Our election in Israel this week is a story of democracy, foreign influence and a missed chance to debate the real question of Israel’s Soul and Purpose. Here are some quick thoughts on what I think happened:
- “Anyone but Bibi” was the key campaign strategy of the Labor/Left coalition and, in fact, reflected the feelings of nearly the whole country BUT, in the end, “it’s our security, stupid” tacked the majority of Israelis to the Right. Likud is the best we have though many (including me) want a more inclusive Jewish State which will be difficult if the Haredi parties join the coalition. In an imperfect world Bibi is the best we have.
- Labor had difficulty addressing the core concerns of the common man. Can you keep me safe? Are we substituting one political elite for another? How do I make it on an average paycheck through the month? These were issues throughout the country and all Israelis could easily rally around them. Instead, Labor spent so much time going negative that they lost the chance to speak to Israelis outside of the Tel Aviv “bubble”. Most Israelis living outside a few large cities did not perceive a clear message of support from Labor and therefore felt compelled to vote for Likud in terms of security and standing up to the pressure of the U.S. President. I must also say that Herzog just does not come across as “Presidential” and I personal do not find him impressive in terms of his “Leadership Presence”.
- I think the Left-Right dichotomy in this election, which sounds strange to my American ears, meant that candidates did not address the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The real dichotomy is related to Israel’s soul: What does it mean to be Jewish in the State of Israel? This issue follows fault lines of the role of religion and state, between Mizrachi tradition and Ashkenazi (Tel Aviv so to speak) secularism and the integration of Israeli Arab citizens. Are we a Jewish Democracy guaranteeing the rights of all minorities, or are we a Democracy with Jews among other groups? It is through this prism that you hear comments like: “vast amounts of money go to settlements and not to young people in the country”; “thank God Shas’s strength was reduced” and other comments of this ilk.
The other reason my analysis makes more sense than traditional Left/Right political alignment is because I have many friends who voted for one of the “Center-Left“ parties, like Herzog and Yair Lapid, but are not Left in the sense of their strong commitment to Zionism and the Jewish State. It was more of an issue of Bibi fatigue, Likud’s alliance with Ultra-Orthodox parties and over-emphasis on economic support of Judea and Samaria. They are unhappy but understand that in a democracy we need to accept and move on. However, people who feel strongly from a “Left” perspective in terms of peace with the Palestinians and a focus on democracy over Judaism were deeply distraught as my next point illustrates.
- Rather than being introspective (though that may change) the Left expressed a despondency which I find peculiar though not surprising, as I will explain. Friends told me of hearing those who were strongly Left saying things like: “I may have to leave the country, etc.” It’s bizarre since you would think the Left would be more pro-democracy than the Right and accept the “will of the people”, but that is just not true. It is democracy on their terms – and I say to my friends who feel this way to join hands to ensure our government does focus on important economic and social issues. That is what a real democracy is about. I would have accepted a win by Labor and continued to work for issues I consider important to our Country. Then, again, Israelis love to kvetch.
- The level of foreign influence in this election (as well as overall policy manipulation by foreign funded anti-Zionist NGOs — see this link) is pretty scary. An organization call V15 – funded by American Left interests had over 3,000 paid workers in this election. I hope Congress’s bipartisan hearings uncover the real source of this insulting intrusion into Israel’s democratic process. And there are strong rumors that over $20mm was sent to the Arab list party by Qatar via intermediaries. (I do not have a source for this.) It was this outside influence that was the basis of Bibi’s comment about the Israeli-Arab vote (I still think he could have been more careful, but if you are anti-Bibi, nothing he says would make a difference.) Consider the overt and covert attempts by Obama and his minions to badmouth Bibi any chance they have. I must tell you that I have not gotten over the remark that our elected Prime Minister is a “chickenshit”. Obama’s ideology is scorched earth when it comes to protecting Israel and dismissive of our democracy – the only true elective democracy in the Middle East. We are the ONLY COUNTRY in our region to hold really fair and open elections.
And the U.S. Administration pressure is relentless and inappropriate. The level of invective for an ally is just embarrassing for me as an American and infuriating as an Israeli. And Obama is just not acting this way to Israel – though Israel is a key U.S. ally (and sharing the same values) in the Middle East – he is dismissive to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others while embracing relations with Iran, Turkey and the Moslem Brotherhood. This is spelled out quite clearly in Senator Rubio’s address just a few days ago. He says it best: Senator Rubio Address
But we should not be surprised by Obama’s behavior. Here is a guy who sat 20 years in a church where the pastor, Jeremiah Wright, preached a toxic brew of anti-Zionism and antisemitism (and anti-White). He worked as a community organizer in Chicago under the influence of Saul Alinsky. His connection to Rashid Khalidi is most troubling. We were warned.
The really good news is that the vast majority of the American people do not buy Obama’s attitude towards Israel and they are becoming even more disillusioned with him every day. My friends who voted for him in past elections are frightened of what Obama has done and regret their “trust” in him. I wonder what Alan Dershowitz really believes at this point given his strong support of Obama after the first election. The other piece of good news is that, in the end, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is NOT, in spite of all Obama’s hype, the biggest issue the world must address. Europe and the U.S. must contend with radical Islam of both the Shiite and Sunni varieties, Russia, China and North Korea. And Iran will not go away. Events will get ahead of Obama as it did with Islamic State and Russia.
So we need to be strong, have faith and understand that these issues are fundamental and we should not “give in” just to be accommodating. Our security is a zero-sum game and there is little room for error.
Before I conclude I want to share a few videos with you. The first is Hamas training youngsters in antisemitism. When I watched this I could not avoid the sense that I was looking at a Hitler Youth propaganda film. Hamas is ISIS – ISIS is Hamas. No doubt. Hamas Youth Recording
As part of our answer to the issues of pro-Zionism and the corrosive power of the Israeli Left and its crossover influence outside of Israel, this video is encouraging. Im Tirtzu
And finally, I did not have time to cover the recent campus BDS campaign and anti-Semitic attack at a Student Governing Committee at UCLA on whether a female student active in Jewish affairs could be unbiased serving on the Student Court. It reflects growing antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campuses: Cross the Line 2