Senators Rubio, Cotton, slam Obama on his assault on Israel

At the end of my last post I promised to show how much support there is for Israel in Congress itself. Here are two fantastic videos of two senators staunchly defending Israel while slamming Obama for his disgraceful treatment of Israel.

First we have Florida Senator (R) Marco Rubio slamming Obama’s “historic mistake” on Israel:

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Thursday night delivered a powerful speech against US President Barack Obama’s increasing hostility towards Israel after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s elections victory, as the White House threatened to pull support for Israel at the UN.

Rubio began by noting “Israel is everything we want that region of the world to be,” pointing out the Jewish state’s democracy, free enterprise economy, and status as a strong American ally.

Speaking about Israel’s “unique purpose” as “the homeland for the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Second World War and of the Holocaust,” he noted his pride that America has “stood behind the Jewish state for all of these years.”

However, that support is in danger he charged, pointing that as of the time of his speech Obama had yet to call Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory – the call came later on Thursday night, a full two days after elections.

Rubio revealed the hypocrisy of the delay, given that in 2012 Obama was among the first to call and congratulate Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as well as Chinese Communist leaders, and in 2013 he likewise rushed to call Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

The senator provided an overview of Obama’s noted slant in bashing Israel back from his campaigning days in 2008.

Watch the whole blistering speech. It’s outstanding.

Aleister at Legal Insurrection added:

on Gabriel of Ricochet was clearly impressed by Rubio’s speech as well:

Rubio Speech Drops Hammer on Anti-Israel President

If Marco Rubio keeps talking like this, he’ll be the GOP front runner before we know it.

Two days after Benjamin Netanyahu’s big victory in Israel, one day after Obama’s peevish reaction, and on the same day the White House stated that they foresee “terrible days” for Israel ahead, Rubio spoke up. In 15 minutes, Florida’s junior senator vivisects Obama’s Israel policy before dispatching it once and for all into the depths of hell.

Rubio should be commended, it was a speech for the ages.

Indeed, it was as historic a speech as anything we have heard in recent years.

Another excellent speech in defence of Israel was delivered by Arkansas Senator (R) Tom Cotton (h/t Israellycool) who stood up for Israel, slamming Obama for his vindictive anti-Israel position:

Since those two speeches were delivered, there have been several other statements and speeches in robust defence of Israel and Netanyahu in Washington. Kol hakavod to all of them for taking this courageous stance, putting their careers and reputations on the line but standing up for decency and loyalty.

It is as important for us in Israel as it is for the US representatives to hear these stout expressions of support for Israel. Were it not for senators such as Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio we might be tempted to just curl up and give in to Obama’s whims. But with the backing of these loyal supporters we know that we have someone at our back – NOT Barack Obama who would only want our back in order to plunge in a knife – who will not allow Israel to be thrown “under the bus”.

Posted in International relations, Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Obama’s spiteful reaction to Netanyahu’s winning the elections

Obama’s spiteful revenge on Netanyahu

By now everyone has heard all about Binyamin Netanyahu’s statement about a two-state solution not happening while he is Prime Minister, and also his possibly ill-advised words warning about Arabs being bussed in to vote on election day.

I call his statement about the Arabs ill-advised because someone of Netanyahu’s stature and experience should have realised the fallout that they would cause. and indeed it led to  being interpreted by the left as racism – they in effect accused him of objecting to the Arabs voting at all. However, when looking beyond the screaming headlines, it is obvious that Netanyahu was not calling for the Arabs’ disenfranchisement. He was simply pointing out that the Arabs were voting in huge numbers and was therefore calling on his own voters to come out in similar numbers to prevent being ousted. This is a legitimate call for a politician to make, although I still think he should have thought twice about the wording as he was handing ammunition to his enemies.

However the biggest fuss is being made of Netanyahu’s other “controversial” statement, about a Palestinian state not being established under his watch, in answer to a question from to the NRG Hebrew news site:

The prime minister warned in an interview with the NRG news website Monday that a Zionist Union-led government would push for relinquishing territory, a move he said was tantamount to “burying its head in the sand.”

“I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “This is the true reality that has been created in past years. Those that ignore it are burying their heads in the sand. The left does this, buries its head in the sand, time and again.”

Asked directly whether no Palestinian state would be created under his leadership, the prime minister answered: “Indeed.”

It is clear that Netanyahu’s one-word answer was a simple statement of fact, not a new policy. But as if lying in wait for a statement exactly such as this, the Obama Administration seized upon Netanyahu’s words and accused him of backtracking on his pledge to establish a Palestinian state and work towards a two state solution. And when Netanyahu clarified that he meant it as a statement of fact, rather than staking out a new direction or expressing a fervent wish, Washington remained frosty while Obama snootily decided, like a headmaster chiding a naughty schoolboy, that Netanyahu was not being sincere:

WASHINGTON — The State Department said Wednesday that the US would “evaluate” its approach to the two-state solution in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of Palestinian statehood during his campaign for reelection

“Based on the prime minister’s comments, the US is in a position going forward in which we will be evaluating our approach with regards to how best to achieve a two-state solution,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during her press briefing.

She acknowledged that “the fact that [Netanyahu] has changed his opinion certainly has an impact” on US decision-making moving forward.

Prof. Jacobson shows how the media distorted Netanyahu’s words , thus implying he was zig-zagging when he walked them back:

If you take the actual text of Netanyahu said, he never ruled out a two-state solution and never discouraged Arab voting. But those were the headlines and the foaming-at-the mouth hyperbole, fomented by the Obama administration in numerous anonymous statements to the media.

Netanyahu expressed his clarifications in an interview on MSNBC (at the link above):

But even after Netanyahu’s clarification, the White House stood by its ungracious and unrelenting rejection of Netanyahu’s stance:

Although Netanyahu later backtracked, and reiterated a commitment in principle to a “sustainable, peeaceful two-state solution,” Obama told The Huffington Post in an interview published Saturday that his administration is now operating under the assumption that Netanyahu does not envision the creation of a Palestinian state.

“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership,” Obama said, “and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”

Former Ambassador and spokesman Dore Gold also attempted to explain the brouhaha and tries to bring some clarity to the disagreement in an interview on CNN:

Clarifications notwithstanding, relations between the two countries have now descended to such a level that Netanyahu has been left with the strong impression that the US will not back Israel at the UN any more. There is a disturbing twist in this tale: it appears that the Administration has been waiting for an excuse to “reassess” their relationship with Israel for 4 months – four months!! – i.e. long before Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, and certainly long before the elections were even called:

Quoting unnamed Israeli sources, they said the president made clear he didn’t believe Netanyahu was genuinely supportive of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, and that he indicated that the US would no longer automatically support Israel at the United Nations.

According to a Channel 10 read out on the call, indeed, Obama left Netanyahu with “the impression that he intends to abandon Israel at the UN.”

The United States has actually been considering a reevaluation of ties with Israel, including its automatic support for the Jewish state at the United Nations Security Council, for at least four months, the Israeli sources also told Channel 2. Although the White House claims the reassessment was prompted by Netanyahu’s remarks on Monday in which he rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state — and which he walked back Thursday — that is not the case, according to the officials.

The White House is certainly giving every impression that it is trying its hardest to ignore any and every attempt by Netanyahu to appease them, placate them and backtrack on anything which might upset them.

Asked Friday why the White House was not taking Netanyahu at his word, White House spokesman Josh Earnest retorted, “Well I guess the question is: Which one?” Earnest said the Obama administration did take Netanyahu at his word — and understood that the prime minister does not envision a Palestinian state being established during his term in office.

“The divergent comments of the prime minister legitimately call into question his commitment to this policy principle and his lack of commitment to what has been the foundation of our policy-making in the region,” Earnest said. Netanyahu had prompted questions about his “true view” on the two-state solution, the spokesman added. “Words matter.”

Sure they do.  So do the words of promised support by the US matter to Israel. Trust is a two way street Mr. Spokesman. Nowadays Israel can’t trust a word that the Administration says, and not only Israel. Ask any Saudi, Jordanian or Egyptian how they feel about American support these days.

And then the threats:

Earnest said the administration has not decided what a reassessment in policy might mean. But he noted that in the past, the US has regularly opposed UN resolutions to create a Palestinian state by arguing that such a two-state arrangement should be negotiated between the parties. “What has now changed is that our ally in those conversations, Israel, has indicated that they are not committed to that approach anymore,” Earnest said.

Translation: “Nice little country you got there. Shame if something nasty happened to it. By accident you understand. Just a misunderstanding…”.

Charles Krauthammer aptly calls the Obama Administration’s reactions “unseemly” and “spiteful” (via Legal Insurrection):

But Israel is not alone. Stay tuned for another post on Israel’s wonderful defenders in Congress.

Posted in International relations, Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

How Israelis viewed the election results

Professor William Jacobson, (a law professor at Cornell University, an avowed conservative, Zionist and staunch defender of Israel, whom I had the pleasure to meet a couple of years ago) who runs the law-blog Legal Insurrection kindly invited me to write a guest post on how Israelis viewed the election results – as opposed to all the foreign opinion-makers.  Below are some excerpts from my post. You can read the whole post at LI and if you have a registered account there you can leave comments. Otherwise I welcome your comments here!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Binyamin Netanyahu declares victory at Israeli elections 2015

As an avowed rightist I was both delighted and highly relieved at the result, though as a Naftali Bennett and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) voter, I admit to some disappointment that the party lost several seats, going down from 12 to 8.

It has been suggested that many Bayit Yehudi voters “sacrificed” their party to save the Likud on the basis that if Likud loses, Bayit Yehudi will be out for sure, whereas if the Likud manages to hold on to power, Bayit Yehudi will be taken into the coalition.

And indeed, despite its less than brilliant showing, and the sometimes bitter personal relationship between Netanyahu and Bennett, the gamble paid off as Bayit Yehudi was amongst the first parties approached by Netanyahu to enter the coalition (as opposed to the 2013 elections when Bayit Yehudi was left out in the cold until the very last minute).

Returning to the election campaign for a moment, it is widely agreed that it was a dirty, vicious campaign with ad hominem attacks, particularly from the Left, and not much debate on the very real issues themselves: security, Iran, the Palestinians, the economy, the high cost of living, gaps between rich and poor and between the big cities and the “periphery”, i.e. the border towns and development towns.

The impression I have received, from my own discussions with my family and friends and from a variety of media articles, is that the negative campaigning rebounded on the Left.

Being anti-something is never enough. One must give some idea of what your solutions are to these apparent problems.  In addition, the intensely anti-Bibi campaign terrified the Right and mobilised them en masse to go out and vote. In fact it’s possible that the Left’s campaign did more to bring in Right-wing votes than all the right-wing volunteer workers combined.

… Ynet, that bastion of  Israeli left-winginess, accused Netanyahu of lying and fear-mongering to garner his win.

Ynet has nothing on Haaretz however, who are so extreme left that they almost turn themselves inside-out in their zeal to demonize anything that smacks of Israeli or Jewish nationalism.  They reported on Bibi’s election win as nothing short of a disaster for Israel, and also accused him of race-baiting in his drive to the winning post.

What the left fail to understand is that Netanyahu was not saying that Arabs should not vote, or that their vote should not be counted.

On the contrary. He was worried that their massive voter turnout would tip the scales in favour of the left, and so he called on his supporters not to be complacent, but to come out and vote before it’s too late.  I’m sure Haaretz would not take kindly to being called race-baiters for objecting to massive ultra-Orthodox voting, for example. It’s a two-way street, something they find hard to accept.

Of course the right-wing, and the center too, were overjoyed and hugely relieved at Likud’s victory. The sighs of relief were almost palpable. I’m an optimist at heart, but on Tuesday I was filled with a sense of foreboding, and tried to distract myself with Passover cleaning (in my defense, I was desperate!) and playing with my grandchildren so as not to focus on the ominous forecasts.  In the end this dejection made the final victory that much more delicious.

I started to feel a glimmer of hope shortly before the polls closed, when early exit polls showed a dead heat between the two main parties, something which was widely accepted by all opinion-makers as an advantage to Bibi, since he had the greater chance of creating a coalition under those circumstances. And then the polls closed and the numbers started to be announced…

Arlene Kushner, an American Israeli journalist, describes these emotions perfectly in her article “With Gratitude and Gladness:

The Israeli election campaign just ended has been one hell of a dismal and ominous ride.  I knew that well enough, but it was only when near-final results were released, and I began to cry, that I realized how very frightened I had been.  For this nation that I love, and for the free world.

And so I am grateful.  First to the Almighty.  And then to the people of Israel, who saw their way past the nonsense, and saved the day.

Kushner addresses the viciousness of the election campaign and the barely legal interference of foreign elements (including possibly the State Department) on behalf of the Zionist Union party. And then the essence of the whole post:

What is most important is that the world see that a right-leaning nationalist government is where the Israeli electorate stands. This does not make us radicals, even though a left-leaning media will paint us so.  A democratic election was held and the people have spoken.  We will, we must, move on from here.

Interestingly, an article by Uri Heitner on the very right-wing, Netanyahu-supporting Israel Hayom, calls for some introspection on the right, despite their victory, saying that we need to heal the rifts in Israeli society:

The socio-economic record of the outgoing government — very troubling poverty rates, a high cost of living and staggering housing prices — should have paved the way for an upset. But the Zionist Union failed to articulate an appealing foreign policy. Its conduct was deplorable.

First, it chose to stay on the sidelines while Netanyahu actively took on the emerging deal with Iran — a deal that could cement Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state and grant it full legitimacy. Second, it torpedoed the Jewish state bill, casting it as racist and nationalist rather than as the expression of core Zionist principles championed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion; it turned its back on its own values. If Labor wants to regain power it must first return to its former old self; it must embrace its values and vision.

Netanyahu should also do some soul-searching. He may be tempted to rest on his laurels for having defied the polls and successfully swinging the pendulum in his direction. But he must not bask in the glory of his electoral success, despite his magician-like performance. When the state comptroller issued a damning housing report several weeks ago, he appeared out of touch, taking to social media to warn Israelis that the threat posed by Iran on “life itself” should concern them more than the cost of living. Netanyahu may not champion social justice, solidarity and egalitarianism but he cannot shed his responsibility for the welfare of Israel’s citizens, their ability to make ends meet, provide for their families and secure their future. Netanyahu needs to understand that alongside the security threats facing Israel, the daily lives of the Israeli citizens are in fact “life itself.”

Israelis on the whole need to do some soul-searching. This was the ugliest, most contrarian and radical election campaign Israel has seen in decades. Both sides are equally at fault. Now we just have to lick our wounds and wait to heal.

Heitner thinks that a unity government would be the best solution. I strongly disagree. Unity governments have only worked during wartime and even then barely. They tend to paralyze any decision-making of the government, and collapse ignominiously shortly afterwards.

But Heitner’s call for introspection is well-placed indeed. The temperature of Israel’s political emotions needs to be brought down to below boiling point. We have serious issues to face, both domestically and internationally, not to mention the Iranian sword hanging over our heads.  We cannot achieve success in any of these fields with a society that is split and riven by hate.

But let’s not get too carried away with self-flagellation. Israel has so much to be proud of.

I’m proud to be Israeli, proud of her achievements, proud of her ability to hold free and fair elections under the constant threat of war. I’m proud that an Arab Supreme Court Judge was the Chairman of the Elections Commission and that a record number of women have been elected.

I’m also proud that Israel allows the Pirates Party (no joke!) to stand for election, as well as the Breslav Hassidim “Na-Nach” Party, not to mention the Green Leaf party, campaigning for the legalising of marijuana.

Come to think of it, just imagine how mellow the Middle East would be if they came into power. :-)

Let the haters hate. Am Yisrael Chai!

Posted in Israel news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Good News Friday

After the roller-coaster week that we’ve just gone through, I feel the need to post a Good News Friday installment to ease our ragged nerves! :-)

Solar eclipse 20th March 2015. Picture taken from space

Solar eclipse 20th March 2015. Picture taken from space

First, a sign from the Heavens!  A solar eclipse took place a couple of hours ago, around midday Israel time, although it was barely felt since only 6-8% of the sun was covered. I went down to our carpark with my very own highly sophisticated, state of the art “eclipse projector”: 2 pieces of paper. :-D

Actually, I had 2 pieces of paper: one with a pinhole cut through it, and another piece of paper held underneath to view the sun’s eclipse. At its height the eclipse resembled the Apple logo (an apple with a bite taken out) but it was so small it was hard to detect unless you were looking for it – which I was. There are those who think this is a bad sign for the nations and/or Israel, and those who think it is good.  Similarly a “blood moon” – a full eclipse of the moon, when it appears reddish and blood-like – is to take place on Seder night in 2 weeks’ time, and there are similar omens or good forecasts. The Times of Israel has a good round-up of the varying religious opinions.  I received the picture accompanying this item from my brother. (No, he did not travel to space himself!)

From the heights of the Heavens to the depths of the earth, here is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a man who needed a minyan to say Kaddish for his late wife. An Israeli website heard about his dilemma and posted the story on Facebook. The result: Beautiful Israel in all its glory. The cemetery was flooded with people who came to help the bereaved man mark his wife’s yahrzeit.

מי כעמך ישראל! Who are like Your people Israel!

Fix your car using Engie

And now, in another 180° shift from the sublime to the material, you could hardly find something more earthly than car maintenance! A new Israeli app, Engie, has been designed to take the stress out of fixing your car:

Have you ever suspected, like most of us do, that you might be overcharged by your car repair shop? A new car maintenance app that detects car problems – and the exact cost to repair them – could save car owners hundreds of dollars. Engie, a smartphone application launched in Israel last year, is hoping to disrupt an industry that has barely changed over the past century: auto repair shops.

The app is connected to the on-board car computer, and sends the owner notifications about issues and problems. The owner can then get price quotes from mechanics in his or her area. After identifying the problem, the application invites nearby auto repair shops to bid for the repair job. CEO Yarden Gross tells NoCamels that Engie’s app can detect 60-70 percent of auto problems. Ultimately, Engie founders want to create an empowered driving community, one that would shop around for the best price through their app.

Launched in December 2014, six weeks later the app had over 17,000 users. Engie’s service, which works with a bluetooth-enabled, on-board diagnostics device (which is separate from the app), interprets the codes from the car computer to inform the driver about everything from engine problems to maintenance updates to their true gas mileage. Engie provides users with the device for free, charging $5 for the shipping.

I think this is absolutely brilliant! Unless you know something about car maintenance, or have an excellent garage and a good relationship with the mechanics you can never be sure you aren’t being ripped off, or simply not getting a good repair job. Judging by the huge and rapid success this app has received it is going to prove highly popular. I might even get one myself. Kol hakavod to CEO Yarden Gross and his colleagues Gal Aharon and Alon Hendelman. May they continue growing from strength to strength.

Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the 1st of Nissan

Returning to this post’s starting point: the moon and the Heavens – tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the 1st of the month of Nissan, which according to the Torah is “the first of the months”:

הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים, רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה

“This month shall be for you the head of the months, the first of the months of the year for you”. (Exodus, 12:2)

We will read this chapter as an extra Torah portion in shul tomorrow as it marks the beginning of our preparations for Pesach (Passover) in 2 weeks’ time.  As the first of all the months it is also a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) of sorts, one of 4 in the Jewish calendar. The 1st of Nissan is the Rosh Hashana for Kings, the day from which the years of their reign are counted.  How appropriate then that this week marks the beginning of a new “reign” – even if it is the same Prime Minister (or “King” in Biblical terms).  The news of the victory of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Likud and the Right in the Israeli Elections is of course excellent, but much hard work lies ahead for all of us.

On this Rosh Hashana for Kings, may Hashem grant that our new government be formed without delay, may it be populated with wise and generous souls, may Hashem grant them the wisdom and the courage to make the right decisions for the country and the people of Israel, and may He help us to heal the rifts in our society.

On that hopeful note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov.

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How the media got the Israeli elections so wrong

The American-funded anti-Bibi campaign backfired spectacularly

Beyond the embarrassingly erroneous polls, both pre-election and exit polls, that predicted a loss for Netanyahu and the Likud, the media itself lent a hand to these incorrect numbers by consistently reading Israel wrong: its society, its culture and its mindset.  Even the Israeli media, who should have known better, were culpable. It could be argued that the media’s mis-reporting led to the misleading polls, and the skewed polls gave rise to the misreporting. Both sides fed each other in a perpetual loop of misunderstanding.

Israel Hayom’s article, The failure of hubris and hatred talks about the demonisation of the Right by the leftist media, and how that led to the incorrect polling estimates:

The elections’ results clearly show that the condescension and arrogance practiced by Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon (Noni) Mozes and his myriad of associates, commentators, and broadcasters, who openly endorsed the Left while demonizing Benjamin Netanyahu the man, has failed.

Painting Likud voters into a corner and depicting them as a mob and as people voting with their hearts and not with their heads, raised serious questions about the reversal of roles. Profound hatred, much like burning love, stems from irrational sources, and anyone perusing the pages of Yedioth, Haaretz, news websites, and other media outlets, would have had ample proof that it was the Likud’s rivals who were voting with their heart and not their heads. 

Interestingly, Eitan Haber, former aide to the slain Labour PM Yitzchak Rabin, rebuked the Left for living in a bubble:

The leftists enhance each other in conversations at cafés and restaurants, in the Tel Aviv salons, in cinematheques and different cultural clubs. The people living outside Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, outside the academia and the newspaper and television’s news desks have completely different views.

The facts were painfully presented on Tuesday evening to those who in the past few weeks believed the stories about the left-wing bloc’s meteoric rise and the right-wing bloc’s collapse.

Those living in the bubble should spend the next few years far away from Tel Aviv, and get to know the people in the periphery, in order to believe that the State of Israel will continue to exist long after the Zionist Union leaders disappear from the political map.

The left likes to withdraw into itself, to hold internal discussions, to engage in internal quarrels, and shows contempt and disregard towards the voice of “Masuda from Sderot.” But the thing is that in one day of elections, the vote of Masuda from Sderot equals the vote of the president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It’s the same opportunity, it’s the same envelop – only the vote is different.

Haber is to be commended for his clear-eyed view of the Left, and for his suggestion – which I somehow feel will be ignored.

Reader “Reality” in the comments on my previous post mentioned a similar discussion on a Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) program. (You might be surprised to note that the Army Radio is as left-wing as Haaretz):

Today on Galei Zahal they couldn’t get over how the people have yet again made a mistake and voted for a right wing govt!  They went on and on how come people keep on “making the same mistake now for 15 years!”.  Finally some reporter told them that just because the media is left leaning, doesn’t mean that the general public is. He said it’s time his journalistic colleagues started reporting facts and not creating fantasy scenarios that the left would win.

Schadenfreude!!

I certainly share in the Schadenfreude!

But for the best look at what went wrong with all the predictions, here is an excellent analysis in the blog “Politically Incorrect” entitled Israeli elections, the untold story, which explains just how the world misread Israel and thus got it all so wrong:

Let us examine, one by one, the fallacies that these inept ‘experts’ have been peddling to their unsuspecting audience.

It’s not about peace, it’s about the economy

… But, as the results unequivocally showed, the economic situation (hardly a bad one, anyway) did not cause Israelis to vote for the parties that promised to ‘close the social gaps’.  Issues of security remained at the forefront, as did the conflict with the Palestinians.  It’s just that Israelis have grown increasingly skeptical about negotiations with an organisation that, while ostensibly interested in ‘peace’, is also planning to ‘take Israel to court’, ruin her economically, subject its citizens to terrorist attacks and flood her with ‘returned refugees’.

Israel’s ‘shift to the right’

Western media has, for years now, pushed the idea that the Israeli electorate is inexorably sliding to the right.  This is usually postulated as self-evident, thus releasing the proponents of that theory from the exhausting duty of providing evidence.

… What has actually happened is not a ‘shift to the right’, but a disintegration of the ‘sane left’, which found itself increasingly disconnected from the mainstream (see Figure 2), losing its appeal to the centre, swing voters.

‘Apathetic’: Arab Israelis

Another myth often pushed by Western pundits is the image of Arab Israelis who ‘feel marginalised’, ‘struggle to belong’ and hence utterly lack interest in Israeli politics.

… Whatever the percentage turnout (and despite pressure to organise boycotts), Arab Israelis have voted in increasing numbers, thus manifesting unequivocal interest and confidence in the country’s democratic processes.  True, they have voted primarily along ethnic lines – for Arab ethnic parties whose leaders tended to represent the PLO, rather than their own constituency.  But there are signs that that, too, is beginning to change.

The ‘Ultra-Orthodox’ danger

Yet another fallacy propagated by international media is the image of almost occult power exercised by the improperly named ‘Ultra-Orthodox’ (Haredi) parties.

… In fact, the Haredi parties were left in the opposition after the previous (2013) elections.  And while they are likely to join the next governing coalition, they will have to cohabit there with avowed secularists.

No Palestinian State

In the tense run-up to the elections, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to promise that, if elected, he will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank.  … But what most of those outlets failed to report was the background to that statement.

Documents disclosed prior to it by the Israeli media showed that one of Netanyahu’s ‘special envoys’ (lawyer Yitzhak Molcho) had conducted intense secret negotiations with an emissary of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  An Israeli secret document entitled ‘Draft Proposal for Statement of Principles Towards a Permanent Arrangement’ appeared to show that Netanyahu’s envoy had agreed to the establishment of an “independent, sovereign and viable” Palestinian State with “borders with Jordan […] Egypt” and Israel, based on the pre-1967 armistice lines, with equal land swaps.  The document laid out the framework for uprooting a large number of West Bank settlements and even stipulated leaving some settlers in the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control. Molcho even appeared to lean towards concessions in Jerusalem, stating that

“Any solution to the issue of Jerusalem must correspond to the deep historic, religious, cultural and emotional ties of both peoples to the city…”

Published in full in one of Israel’s main newspapers, just a few days before the elections, the document was said to

“stand in stark contradiction of his [Netanyahu’s] hawkish views”

No wonder, then, that he felt the need to deny making such concessions and ‘shore-up’ his position with a hawkish statement.

The blogger concludes with the most apt quote (with which I concluded my previous post too):

Western pundits will, of course, continue to find fault with Israel, obstinately applying the ‘glass half empty’ approach to the Jewish State.  Ironically however, the most interesting and revealing commentary on the recent elections came from a Palestinian Arab journalist:

“We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy.  We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

When you live in Israel and experience the real living, vibrant, noisy, diverse democracy that is our essence, it is almost impossible to recognize ourselves in the demonic pictures painted by the Leftist media, both local and international. One would think that it is high time for the media to get its act together and start reporting accurately.

I wonder when that happy day will arrive.

Posted in Israel news, Media and journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Israeli Elections 2015: Likud’s win, and how the polls got it wrong

Binyamin Netanyahu, his wife and supporters as the victorious election results come in

Since the initial exit polls came out, the final numbers have changed the results even more radically.  Some caution is still required since the “double envelop” absentee and soldiers’ vote have still not been fully counted and those could change the results further, albeit by only one seat here or there.

For the moment the (almost) final numbers read as follows:

Likud (Netanyahu): 30
Zionist Union (Yitzchak Herzog): 24
Joint Arab List: 13
Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid): 11
Kulanu (Moshe Kachlon): 10
Bayit Yehudi (Naftali Bennett): 8
Shas (Sephardi haredim): 7
Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman): 6
United Torah Judaism (Ashkenazi Haredim): 6
Meretz: 5

The Times of Israel has the full list of the members of each party, although Meretz’s list could change since party leader Zahava Gal-On announced her resignation on receiving the poor election results.

The JTA makes an attempt at forecasting the various options for what the next government will look like:

The right-religious “natural partners” coalition (67 members)

Parties: Likud (30), Kulanu (10), Jewish Home (8), Shas (7), United Torah Judaism (6), Yisrael Beiteinu (6)

The most likely scenario based on the results, this coalition is the one analysts are expecting to take shape. It’s basically a reversion to Netanyahu’s relatively stable 2009-2013 coalition of right-wing and religious parties, called Likud’s “natural partners.” The center-right Kulanu, headed by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, would also join this coalition in return for a prominent post like finance minister.

The center-right coalition (65 members)

Parties: Likud (30), Yesh Atid (11), Kulanu (10), Jewish Home (8), Yisrael Beiteinu (6)

The haredi Orthodox UTJ has not endorsed Netanyahu for prime minister. What happens if they refuse to? Another scenario for Netanyahu is again excluding the haredi parties from the government, choosing right-wing and centrist allies instead. This coalition would look a lot like the outgoing one.

The unity government (81 or 77 members)

Parties: Likud (30), Zionist Union (24), Yesh Atid (11), Kulanu (10), Yisrael Beiteinu (6), or

Likud (30), Zionist Union (24), Kulanu (10), Shas (7), UTJ (6)

Netanyahu has said several times that he does not want to partner with the Zionist Union in a coalition, so this is unlikely. But if UTJ, Kulanu or Yesh Atid force his hand, this may become a possibility. And a wider coalition usually means more stability, which Netanyahu values.

We will all find out in the next 2-3 weeks. I’m willing to take an educated (and hopeful) guess that Netanyahu will go for the first option, perhaps with a couple of additional parties as well.

So what does this all mean?

Firstly, it means the pollsters – Israeli, European, American – got it completely, utterly, totally wrong.

The Washington Post  attempts to grapple with this question:

Observers are now beginning to wonder whether Israel’s political polling companies, which had recently given Netanyahu rival Isaac Herzog an edge, painted a misleading portrait of the country’s electorate. “So, about those Israeli pollsters….” the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted wryly as the scale of Likud’s win became clear.

There are two primary explanations for the polling errors: Either respondent opinions changed from the time the poll was taken or there was flawed polling methodology.

There is anecdotal evidence of this late switch among voters. While the media are prohibited from publishing polls, campaign pollsters continued to conduct internal polls. Those results have remained private, but some Twitter whispers suggest that the race narrowed toward the end.

The second explanation goes to the fundamentals of polling methodology. This remains a big question because many public polls in Israel lack fundamental disclosures about how the surveys were conducted

Next they addressed the issue of the misleading exit polls, which suggested a dead heat rather than the outright win by Netanyahu:

Joe Lenski, an expert on exit polls at Edison Research, is quick to caution that even at best, polls can only make predictions. “Exit polls have margin of errors like any other survey,” he says in a phone interview. “It just becomes magnified when races are this close.”

Lenski does not work on polling in Israel, but he did point to media reports he had seen that suggested possible problems in Israeli exit polling. First, he noted that some Israeli polling experts believe Likud supporters had refused to participate in exit polls more than any other group.

“In certain voting stations, voting stations in places where there are a lot of new immigrants, pro-Likud ballot boxes, the percent of those who voted (in the exit polls) was especially low,” Channel 2 TV’s pollster Mina Tzemach told Israel’s Army Radio, according to Reuters. This is a common issue in exit polls, Lenski explains, and generally polling companies take demographic details from non-responses and adjust results accordingly.

Another potential factor that Lenski noted were reports that the polling companies had stopped interviewing voters about two hours before the polls closed in a bid to have numbers for news reports at the 10 p.m. close of polls. In closing their polls early, pollsters may have missed a last-minute rush from right-wing voters. Counting the votes of members of the Israeli army also was known to be a problem, Lenski added. The soldiers vote earlier than the rest of the population and follow different procedures.

Another overlooked demographic in the exit polls were the widely demonised and delegitimized (and often disregarded) residents of Judea and Samaria, who voted largely for the right-wing, from Likud, through Bayit Yehudi, to Eli Yisha’s Yachad.

Note to the pollsters: If you don’t count a quarter of a million votes out of a total of 4.5 million, from people who are known to vote almost entirely for one side of the political spectrum, your results are going to be skewed.

But what was the root cause of the misleading polls leading up to the elections in the first place? Why was it the received wisdom, even by the right-wing and Netanyahu himself, that they were going to lose this election? How did widespread dissatisfaction with Netanyahu, combined with a well-orchestrated and well-funded campaign from the Left, still translate into  resounding victory for the right?

Firstly, the “anyone but Bibi fallacy” might have caused the Left to be a victim of its own success. As the Left’s campaign gained steam, the right-wing panicked and started flooding to support Netanyahu, even at the expense of the smaller parties like Bayit Yehudi:

“Anyone but Bibi” was the theme of the past three months’ campaign on the Left.

Bayit Yehudi supporters wanted a Bibi victory so badly that they fled Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s party in droves to try to ensure Netanyahu would stay prime minister.

It’s also safe to assume that anyone who voted for Bayit Yehudi backed Netanyahu, since Bennett promised to recommend the Likud leader to the president.

Ychad, whose fate in relation to the electoral threshold was unclear at press time, made the same promise.

Shas also realized “Anyone but Bibi” was not picking up steam, and party chairman Arye Deri promised he would recommend Netanyahu to the president. And in the final days before the election, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman kept repeating that he is a member of the “nationalist camp,” code for: “It’s safe to vote for me, if you support Netanyahu.” Not that it seems to have helped him much.

Another Jerusalem Post article confirms this assessment of the Left’s campaign boomeranging, saying that  “the second Israel has spoken“:

Ashkenazi immigrants from Eastern Europe were seen as having an unfair advantage over their Sephardi counterparts from North Africa and the Middle East. The people, who are called “the second Israel,” have complained since then that the “elites” in the Left, the media and academia have discriminated against them.

The “second Israel” did not like the way the media seemed to be deposing Netanyahu and bringing to power the Left under the leadership of Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni. The two were raised not far from each other in northern Tel Aviv, and both are the children of former Knesset members.

The Zionist Union inadvertently played into Netanyahu’s hands with a campaign of “anyone but Bibi.”

Zionist Union campaign strategist Reuven Adler, who joined the campaign late, said Wednesday morning that he was against that strategy from the start. By contrast Likud strategist Aron Shaviv got the Right correct. He sent the prime minister to give countless interviews – it made him look like he was panicking (and he was), but the public got the message.

I will cover what the media got wrong about the elections in  a separate blog. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile just a couple of quotes to conclude. The blog Politically Incorrect comments:

Western pundits will, of course, continue to find fault with Israel, obstinately applying the ‘glass half empty’ approach to the Jewish State.  Ironically however, the most interesting and revealing commentary on the recent elections came from a Palestinian Arab journalist:

“We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy.  We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

And here are a few great tweets summarizing the whole thing:

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments