22 December 2005

ISRAELI POLITICS: ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
The “first with the burst,” to quote “Stranger in a Strange Land,” was DEBKAfile at 12:42 12 December http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=1422, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/656781.html http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=94661.
At the time, the idea was floating around to attempt to form an “anyone but Sharon coalition.”

That was about ten days ago. The idea that the right wing of Israel’s political establishment was not ready to handle the Sharon juggernaut was raised to me by Shlomo Wollins at a Root & Branch meeting a few days earlier when the Hazit (Jewish National Front) party of Professor Paul Eidelberg conducted what amounted to a campaign rally at the Israel Center. He told me he believed the best alternative to going to elections in March was an alternative government with Netanyahu at its head.

Events seem to have proven him right so far.

Since 2 December when I published my last piece on Israel’s elections, events have appeared to move fast and furiously, but in truth, not much has happened. The battlefield has cleared a bit. That is all.

Two major members of the Likud party defected to Kadima, the brand spanking new creation of Ariel Sharon. One was Tzahi haNegbi, a corrupt politician under threat of indictment. He ran to get under Sharon’s political skirts, much the way a naughty child hides behind its mother’s apron. The other was Sha’ul Mofaz, the former Chief of Staff who left politics and became Security Minister even though he has no seat in the Knesset. Mofaz realized that without Sharon, he had no political base in the Likud.

The Likud race for head of the party (and for #1 spot on the Likud list for elections in March) http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=143&sid=6311859&cKey=1134461113000
became an issue of whether former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would win the spot on the ballot in the Likud primaries on Monday, 19 December, or whether he would have to face a run-off contest with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom after the other two contestants, Moshe Feiglin and Yitzhak Katz, had been eliminated.

In the meantime, Sharon’s standing in the polls just grew and grew. http://www.infoisrael.net/cgi-local/text.pl?source=4/c/121220051
Even the Iranian president did what he could to help Sharon, demanding first that the Israelis leave Israel for Europe and then on 14 December, that they move to Alaska. http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=7&id=358519
Sharon’s strength in the polls was beginning to match his girth, with 35 to 40 mandates polled to go to the new Kadima party.

Then, on Sunday evening, Sharon’s girth and his 78 years took a hand in the political horserace. I was on the bus, riding home when I heard the radio announcer repeatedly mentioning Sharon’s name along with the words, Hadassah ‘Ein Kerem. Hadassah ‘Ein Kerem is one of the country’s leading hospitals. I started to pay very close attention. In Hebrew I heard the announcer say this; “HaRósh haMemshalá, Ariél Sharón, nimtzá b’hakará b’Hadássa ‘Ein Kérem.” [“The Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, remains unconscious at Hadassah Ein Kerem” (Hospital)]. I turned to the lady next to me and asked what had happened and she described the term “irúa mohhí,” a brain event. In other words, a stroke.

It didn’t take much mental calculating to figure out that for a whole variety of reasons, the government would attempt to minimize this stroke. One was basic. You don’t want to cause a panic among the population. A second is national security. You don’t want to give the enemy (in Israel’s case, enemies) the impression that the country was without a leader. But there is a third issue. This issue comes in two forms – one, concern that Ehud Olmert not take over the government, and the other, that Kadima, an artificial construct if their ever was one, not collapse due to a collapse in Sharon’s health.

I wrote the following to fellow blogger here at Blog Critics in an e-mail a little past 22:00 Israel Standard Time.

“At 20:30, my time, Kol Yisrael Radio in Hebrew said that he suffered a stroke - a brain event - and remained unconscious. At 21:57, the Voice of Israel English news reported that the prime minister had suffered a ‘light stroke and that at no point he had lost consciousness, and that he was talking with family members.’”

Hillel Halkin, http://www.nysun.com/article/24714
in an article in the New York Sun, expanded on these concerns

Monday, was the Likud primary election. There were not that many people at the Jerusalem polling headquarters at Binyané haUmá, the national convention center, when we voted at 20:00.

We presented our ID cards and were not bombarded with loads of people trying to tell us how to vote. Feiglin's people were there in force. There was no way to avoid them. There was a tent for Silvan Shalom where drinks were being served, and there was a large sign in Hebrew - "Netanyahu, the real leader for the Likud". The only person who tried to tell us to vote for him was a rich Hassid type with a shifty face - you know the kind the Germans would parody in their Stürmer cartoons. Nobody was there for Katz.

Near the Central Bus Station, about a hundred meters or so from the Binyané haUmá were signs on the wall "Kadíma lakéleh!" (forward to jail!) with pictures of the Sharons in the Knesset, Ariel and Omri.

As we left the Binyané haUmá to catch the bus home, we saw the Jerusalem Gold Hotel - now the "home" of many from Nevé Dekalím, the main town of Gush Katif. A fitting reminder of the evil we have to face.


Exit polls released around 22:00 that night said that Netanyahu had won with 47% and that Feiglin had gotten 15%. It didn’t quite turn out that way. At Walla, a Hebrew site, this story appeared http://news.walla.co.il/?w=//827783

44.4% תוצאות אמת בליכוד: נתניהו ניצח עם
מספירת 98% מקולות המצביעים בבחירות לראשות הליכוד, עולה כי השר שלום במקום השני עם 33% . . בנאום הניצחון הודיע נתניהו כי יילך יחד עם שלום במערכת הבחירות

Translation:

“True results in the Likud: Netanyahu succeeds with 44.4%.

With 98% of votes cast counted in the leadership election for the Likud, Minister Shalom rises to second place with 33%. In a victory speech Netanyahu served notice that he would go forward together with Shalom in the election campaign ….”

The possibility brought up by Shlomo Wollins for an alternative government that would not hold elections until November 2006 was dead in the water. This possibility would have killed Sharon’s party, Kadima, but Netanyahu decided to go head to head against Sharon anyway.

In addition, Netanyahu has decided to remove the “criminal” elements in the Likud party. This can be interpreted several ways – Sharon packed the party with crooks beholden to him, and not all left for the Kadima party. But it turns out that Netanyahu wants to oust Moshe Feiglin and his Jewish Leadership faction. The G-string covering this attempt is the fact that Feiglin was jailed for several months for opposing Oslo at its inception, and was later judged to have “moral turpitude.” Someone so adjudged is barred from running for office for seven years in Israel. For this reason Feiglin was kicked off the Likud list in 2003 – he had served his term during 1996, a period less than seven years from those elections.

Netanyahu wants to ban anyone who served three months or more in prison up to ten years back from the party. If passed by the Likud Central Committee, this rule would automatically kick out Feiglin and make it impossible for him to seek a seat on the party list. There is no “ex post facto” provision in Israeli law, as there is in the US and the UK. An interesting lesson in “democracy” in Israel. This has already brought about divisions in the Likud, with several Likud members of the Knesset opposing Netanyahu very publicly.

In the meantime, Sharon continues to pretend to be healthy and his support in the polls has grown http://www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/view.php?StoryID=20051220-114915-6608r.
It would be nice if Israel had a first class river, so that photos could be taken of the 78 year old prime minister swimming in it, much the way photos were taken 80 years ago of Mussolini swimming in rivers in Italy.

So while Sharon’s aides spin the news, and Netanyahu tries to get rid of Jews who dare present a Jewish vision for Israel, those of us who warned of what would happen if Gush Katif was evacuated are being proven right. Several Qassam missiles have already struck Ashkelon www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3188525,00.html, and it is only a matter of time before major damage is done by one of them. Ashkelon is a 60 minute ride by intercity bus and a 45 minute drive down the coast road from Tel Aviv. But the rich secular Israelis who go to the fancy Azrieli Mall on Sabbath don’t give a damn even as the danger of destruction creeps nearer and nearer.

A pity. Who will give a damn about them when missiles strike them and leave them and their homes in flames?

Since most of you reading this will be Christians, and Christmas appears to be upon you all, I thought I would include this column from Steven Plaut. I received it as an e-mail on one of the lists I belong to. Find it on his blog-site at http://www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com/ posted on 12/20 starting with a joke:

1. You remember that old joke about the guy with the cast on his arm,asking his MD, "Will I be able to play Mozart on the piano when this isremoved?." The MD says, of course. The patient says, "Great, cause Icould not play at all before I broke my arm."

You’ll have to read the entire piece to appreciate why it is included.

I’m not sure what to wish you all that will not offend you, so have a Happy Hanukkah, and if you like jelly doughnuts, have a few for me. My doctor said I can’t have them.

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