Friday, March 31, 2006

Heads Will Roll

It's now time for the losing parties of the Israeli 2006 elections to consider getting rid of their leaders:
  • The Labor Party should get rid of Amir Peretz and put Avishai Braverman at its helm. If that happens, I'll definitely vote for them again next time, except I'll pick them for their leader, nor despite of him.
  • The Likud should get rid of Netanyahu. I think Silvan Shalom would be the best person to replace him. As a moderate, he can rebuild the party as a center-right, rather than radical-right, party. Still, no chance of them getting my vote next time.
  • Meretz should get rid of Yossi Beilin. He's been a disaster and nobody likes him. Knesset Members Zehava Galon and Ran Cohen have announced they'll run against him. I don't like Galon, and I doubt she'd attract voters. Cohen is the better choice here.
  • Kadima didn't lose, which means Olmert won't be replaced. Too bad. I'd rather see Tzipi Livni at the helm.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Pollard's Mossad Handler, Castro's Business Partner

US-Israeli relations may become awkward soon. The newest party in the Knesset, the Pensioners Party, is about to join Ehud Olmert's coalition. Rafi Eitan, their 79-year old leader, will become a cabinet minister. That will be a problem for the United States, where he's probably a persona-non-grata, for two reasons: he recruited Jonathan Pollard, who spied on the Pentagon for Israel, and he's gained quite a fortune from doing business in Cuba (Israel doesn't have an embargo on Cuba, just like most of the world other than the US).

When the United States is upset with Israel, it knows how to express its feelings. Last year, Amos Yaron left his post as general director of Israel's Defense Ministry after the United States refused to have any contact with him, cancelled a few deals with Israel and delayed others. The Pentagon held him responsible for selling American military technology to China. Eitan, Pollard's boss and Castro's friend, may get the same treatment.

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Exit Polls: Pensioners' Party Wins Big, Likud Crashes

Four exit polls from Israel's three main channels and Ynet are indicating a big surprise: Gill, the pension party that seemed to be hovering around the 2% threshold, got 6-8 seats. Now it's a mid-sized party, stronger than the well established Meretz. That's amazing. It seems to me that it's a form of protest vote.

Also: Likud is down to fourth place, below Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Our Home, and possibly maybe even fifth place, after Shas. Now Likud is almost a marginal party, Netanyahu is probably about to lose his leadership post, and Lieberman will become the new leader of the right wing.

I'm not surprised by numbers Labor and Kadima got in the exit poll. It's more or less what I expected. It's a bit of a disappointment for Kadima, but Labor is probably more or less content.

The most important thing is that the right wing cannot block a center-left government.

Meretz got 5 seats according to all exit polls. That means Zvia Greenfeld is not in the Knesset. I hope the real results will get her into parliament.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I Voted for Labor

That's it. The indecision is over. I chose the Labor Party. The polling place was fairly empty. I had to wait for one person who was ahead of me, but there was nobody in line behind me. As of 2 PM, only 31% of voters came to the polls, compared with 35%-36% at the same hour in 2003 and 2001. It's the lowest turnout ever, so far.

Israelis, wake up and go vote!

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, March 27, 2006

Country Counter

I just added a country counter to see where visitors are coming from. I wouldn't count on the numbers exactly since they may count the same visitor a few times, but the country distribution should be interesting.


Update (May 2, 2006): My free trial period is over. The counter is no more.

A Few Election Notes

1. I will probably vote for Labor, though I'm very unhappy with Amir Peretz. I'll vote for Laborites Braverman, Pines, Malchior, Vilnai and Tamir, despite their leader.

2. I also considered voting for the retirement/pensioners party, Gill. All of the last polls show Gill will get into the Knesset, but I don't trust the polls. I'm worried my vote may be wasted if I put their name in the envelope.

3. After tomorrow's exit polls, we'll be free of election polls for a while. However, we aren't done with this headache just yet. Now there will be at least one month of speculation in the media regarding what kind of coalition will be formed, including polls asking which coalition partners the public wants.

4. Hopefully, someone in the next Knesset will have enough brains to sponsor a bill to undo the ban on propaganda on TV and radio, outside of the specific time given to campaign ads. It's stupid that interviewers have to keep asking politicians to refrain from campaign messages, which is exactly what they are there for. The ban's intent is a good one - to give equal time to the smaller parties. But it doesn't work. Also, the one-hour concentration of campaign ads should be cancelled. Campaign ads should run during regular commercial breaks, with the same time limits on each party as exist today.

5. Goodbye, 16th Knesset. You were the worst one we've ever seen. The 17th Knesset, however flawed in may turn out to be, will certainly be of much better quality than the current one. 16th, you will not be missed!

Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Election Results Game

Many gambling websites have gamblers guessing how the 17th Knesset will be made up. I'm not a gambler, but just for the heck of it, I'm betting my virtual bucks on the following results:

Kadima - 31
Labor - 21
National Union-National Religious Party - 15
Likud - 13
Shas (ultra-orthodox Sephardim) - 12
Israel Our Home (the "Arab towns for Jewish settlements" party) - 10
United Torah Judaism (ultra-orthodox Ashkenazis) - 5
Meretz (left wing) - 5
Hadash (Communist Arab party) - 3
Ra'am-Ta'al (Islamic Arab party) - 3
Balad (Nationalist Arab party) - 2

The exact numbers aren't important. What is important is that I see a troubling trend coming. Kadima will not have more than 60 coalition members if it takes Labor and Meretz, and won't want to rely on the Arab parties so as not to be seen as a leftist party. The right wing and the religious parties will have a powerful bloc. Kadima may end up in a coalition with the right, or it may go with Labor and Likud as a unity government.

I also predict Likud will be down to fourth place, after the National Union-NRP list. Who knows, maybe Israel Our Home may even end up getting more votes than Likud, pushing it down to fifth. And maybe, just maybe, Shas will push it down to sixth. But that's a long-shot.

Tags: , , ,

Out of Touch

Public opinion polls keep surprising me. One such poll showed Israelis are extremely racist towards Arabs: two thirds refuse to live in the same building as Arabs; 40% support encouraging Arabs to leave Israel; 46% would not let an Arab into their house.

One respected commentator, Yaron London, even went as far as to say that a poll in Germany in the early 1930's regarding the Jews would be less racist. I wouldn't go that far, but I'm certainly worried. I knew racism was a problem here in Israel, but I had no idea it was this bad.

Other polls show that a lot of Israelis find these elections boring, are uninterested in politics and don't plan on voting. This is also troubling. It will strengthen the racist parties, since although it turns out most Israelis have racist views, they usually don't vote for racists. There's a big difference between wishing the Arabs were gone and actually doing something to make that happen.

Why am I so surprised? The circles I socialize with are educated liberal types. These are the kind of people who are very involved politically and abhor racism. Sure, I have a few hawkish friends, a few politically ignorant ones, and even one racist - but they are in the minority. I'm in a bubble, an ivory tower. I must say I like it there. The Israel outside it seems much worse than the one inside it.

Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday, March 19, 2006

How I Learned to Love Irshad Manji

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled "How I Learned to Love the Wall", Irshad Manji says that despite its problems, the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank is a positive thing.

In her own words:

"After all, this barrier, although built by [Ariel] Sharon, was birthed by "shaheeds," suicide bombers whom Palestinian leaders have glorified as martyrs. Qassam missiles can kill two or three people at a time. Suicide bombers lay waste to many more. Since the barrier went up, suicide attacks have plunged, which means innocent Arab lives have been spared along with Jewish ones. Does a concrete effort to save civilian lives justify the hardship posed by this structure? The humanitarian in me bristles, but ultimately answers yes."

"Like all Muslims, I look forward to the day when neither the jeep nor the wall is in Abu Dis. So will we tell the self-appointed martyrs of Islam that the people — not just Arabs, but Arabs and Jews — "are one"? That before the barrier, there was the bomber? And that the barrier can be dismantled, but the bomber's victims are gone forever?"

Tags: , , ,

Saturday, March 18, 2006

My Potential Choices: Pros and Cons

These are the parties I might vote for on March 28:



  1. They have some excellent people on their list, including a few people I wouldn't mind seeing in the prime minister's office one day (Avishai Braverman and Ophir Pines-Paz).
  2. Their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are the closest to my own: we need an agreed settlement, not more unilateral steps.
  3. I support their stance on education.


  1. Amir Peretz is too much of a socialist. As head of the Histadrut, the big labor union, he did a lot to stop economic progress in Israel. He didn't take care of workers rights, but made sure certain strong unions retain their extra privileges. It is also said that he used the Histadrut to force employees to join his previous party and then Labor, winning the primary election that way.
  2. Labor does not promise to work for greater separation of religion and state. There is nothing in their platform about civic marriages.



  1. They support civil marriage and greater separation of church and state.
  2. Number 6 on the Meretz list, Dr. Zvia Greenfield, an ultra-orthodox woman who supports a secular state, is very impressive. She won't be in the next Knesset if the party doesn't get at least 6 seats, and the polls show them at between 4 to 6 seats right now.


  1. They are too left-wing on both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economically. They support high taxes and are pretty gullible when it comes to negotiations.
  2. I dislike Meretz's chairman, Yossi Beilin.
  3. They say they won't support a civil marriage bill that would not include same-sex marriages. Though I support gay marriage, I don't think the "all or nothing" approach would do any good. Leaping from a backwards state of only religious weddings to a liberal state of same-sex marriages may be impossible now. For now, the focus should be on allowing a man and woman to get married any way they choose, while protecting the rights of same sex couples.

Hetz (ultra-secular, majority of Shinui's Knesset members)


  1. Someone needs to protect the secular majority - though Meretz is secular it isn't its top priority, but it is Hetz's.


  1. More than they are liberal, they are anti-religious. Actually, they are not quite liberal in that sense.
  2. They got 15 seats last time (under the Shinui banner), and were in the government, but achieved very little.
  3. They probably won't pass the 2 percent threshold, thus voting for them would be a waste of a ballot.

The Retired Pensioners (Ha'Gimlaim)


  1. We all want to reach retirement age some day.
  2. I support their stance regarding protecting pensions.


  1. The 2% threshold thing again.
  2. They're a one-issue party.
  3. I'm more than 40 years away from retirement myself.
  4. My main interest in them would be as a protest vote, but who'll notice the protest?

Tags: , , ,

Young Secular Israelis - Vote!

According to a recent poll published in Haaretz, 45% of 18 to 32 year-olds do not plan on voting in the March 28 elections, while only 44% think they will vote. That age group is one third of eligible voters! Another troubling statistic: two thirds of young secular Israelis will not vote. This seems horrible to me. I'm pissed, too. Those who don't participate in elections are playing into the hands of radical parties - whether radically hawkish, socialist or religious.

I'm frustrated. None of the parties are good choices. Since I take voting seriously, I'm agonizing over which party would take care of my best interests, as well as the whole country's interests. One day I think I'll vote labor, then I think I won't. Then I think of Meretz and Hetz (the two main secular parties), even the Retired Pensioners party. Kadima, Likud and all parties to their right are out of the question. Maybe I should just do a pros and cons list of my potential choices.

Tags: , , ,