Micah Halpern Has Been Thinking on the Middle East
Friday January 25, 2013~~
Forging a coalition is without a doubt the most difficult part of the election process in Israel.
After a long, hard fought and often ugly election battle, compromises and promises must be made in order to obtain the required 60 Knesset seats. Election planks and platforms are first weighed and then cast away in favor of the issues of power, control and of course, prestige.
Well before results were in, Netanyahu called potential coalition partners. Immediate calls went out to ultra orthodox Shas which then won 11 seats, ultra orthodox United Torah which then won 7 seats and ultra orthodox Yesh Atid (There is a Future) which in the end won 19 seats immediately.
But Netanyahu did not call his natural partner, Ha Bayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party, a modern Zionist orthodox party which garnered 12 seats until late Thursday. And there is a simple reason for that.
Netanyahu's wife Sara did not want him to make the call. There is bad blood between the leader of The Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, and Sara Netanyahu. It goes all the way back to the time when Bennett was chief of staff in the office of the prime minister.
No doubt there has been much pressure in the Netanyahu household to avoid a connection with Bennett. Netanyahu needs to weigh the sides - the wrath of his wife or a successful coalition insuring his position as prime minister. It is not an easy decision to make.
Sarah has a strong hold on her man. But the prime ministry may be even stronger - and, despite the protestations and a clash of personalities, Bennett can only help Netanyahu.
Sara will probably lose this battle, but she will come back later with a vengeance.
~Thursday January 24, 2013~~
For months now commentators and analysts have been talking about the radicalization of Israeli politics and bemoaning the fact that mainstream Israel was leaning more and more to the right.
They were wrong.
These trained observers of Israeli politics swallowed hook, line and sinker the Palestinian line. That line is simply anti-Israel.
Anything that is not decisively pro-Palestinian is seen by commentators as rabidly right wing and as an extremist point of view.
By now the picture of true Israeli society should be perfectly clear.
The Atid party, a centrist party, gained 19 of the 120 Knesset seats and is now the 2nd largest party in the Knesset only after Netanyahu's Likud. Both these parties seem to want to join forces.
To do that, each party will have to compromise, or give in, on certain essential platforms.
Most important is the universal draft - a requirement that every Israeli serve in the army.
Interestingly, the other new and newly huge party in the Knesset, Habayit HaYehudi or The Jewish Home, believes in the same principle. They all also believe in similar social issues with Atid, like the breakdown of the power of the ultra orthodox rabbinate.
These two new parties, both led by young new political leaders, compose 30 Knesset seats. That is exactly 25% of the Israeli parliament. They are not extremist, they are a real reflection of the new Israel. On social issues they are more similar than one might be led to believe.
With Netanyahu and his 31 seats, Lapid with his 19 seats and Bennett with his 11 seats these parties combined have 61 seats, a perfect number. Just over half of the 120 seats needed to form a government.
My bet is that these three parties will form the coalition Netanyahu needs to govern.
~~Wednesday January 23, 2013~~
Elections in Israel are over -- finally. Now the real work begins.
The earliest and the most obvious result to come in from this election is that the polls were off, really off. If polling in general is difficult, polling Israelis is nearly impossible.
Israelis never vote for what they want.
Israelis vote to punish or to check or counter check.
Because almost no Israeli actually votes because they support a particular point of view, the swing vote is more volatile than any mathematical variable.
In the end Netanyahu's combined party of Likud - Beiteinu got 33 seats. The second largest party won 19 seats and it is the brand new party called Yesh Atid which means "there is a future". Yesh Atid is lead by brand new party head Yair Lapid, a former pro soccer player, tv talk show star and media personality. He is the son of Tommy Lapid who was an outspoken and even more popular media personality who also used his fame as a catapult into politics. His mother is one of Israel's leading authors.
Yair learned well from the father. His party ran on an anti'ultra religious platform. The most significant point it embraces is a universal draft - a direct assault on the ultra-religious and one more socially progressive policies - another assualt. He is realistic on Palestinian peace.
Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party could hold some important cards if they join the Likud - Beiteinu coalition.
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Tuesday January 22, 2013
I've Been Thinking:
Israelis are about to vote.
On the lighter side, one candidate's water broke and she ran to the hospital with Zippi Livni, the party head, accompanying her.
On a more serious note, and this is an issue that concerns me a lot, on the eve of the election Shas is giving out blessings and amulets in exchange for votes.
The amulets are called kamayahs.
Giving blessings in exchange for a vote is totally illegal. It is even more powerful an incentive in certain communities than paying people to vote.
The kamayahs come from Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party and one of the undisputed greatest rabbis in the world today. So even non religious people and certainly people who are religious will vote in exchange for a kamayah that promises economic success.
Shas was fined 37000 shekels which is a out $9000.
The fine is a drop in the bucket and will have no impact.
The kamayah will most certainly have an impact on this election.
~~More Riots in Egypt~~
~~Monday January 21, 2013~~
Rioting has rocked Alexandria, Egypt for the past two days. The rioters burned down a court house and the police trucks that transport riot police.
These riots are taking place outside the court that is hearing the case of six policemen on trial for using excessive force in January and February of 2011. The court house is located near the Italian consulate. Without explanation, the judge trying the case stepped down yesterday.
Egypt is about to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the rebellion that ousted Hosni Mubarak. That rebellion began on January 25 and ended when Mubarak stepped down on February 11. About 900 people were killed in the uprising, 300 in Alexandria.
Riots are also taking place in Cairo. Four people died and twelve were wounded including two police officers during the conflict with police and it still does not appear that quiet has been restored to either Alexandria or Cairo.
As we get closer and closer to January 25 and February 11 Egypt will be swept up in even more violence and even more conflict. The countdown has begun.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.