unprecedented, and it was weird. The reason Likud did this was that they preferred a second election in a few months’ time to giving Gantz and Lapid a chance to form a coalition.

So here we are.

One of the things that has happened since then is that there’s been a lot of small parties combining into blocs. So only 9 parties will be on the ballot in the upcoming election, the smallest number in Israel’s history. The Arab parties, which ran three different slates in the last election, have formed a Joint List (when they’ve done this in years past, they’ve tended to get more seats). Blue and White, which came closer than most expected to toppling Likud in April, has been laying low, and now, as they launch their new heavy PR push, they’re having in-fighting problems that are generating bad press for them. Lovely.

Meretz, traditionally the party of the peace camp, has merged with a newly formed party announced by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, calling itself the Democratic Union. On the right, some of the smaller parties have formed Hayamin Hachadash – “The New Right.” There’s some super creepy folks in that cohort, let me tell you.

Below is a graphic I pulled off of a webinar that shows, in the center column, the names of the 9 parties (or slates) that will be on the ballot. The column on the right shows how many seats each of these slates won in April – only because some of these slates were divided into smaller, separate slates last time, what the makers of this chart have done is combined the totals that smaller parties got last time when appropriate.

vote tallies 2019

So what do we make of this chart?

Continue reading “Israel’s do over of its national election is in about 5 weeks”

We Are the Democrats

dems2My dear fellow Americans who don’t know the truth about who we Democrats are and what we believe: there’s a lot of nonsense being said about us, so I just wanted to set the record straight on a few things. 

It seems like Trump and the rest of the Republican leadership are hellbent on telling the public that Democrats are sickening, evil people who love late term abortions, want open borders, hate Christians, and want to impose socialism on the country. So, here’s the thing: all of this is wrong. Here’s what Democrats actually believe about these particular issues: Continue reading “We Are the Democrats”

Bibi vs. Ben Gurion – Israeli commentator Yossi Alpher’s take

From Americans for Peace Now’s regular feature, “Hard Questions, Tough Answers,” a Q and A column featuring Yossi Alpher, a former senior Mossad and IDF intelligence official.

I think this says it all.

(The rest of this post is a direct quote from the interview – a link to the full interview follows.)

Q. This coming Saturday, July 20, Binyamin Netanyahu will have served as prime minister of Israel longer than David Ben Gurion: 13 years and 128 days, to be exact. Can you compare the two?

A. Frankly, no comparison really works here. Ben Gurion renewed Jewish sovereignty for the first time in nearly 2000 years. He made incredibly daring and difficult decisions in order to bring this about: the very declaration of Israeli independence against all the odds; Altalena and the determined creation of a single sovereign armed force; prioritizing mass Aliyah over the military’s budget; accepting German reparations; creating a nuclear project. Nothing that came after can compare.

Netanyahu’s longevity in office contrasts particularly with Ben Gurion precisely because Netanyahu has consciously avoided making hard decisions while seemingly letting time and circumstances take care of the challenges involved. Ben Gurion would have acted–confronted the settlers, for example, whatever the cost–to prevent Israel from becoming a binational entity. By the same token, Ben Gurion might have adopted a far more aggressive military pose vis-à-vis Iran in Syria–not necessarily the wisest move.

At the socio-economic level Ben Gurion, who successfully imposed upon beleaguered and bankrupt Israel the absorption of hundreds of thousands of Eastern Jews and Holocaust survivors by a state-run, centralized economy, would never have acquiesced in the huge income gaps and social fragmentation that have emerged in Israel’s otherwise successful market economy under Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is as distant from Ben Gurion as any Israeli prime minister. Only his impressive political skills place him in the Ben Gurion class. Yet Netanyahu uses those skills basically to stay in office–

Netanyahu is essentially a status quo politician, more like Yitzhak Shamir than any other predecessor. Menachem Begin pro-actively sought peace with Egypt, Yitzhak Rabin with the Palestinians and Jordan. Ariel Sharon withdrew from the Gaza Strip. In all cases, these leaders consciously challenged a skeptical public and a hostile political reality. They behaved in the Ben Gurion mode. Bibi meets secretly with Arab leaders and openly with Putin and Xi, but only with the goal of maintaining Israel’s physical security while doing nothing about the existential Palestinian demographic threat closer to home. Bibi also has Trump–a problematic asset but nonetheless a luxury Ben Gurion never dreamed of enjoying as he navigated the fortunes of a truly isolated country.

Ben-GurionIncidentally, Ben Gurion also confronted corruption allegations–spending government and Histadrut money for his book collection and even his Tel Aviv home. He ignored or rebuffed the charges easily. One thing that has changed for the better since then is the rule of law, though that too is now being challenged by Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is as distant from Ben Gurion as any Israeli prime minister. Only his impressive political skills place him in the Ben Gurion class. Yet Netanyahu uses those skills basically to stay in office–currently, as a means of avoiding prosecution on corruption charges. Ben Gurion applied his political skills toward realizing his daring vision for Israel. When necessary, he left office precisely to advance his goals. Can anyone imagine Netanyahu doing this?

To see the whole interview, visit: https://peacenow.org/entry.php?id=31680#.XS4qA-hKjIU.

The spectacular rise and fall of Maurice Harris, ex-employee-of-the-month

REUTERS – Wyncote, PA

July 8, 2019

He came into office with a bold vision and a cocky style, determined to win the hearts and minds of the entire organization and build a base of support that would allow him to hold the office of Employee Of The Month (EOTM) for years to come. Few wanted to get in his way – this talented Jewish juggernaut from Missouri with the knit kippot and delicate hands (do NOT say they’re small around him, btw.)

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A disgraced leader fends off photojournalists in his office.

But now Harris’ “Camelot” has come crashing down, following weeks of allegations of mismanagement, and then a cascade of scandals that left people in the Comms department chanting “Lock him up!” and the Development team refusing to accept his donation to the staff’s annual gift to the institution.

Hagana fighter Auschwitz tattoo
Harris’ first major lie to be exposed was his claim that this was a photo of him as a Haganah fighter in 1946. Forensic analysis proved that in fact it is a photo of Rabbi Elliott Tepperman. How Tepperman managed to time-travel remains unknown.

There are many contributing factors to Harris’ abrupt downfall and failure to garner even a second monthly term as EOTM, but most analysts agree that it was his barrage of self-aggrandizing lies and the investigative journalists who exposed them that finally sunk him. 

Did he actually summit Denali at age 45? It turns out no, as the Philly Inquirer discovered.

Is he actually married to the glamorous and brilliant prison-education expert, Melissa Crabbe? Have you ever actually seen her in the same room with him?

Are the Hot Pockets he stockpiles in the fridge actually vegan? They’re actually not even ingredient kosher.

Perhaps worst of all were the lies about his dating life.

 

 

It was Bryan Schwartzman of the Comms department, pursuing his own investigative leads, who uncovered Harris’ series of false boasts about celebrities he had dated. In venues such as the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Harris told notable Jewish leaders that he had been lovers with a remarkable list of people, including Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Taylor, Amos Oz, Gabe Kaplan (while he was playing Mr. Kotter), Stav Shaffir, and Talia Shire (while she was playing Adrian in Rocky). Had Harris limited his claims to people who are currently deceased, he may have been impossible to prove wrong. As it stands, he now faces libel lawsuits in 3 countries from Shaffir, Shire, and the estate of Oz. Alan Dershowitz has agreed to represent him.

In a desperate last act intended to win back his collapsing support, Harris spent forty times the EOTM budget to hire a professional meme creator to produce this “Recon rabbis are the sexiest…” eye-chart-style poster. These mammoth 4 foot x 6 foot posters were delivered to each employee and to all their known relatives. Needless to say, the tactic did not work, and the new EOTM, Hila Ratzabi, comes into office having to deal with the residual effects of the debt this expenditure has created.

eye chart RRA

Harris did not return our calls.

 

It’s Time To Decide Which America We Are

Can’t say it any better than Gretchen Kelly

Drifting Through

photo: DHS Office of Inspector General, June 10 2019

Will they hear the fireworks?

The children, shivering under a mylar blanket in a cold cell. Will they hear them?

This is America. We are in a place, right now, where we can’t say that our darkest days are in our past.

And it feels sick. It feels shocking. Unbelievable.

But it’s real. Our country is no stranger to hurting innocent people.

We are a nation of contradictions. We are fighters. A nation of liberators and emancipators. But we are also a nation that is soft-bellied and apathetic, practiced at not seeing the things we don’t want to see. Life can look perfect if we ignore what’s happening just outside of our peripheral vision.

Keep your head down. Sip your cold beer. Check the mail. Nod at your neighbor. Smile. Everything is fiiiiiiine. Indifference is one helluva drug.

We are one part Gilead, one part Stepford. The contrast is startling…

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Upon Being Named Employee of the Month

June 3, 2019

Philadelphia, PA

Dear Fellow Employees (who are not employee of the month),

I am humbled and overwhelmed by this honor. As your new leader, I pledge to use this power wisely and only for the good of the organization. And now that the voices of the employees have been heard and a winner has been chosen, it’s time to put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign season behind us. I regret some of the things I had to say about my fellow employees in the blood sport that is the struggle for the peoples’ votes. Now we can come together under my guidance.

They say that some are born to greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. In my case, I think greatness has born itself a child and thrust that child upon the doorstep of our office building. That child being me.

employee of the month yeah baby

Continue reading “Upon Being Named Employee of the Month”

Democracy’s Revenge?

In the last days of May, several right wing ethno-nationalist leaders suffered blows to their holds on power and the aura of muscular triumphalism they love to project.

In Israel, a feud between two far right icons prevented Netanyahu, whose right wing bloc won the April 9 election, from being able to form a government within the legal time limit of 42 days. Now Israel is going to have an election do-over in September.

British PM Theresa May announced her resignation effective June 7, after multiple failed attempts to get Parliament to pass a law approving the agreement that May negotiated with EU leaders to create an “orderly” Brexit process. With no such agreement, the alternative is a “no deal” implementation of Brexit, which could result in major economic setbacks and other undesirable impacts on Britain and the EU member countries. Her departure doesn’t mean that the British public have turned against Brexit, but it does mean that Nigel Farage’s xenophobic nationalist campaign has now led to the resignation of two consecutive Conservative PMs.

Finally, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made public remarks in which he openly contradicted Attorney General Barr’s characterization of the Mueller report as exonerating of Trump, and in which he pointed to Congress as the governmental body tasked with holding presidents accountable for improper behavior (some have interpreted this as a strong hint on his part). Mueller’s remarks may create a catalyst to move House Democrats to go forward with an impeachment inquiry.

Continue reading “Democracy’s Revenge?”