Israeli Elections

I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say ‎it.” From “The Friends of Voltaire”, 1906, by S. G. Tallentyre (Evelyn Beatrice Hall) ‎

On March 17th,2015 we Israelis –Jews and Arabs alike- will go once more to the polling stations ‎and vote for a new government, yet again after less than two years. In respect to the ‎subject of elections there are many things here I could speak about. The most important ‎of them being the drastic need for a change in the Israeli electoral system which, I may ‎add, has been a problem since the creation of the state. Israel is unique in that it is one of the few a true democracies. This is quite evident  by the many varied and different views that are realized at election time. We have our ‎mainstay large political parties but we also have political parties from all walks ‎and spectrum’s of life.

Ever since Moses came down with the Ten Commandments and in ‎a fatherly “pissed off at the kids urge” move and smashed the Tablets of God’s Ten ‎Commandments. We Jews have had a problem with leaders and taking orders since we ‎are truly the “stiff necked” people. Israeli politics reflects this part of our Jewish psyche. As humans have done ever since before the “Tower of Babble” we have expressed our ‎need to argue and to be different. I guess that is why we have so many political parties.‎

As the years go by it seems, at times, that it only gets worse. Though in the past Knesset the ‎members did vote in favor of raising the percentage of votes for a party to receive ‎representation. Alas as in the Middle East bazaar, this has created a farcical market for ‎small parties to sign agreements for favors for their “Lost” votes with larger parties. ‎

In addition to the drastic need for electoral change is the need for the writing of a constitution for the ‎establishment of a set of Israeli laws – many do not realize that we still use British and ‎Mandatory Laws.‎


Before I continue I wish to clarify. Here in Israel there are two main groups / camps that are labeled either “Leftists” or “Rightists“. There are extremists on both sides of this spectrum and the intensify of the level of hysteria that one holds in regard for the other is despicable in it’s blindness of human reasoning. It is literally biblical Cain versus Able. At times there is almost no possibility of civil debate between the two sides. However whenever the two sides begin a discourse the tone of speech is laced with epithets of blind hatred to the point of violence at times.

So very few people alive today remember that the dream of a Homeland for the Jewish people was only achieved a mere 67 years ago. The memory of it’s foundation blackened and distorted by the tidal wave of abject anti-Jewish hatred and jealousy by a some of the people who resided here. But also by those who have loathed and despised the Jewish people through out history. In the beginning some of the Arab leadership even welcomed the return of the Jewish people, while those of the old Islamic ways hated our arrival from the beginnings and disapproved of our return. That the country’s foundation is derived from the dire need to find a safe haven in the world for our people in our ancient homeland. The fact that finally and reluctantly occurred only after the systematic murder of six million of our relatives in Europe at the Partitioning of the Mandate by the United Nations vote of November 1947 will be forever a blight on the face of mankind.

On the Left of the political sphere in Israel are those who are from the original Communists secularist movements of the Haskalah movement from before the creation of the state who grasped the idea of society as expressed in the ‘Critique of the Gotha Program’  by Karl Marx:

“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

The first pioneers in the 1880’s to Israel were believers in the dream that all men are equal and that all must be shared. That is the meaning of the commune or the Kibbutz. Those young idealist pioneers who came to farm and build the land of  Israel had learned in the Haskalah movement. They had rejected the Orthodox Jewish traditions and teaching but instead grasped the Biblical concept of reclamation of our homeland by hard physical labor and not by religious religious study. They also believed that religion and belief in God is abhorrent and that it leads to the base hatred between not only men/women but nations and peoples as well. They attempted to live and share with their Arab neighbors but they learned very quickly that not All Arabs were keen to the idea and because of this they formed Militias or Guard Movements to provide for the defense of their communities from Arab marauders.

On the other hand a large part of the Old Yishuv spent their time studying the Torah and lived off Ma’amodot (stipends), donated by Jews in the Diaspora. The Old Yishuv religious Jews, lived mainly in Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron. Smaller communities were in Jaffa, Haifa, Peki’in, Acre, Nablus, Shfaram and until 1779 also in Gaza.

The parties of the far “Left” “Mapam” “Hadash” and “Meretz” are vilified and despised to the point of hatred and even violence by those on the right. They are widely vilified for their willingness to bend over backward to appease the Arabs in their rush to sue for Peace. They are not interested in the “Jewishness” of the link to the land. They see themselves merely as inhabitants who reside here.  They are hedonists and believers of “Gay” Liberal rights. The believe in a classless society. I call it the ‘Kumbaya belief”, a totally unrealistic view, since man’s inner hostilities and fears of others have not developed enough throughout mankind to exist. One need only to look no further that the events of the ISIS in Syria and Iraq to understand the stupidity of this thought at this time. And regretfully as Mr Spock would surely believe we are not living in some science fiction movie of the future in space.

As to the “rightist” we have those religious Jews of the “Greater Israel” movement and their backers from the Fundamentalist Christian Messianic sects. They are the religious Jews of Orthodox heritage many from the “Knitted” kippah (Hebrew word for the skullcap traditionally worn by Jewish men it is also called a yarmulke or koppel in Yiddish.) of the National Religious Party (Hebrew: מִפְלָגָה דָּתִית לְאֻומִּית, Miflaga Datit Leumit, commonly known in Israel by its Hebrew acronym Mafdal, (Hebrew: מפד”ל))

The National Religious Party (NRP) was created by the merger of two parties—Mizrachi and Hapoel HaMizrachi—in 1956. It was a political party in Israel representing the religious Zionist movement. Formed in 1956, at the time of its dissolution in 2008. Throughout the NRP’s existence it attempted to preserve the relevance of Judaism on issues such as Israeli personal status laws, education, culture, and municipal issues such as prohibitions on the selling of non-Kosher food (in prescribed areas, and occasionally throughout a given municipality), prohibiting transportation and public activities on the Shabbat.

After the victory of the 1967 War messianic trends among religious Israeli Jews were reborn and with the “Liberation” of ancient Judea and Shomron, in the June 1967 War many religious Jews affiliated with the Beitar and pre-state Etzel and Lechi have returned from abroad to make their homes in our ancient Jewish Homeland of Judea and Shomron.

The resettlement of communities ethnically cleansed in 1947 and 1948 resulted in many members of the NRP moving further right. Many descendants of the ethnically cleansed Jews from the Jewish Old City Quarter of Jerusalem, the settlements of “Gush Etzion” and Hebron began to return to their homes and lands. Many falsifiers of history have deleted the truth that Jews owned land and had homes beyond the 1949 “Ceasefire” or “Green Line”. To this end their communities are vilified by being termed “Settlements” and the residents are labeled “Settlers” when in essence the area was once inhabited by Jews and owned by them. On the “Left” are those who attempt to negate the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and euphemistically refer to the area as the “West Bank”.

According to the League of Nations resolution for the establishment of the Mandate for ‎Palestine, the area of Judea and Shomron the “West Bank”, were illegally conquered and seized ‎by Jordan in 1947. The area had been recognized as a cestui sue trust  for the Jewish Homeland ‎in April, 1922 in the Treaty of Sèvres (Section VII, Art 94-97) by 52 countries at the San Remo ‎Conference which granted the Palestine Mandate to Britain. The League of Nations officially ‎granted Britain the Palestine Mandate on July 24, 1922.‎

Therefore Jewish communities that existed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip prior to 1919 were ‎recognized as legitimate by the Mandate for Palestine, which was adopted by the League of ‎Nations. The only administration that completely prohibited Jewish communities from existing ‎in the captured “West Bank” was that of Jordan from 1948 to 1967. ‎

Regarding Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Israeli government has not forcibly ‎transferred its population into the territories. The return of Jews to the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) is voluntary and does not displace local inhabitants. ‎The land that was being to build new residential areas, villages and towns never had been ‎under the legitimate sovereignty of any state beforehand.

There are no clauses in the Fourth ‎Geneva Convention that can be used to prohibit the voluntary return of individuals to towns and ‎villages from which they or their ancestors had been previously ejected by forcible means. ‎The Jewish communities of;  Hartuv, Kfar Etzion, Hebron, and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem had ‎only been re established after exhaustive investigations making sure none were built on private ‎land. Israel also argues that some of the communities are built in areas purchased by a Jewish ‎land holding company in 1925 and where Jewish communities that existed before the 1948 Arab-‎Israeli War when many “West Bank” Jewish Communities were destroyed and the residents ‎massacred or expelled, It seems reasonable to refer to the land of these communities as liberated ‎as it was freed from the illegal occupation of Jordan and was returned to possession of its ‎owners, the Jewish People. Therefore in these cases the application of the Geneva Convention is ‎an entirely different issue.

 Now here is my brief introduction of the political parties.‎

The two largest parties are the Likud and the Labor Party cum “Zionist Camp”. These ‎two fractions are mainstays since before the creation of the country based on two ‎divergent Zionistic thoughts: ‎

The “Revisionists” of  Revisionist Zionism ie Likud –(pre-State Irgun and LECHI some ‎call them “Freedom Fighters and some call them “Terrorists”) ‎

and the “Socialists”or Labor Zionism  / Socialist Zionism – the Labor Party of The ‎‎“Zionist Camp”- (who are identified with the The Hagannah and the Palmach)‎

The other parties are:‎

Agudat Yisrael representative of the Religious; Ashkenazic (Western) “G” or Gimmel ‎and the Sephardic Shas movement of HaRav Ovadiah Yoseph the (“Jews of Arab lands”) ‎‎[or if you prefer Matza Balls and Gefiltte Fish versus Mofletot and Dag Harif.] They ‎want Torah Judaism, Yeshivot –seminaries for learning. They lead pious lives and want ‎to be left alone to study. They usually do not serve in the Army. The men study and the ‎great majority of them do not work. The wives work and provide meager incomes. They ‎live very simply with no modern “luxuries”. They ask to receive government subsidies ‎for their schools and centers of learning. ‎

Yisrael Beitanu” The Russian Strong Man party of Avigdor Lieberman . It primarily ‎represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union.  It takes a strong line towards the ‎peace process and the integration of Israeli Arabs, characterized by its 2009 election ‎slogan “No loyalty, no citizenship”‎.

‎“Yesh Atid” –there is a future – the party of Yair lapid basically a continuation of the party of his father Tommy Lapid. “Shinui” which was based on the Liberal Party – were derived from the “Second Aliyah” business class bourgeoisie who migrated to “Palestine” during the Mandate period from 1920. Basically they represent the middle class and the small businesses. Yesh Atid wants to reduce the financial burden –taxation on the middle class and young families especially those of small business owners.

Meretz”, which was originally formed in 1992 with the union of Ratz, Mapam, and ‎Shinui. Meretz defines itself as a Zionist, left-wing, social-democratic party. They see ‎themselves as the political representative of the Israeli Peace movement in the Knesset. ‎They are against “settlement” in the “Occupied Territories. They believe in Gay rights ‎and in secularization of the Israeli lifestyle.‎

HaBeit HaYehudi – The Jewish Homeland- Naphtali Bennet they basically are what is ‎left of the Religious Labor Zionist movement and the Greater Israel “Settler Movement ‎of Judea and Shomron. They do not want to be removed from the “West Bank” and they ‎are active to defeat the establishment of a 23rd Arab nation called Palestine. They believe ‎in annexing the area to Israel.‎

‎“Colanu” – All of us It is a breakaway party of ex-Likudnik Moshe Kachlon who was instrumental in ‎creating some major changes in the control of monopolies on several businesses in Israel ‎primarily the Mobile Phones monstrosity that charged ridiculously high inflated prices ‎for their use. His reforms changed and revolutionized how monopolies do business in ‎Israel. He was ousted from the Likud by “Bibi” more than probably at the urging of the ‎financial Mongols who pull the strings of the “Likud” leadership.‎ ‎

Now as to the main adversaries we have the Prime Minister Benyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu  ‎leader of the Likud Party – Hebrew: ‎הַלִּיכּוּד‎  “Consolidation”. Prior to the 1973 elections an alliance of several right wing parties; Herut, the Liberal Party, the Free Centre, the National List and the Movement for Greater Israel was formed as a secular party by the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The ” Likud” (Hebrew: הַלִּיכּוּד ) or “Consolidation”, as it is called represents the consolidation of the right wing of the spectrum of politics in Israel. Once more the Herut or Freedom Party became the senior partner as they had been in a previous coalition with the Liberals know as ” Gahal” since 1965. From its establishment in 1973, Likud enjoyed great support from blue-collar Sephardim who felt discriminated against by the ruling  “Ashkeniazic” Alignment.

The Herut or “Freedom “ party is the ‎outgrowth of the political beliefs of Zev Jabotinsky and the movement for “Eretz Yisrael” ‎and the militant Jewish Beitar –Etzel Lechi group. The “non-apologists” group for the ‎resettlement of Eretz Yisrael. The other part that formed the Likud was the Liberal Party ‎who were derived from the “Second Aliyah” business class bourgeoisie who migrated to ‎‎“Palestine” during the Mandate period from 1920.‎

The center-left is identified with the Workers party the “Poalim” the Israel ‎Labor Party. The current leader of the Labor Party is  Issac (Yitzhak) “Bougie” Herzog  The party of the Labor ‎Land movement Ohavei Zion who came in the 1880’s and established  the communal ‎farms the Kibbutzim and the Moshavim. It’s ideological vision for Israel is based upon ‎the values of the Jewish labor movement, the social experience and cultural heritage of ‎the Jewish people. The Labor Party is pragmatic in its approach. It recognizes the ‎necessity to compromise in both the domestic arena and in foreign affairs in order to ‎promote political stability and the advancement of Israel’s fundamental interests.‎

The rise to power of the Likud with it’s victory in 1978 was based on the failures of the “Labor” lead government during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the cynical use of the “Sephardic” card to garnish votes. Few of them realized that the “Likud” is manipulated by the Herut, who they themselves were on the whole “Ashkenazim”.

The whole episode of the white skinned “Ashkenazi Labor Party” animosity was an out growth from the reality of the early development of the state when housing, money and building supplies were far from enough to keep pace with the young countries post independence immigration waves.

David Ben-Gurion, who had been head of the Jewish Agency, and later president of the Jewish Executive, thereby became the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine. Be Gurion Led the Jewish Agency in its struggle for an independent Jewish state under the British Mandate.  As the country’s first leader he realized that it’s first meager resources were urgently needed to foot the cost of the War of Independence. Ben-Gurion knew the crucial importance that an effective properly trained and armed army was needed to defend the fledgling state. Means of production were urgently needed and as all tested leaders in times of crucial leadership Ben Gurion made decisions which were not popular but helped to form a nation. In the post War of Independence years Israel began to develop but under an iron fist of draconian financial measures. A nation with no real natural resources and nearly bankrupt had to build the infrastructure of a state. Ben-Gurion who was a member of Socialistic Mapai (Labour) party won the largest number of Knesset seats in the first national election, held on 14 February 1949 and was elected Prime Minister of Israel. He would remain in that post until 1963, except for a period of nearly two years between 1954 and 1955.

During the first two decades of Israel’s assistance it had no extra income to splurge on “luxuries” the lifestyle was extremely “Spartan”. There were few job opportunities. Many places of work were government or labor Union- Histadrut financed factories. Farming and produce came from co-operatives with Kibbutzim to provide badly needed foodstuffs for the country. As Prime Minister, he presided over various national projects aimed at the rapid development of the country as he oversaw the establishment of the state’s institutions, the construction of the National Water Carrier, rural development projects and the establishment of new “Development towns” pioneering settlements that housed the mass immigration of Jews from Arab lands -“Sephardim” in outlying areas, especially in the Negev and the Galilee peripheral areas.

The animosity of the Sephardim developed from the program to settle them in Maabarot- Transit Camps of these “Development Towns” far from the center of the country due to the housing shortage. The level of education was inferior in the outlying areas due to the level of the overall population. Public and medical services were few and far between. Transportation was nearly non existent. The Government -represented by the Labor party was occupied with the building of a viable state under the constant threat of war. It was not until after the June 1967 War that the economy began to flourish and with it cases of abuse also identified with those aligned with the Labor Party.

Since its birth Israel has been plagued by a series of prolonged ‎systemic failures that have affected our civil system of governance, law enforcement, ‎justice, education, welfare and health. With the formation of the Likud governments they allowed the new survival-of-the-fittest capitalistic economics to develop at the cost of government subsidized businesses. Which were the only companies or businesses that existed in peripheral Development Towns. Those businesses that did open in peripheral areas took the government subsidies and paid minimum wage to workers. And as soon as the government benefits finished they would close leaving tens of families unemployed.

The “Free economy policy” of the Likud has allowed ‎multinational corporations and obscenely wealthy individuals to manipulate the economy ‎to their gain against the benefit of the Israeli populace and society on the whole.‎

At an increasing speed over the past decade – Israel has had its sense of purpose and ‎solidarity eroded by the insatiable greed of its economic elite of the descendants of the Bourgeoisie class of ‎the Liberal Party who formed part of the Machal for inflated profits at the cost of the Israel workers. Politicians of the Likud  have benefited from serving them. ‎Israel’s original Labor party orientated socialist roots have been washed away to form a society that has the ‎largest gap in income between rich and poor of any Western country. The development of multiple political parties each with their own agenda, have created through the wheeling and dealing to achieve political office in pass elections led to large cabinets packed with ministers who were empty chairs. Therefore there is a drastic need to reduce the size of the cabinet to enable government to manage its vital ‎tasks, such as law enforcement and security.

Thousands of new Israeli millionaires were given blanket tax exemptions on stock ‎exchange earnings, while hundreds of thousands of us in the middle classes can barely ‎eek out a living for our family’s, while having large amounts of our income confiscated ‎for taxes. Many Banks and companies, pay their executives obscene wages and ‎retirement packages through government guarantees and subsidies. Small businesses ‎must be liberated from strangling regulation and taxation. Educators are paid next to ‎nothing. Our schools have forty children to a classroom. Only parents who can afford to ‎finance the extra hours of “gray education” can insure their children’s future.

We have borne witness to government officials rushing to “privatize” the land that ‎Zionist pioneers and their supporters sacrificed so much to redeem. These unscrupulous ‎officials sell the land off to wealthy contractors in order to build suburban housing for the ‎offspring of the well-off. Young couples are being strapped with ever increasingly high ‎mortgages. Public housing for the poor has been ignored or placed at the very bottom of the social ‎agenda. A public transportation system and a highway system that would connect the ‎peripheral areas to places of job opportunities are slow to develop or go under-funded and under-developed for the sake of new roads in the “West Bank”. The ‎only reason that there is any movement in developing the transportation system is to ‎satisfy the greed of car importers and building contractors who want to put up ‎McDonalds and shopping malls off the highway exits like on the new toll road highway Kvish 6 or the Haifa bypass tunnel.‎

Today’s pampered Israeli hedonistic teenage children of the very rich in Herzilya or Ramat Aviv can ‎afford to hang out in malls, they can have a bite at McDonalds ‎or Pizza Hut while texting to their friends on their newest iphones. They sit around discussing their latest ‎purchases of electric powered bicycles and their trips to Europe and beyond. You will not ‎be hearing that many of them plan on going to the army. They don’t have too much ‎feeling for Zionism, and most could not care less. Like their parents many have a deep ‎and profound identification with Western “Liberal” values.

Now speak to any of the approximately 50 percent of Israeli children who will ‎never have a chance to graduate from high school with a matriculation degree because of ‎slashed funding to schools and the lack of funds to pay for enrichment after school ‎programs. Those kids to those who reside in Ramle, in the neighborhoods of Jaffa or in ‎Hadera, in Shlomei, in Shechuna Dalet of Beersheva or a hundred other impoverished and lower class ‎neighborhoods and Development Towns. Let us not forget that many of the family’s of these children will not be able to ‎afford to pay for food let alone enrichment classes for their children.

Many of these disadvantaged young people will not be able to go to the army because ‎some of them will already have police records, meaning the army won’t even want them, ‎and some because they don’t want to fight for a country that can’t be bothered to give ‎them an education. They cannot see a positive future for themselves or their families.‎

Yes, we do have a values problem here in Israel. Our children learn quickly. They see what is going on in this country, and that is what determines their ‎attitudes. The media here idolizes those who have “made it” they all know of the reality shows and escapism it offers from the reality of the Israeli situation. They spend their childhoods under the very real threat of annihilation. That wars are fought on a regular basis because our neighbors have an insatiable thirst for ALL the land. Our children have witnessed dear ones: close friends, brothers, sisters and fathers go off to fight and die.They know the sounds of “Code Red” and the Iron Dome. They have seen the torn flesh and damage wrought upon our civilian population by “Falestinian” mortars and rockets. Yet still we still desire peace but NOT just at ANY cost.

Oh yes there are many successes in Israel technology and in start ups, but what is equally as important is to strengthen the Jewish identity of the youth. Above all we need to elect government officials who will take bold steps not just in the quest for a just and lasting peace but those who will strive to make our lives and those of our children better.

We Israelis will not continue to allow economics based ‎on naked greed and ignore the educational, health, ‎employment and housing needs of millions of Israelis. Do not expect to us to continue voting for those who will not change. We need new leaders who will show us the way out of the financial quagmire and to help us improve our image and standing in the world.So we do not need rhetoric alone we need action.

About the Author
Yakov Marks arrived in Israel in 1974 from B'ham Al. USA as a volunteer on Kibbutz Ashdot Yakov. Yakov was a member of a Garin for Kibbutz Ketura in 1975 but moved to be a single soldier in Ma'alot in 1976, where he resides until today. He served in the IDF as a combat medic in regular service and as a reservist from 1976 through 2000. Yakov is married to Rena B. (formerly of Far Rockaway NY) and he is the father of six children and he is the proud grandfather of Ori Meir and Tehilah. Yakov was a teacher of English and History in local High Schools for many years. He has been active in Israeli politics as a member of the Labor Party since 1975 and is a member of Yitzhak Rabin's z"l forum in the party.
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