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New Year; Old Hope

972mag.com

As we welcome the new Jewish year, 5780, I’d like to wish you all a healthy, happy, meaningful year. And as we look ahead to the new year, there’s a new—old, in my opinion—hope of renewal in Israel. The elections of September 17 are still fresh and far from settled. Many questions still remain. But it is safe to say that a new wind is blowing. And that maybe—just maybe—the rule of Bibi Netanyahu, a rule that was based on incitement, on subversion of democracy, on extremism and racism, on undermining the rule of law, and on solidifying the occupation and the endless conflict with the Palestinians, might finally be over.

This new wind is, in many ways, an old wind. It brings with it the smell of Eretz Israel of old. Of principles of justice for all, of separation of state and religion, of equal rights before the law. Of the essence of the declaration of independence. There’s chance of going to seed; to the old seed that gave birth to the state of Israel as we knew it and loved it. There is an opportunity now, even if a narrow one, to go back to what made the country so great in its first years of existence.

Don’t get me wrong, though; I’m not so naïve as to believe that all of Israel’s problems can now, suddenly and miraculously, be solved. Far from it: I’m well aware that the leaders of the Blue and White party, which had a narrow win – as indeed I predicted in my talk in Davis—in the elections, are not knights with shiny armor, riding on white horses. They have their faults, like all of us, and in term of the chances for peace, and a way to resolve the eternal conflict with the Palestinians, they are not so different from Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party.

But I do believe that the probable successor—whether in this round or the next one—to the current Crime Minister, Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and While party, is a principled, old-time Rabin-like Israeli. (On the second night after Election Day he was in the audience at the Cultural Hall in Tel Aviv, at a concert by Israeli singers, and was invited on the stage to sing one of these good-old Israeli songs.) His immediate fight—what caused him to throw his hat into the ring in the first place—was to save Israel’s democracy. It seems safe to say that this battle, at the essence of these two rapid elections, is still going on. Maybe far from over. But for now, Israel survived the gravest threat since independence of turning into an autocracy. And that, in and of itself, is a major win.

The other threat, to be followed soon had Netanyahu won the elections, was the promised annexation of the West Bank, an end to any chance of peace-agreement with the Palestinians, and thereafter Israel turning not only into dictatorship, but an Apartheid state as well. This threat is still very real, make no mistake, but at least the new leader, together with his co-leaders, has a chance to change direction. Whether they will take this road; whether they will even have the chance to go this way, still remains to be seen. But the possibility is there.

On the ground things have changed so much since the 67 war, especially during the last twenty years or so, that it seems very unlikely that the Two-State solution—which I declared dead in another talk I gave in Davis seven years ago—can be resurrected. Yet one can still believe in miracles. In old Israel itself. Believe so even though the gap between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; between the fanatic, religious Israel and the secular, liberal Israel, has widened so dramatically lately. So much so that the ‘War between the Jews’ is again a real threat and possibility. The gap between the haves and have nots has also widened. These problems and others must be addressed by the new government, however shape it’s going to take. The job ahead of that government is real, and not easy, but doable.

Of course, as I write this, it’s not clear at all—after the attempt at unity government has failed, it’s Netanyahu who is getting a first crack at building a coalition—whether Benny Gantz and his Blue-and-White party will be given the chance to build a coalition, should Netanyahu, as expected, fail. And yet, one can hope. One can hope that—again, in this round or the next—the wind of old Israel would take over and bring a change in government and direction. Because Israel and its citizens, and with them Jews the world over, have a lot to be thankful for. And be proud of, too. And be able to believe again that corruption can be replaced by hard and principled work. That occupation can be replaced, for both sides, by liberation. And that glory days might be in sight again. Shana Tova!

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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The Big Lie

ynetnews,com

The last Israeli election and its aftermath, combined, has produced a big lie. Unfortunately, that big lie—in which the Israeli media, from left to right, and the international media as well, have participated willingly—is continuing to obscure the truth and outcome of that election. And in so doing, despite the results pointing clearly at a different direction, making it harder on the public at large to digest and understand the outcome, and on the forces of peace and democracy to unite and bring forth the desired change.

Here’s why and how, starting in the beginning. Before the election, the prevailing expectation was for Netanyahu to prevail, no matter the actual results, and form the new government. The politicians, journalists and other observers, based their assumption on two main reasons, or factors: One, the demographic factor, the shift in the Israeli population’s makeup that has been taking place for quite sometimes now. That shift to the right, they were correct to assume, would determine, to a significant degree, the result of the election.

The Sephardic/Mizrachi large segment of the Israeli public is still (almost) uniformly stands behind Netanyahu. No matter that he, and his party, are (mostly) Ashkenazim, and hardly represent Israeli Sephardim; no matter that the Likud party, traditionally, has been shying away from socio-economic issues, which are of significant importance to that population; and no matter that even on security issues—the city of Sderot, hard hit by rockets coming from the Gaza Strip, long demanding of Netanyahu to do much more to secure their peaceful existence—still voted for him in large numbers.

Add to that the large immigration of Russian Jews (and non-Jews) from the 1990s onward. This segment of the population is also solidly on the right, and values power, or the perception of it, above all else. However, they dislike another segment of the population, which contributes so prominently to the shift rightward in Israel. And that is the religious/orthodox segment of the Israeli population. Which is about 10% of the population and growing mighty fast, due to a large birth-per-mother rate. While they are solidly on the right, they are also very pragmatic: Whoever gives them more money to study the Torah, avoid the mandatory army service and the need to work for a living, get their support regularly.

So this trend is true, much in existence, and even growing. But what the politicians, journalists and pundits (to this day) got wrong, once the election results were certified, was the true meaning of that result. First, they declared Netanyahu a winner. He was reelected, with a big margin, etc.—even though he has failed to win the election. He, the leader of a party that is in power, give or take a few years, since 1977; he, the Prime Minister of the last ten years; he, the all-powerful politician, all-adroit manipulator, the ‘Magician; he, who met with Putin three days before the elections; he, Trumps favorite son, who gave him the embassy in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as presents—was able to master only 35 Knesset seats in the election.

The exact number of Knesset seats that Benny Gantz, a general who was never a politician, running for office for the first time, was able—after creating a new party, no less—to master. It was a tie, at best; it was a loss, for Netanyahu, at worse. It was a loss obscures by the inevitable win of the center-right block, which consists of various, not at all the same parties. It was a loss that nobody wanted to see. And then it came crushing down. And it came crushing down because of that one big lie—the proof is in the pudding, as the Americans like to say—and because of the inability, and unwillingness, to face the truth. See straight what Israel is facing.

And what Israel is facing is a deep chasm. A war of the Jews. A war on democracy itself. A war on the character of the Jewish state. A war between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A war between the rule of law and anarchy. A war between the secular, liberal, democratic Israel—which envisioned, created, and built the country—and the fervent religious, extremist segment, who want God, King, and Bible to rule.

That’s why Netanyahu has failed to build a governing coalition. That’s why in the last minute, indeed just before midnight, he avoided doing the right thing, as required by law and tradition—informing the president that he was unable to build a government—and has dissolved the newly elected Knesset. This has prevented the true winner of the election, Benny Gantz and his Blue-and-White party from getting a shot at building the new government. Which, though it seemed unlikely, they had at least an outside chance of accomplishing.

In the upcoming September election Netanyahu’s chances of success are even less certain. His looming indictment proceeding on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, are looming larger now. And the fractions in his own party, his natural coalition partners, and the Israeli society at large grow bigger by the day. So fasten your seatbelts, to paraphrase the immortal words of Betty Davis, as it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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