Don’t mess with Israel.

H/T: Brian of London: This article seems to explain what happened here. But Kerry is not just any fool; he’s a uniquely clueless diplomat with little understanding of the ins and outs of Israeli coalition politics and no interest in learning from his mistakes.

How Bibi Outfoxed Kerry. Again.

They never learn, do they? Though it almost never works, American leaders have been trying to intervene in Israeli politics for decades. Presidents and secretaries of state always think that if they put the right amount of pressure on Jerusalem or push various politicians to do what they want, somehow it will result in an Israeli government that will be more willing to do the bidding of the White House and the State Department. According to Haaretz, that was the behind-the-scenes story of the coalition negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog during the last week. The goal was to transform Israel’s government from a narrow right-wing coalition into a centrist unity government with Herzog as foreign minister. Reportedly, the impetus for the talks was an effort by Secretary of State John Kerry, diplomatic Quartet representative Tony Blair, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to push Herzog into Netanyahu’s arms.

But, like so many other ham-handed U.S.-led attempts to game Israel’s democratic system, it didn’t merely fail. It actually led to an even worse outcome from the point of view of State Department peace processors. Rather than a unity government with a pliable foreign minister, Netanyahu used Herzog for leverage in talks with another party. The result was that Herzog was humiliated. Instead of a narrow right-wing government with only a one-vote edge in the Knesset, Netanyahu was able to lure Avigdor Lieberman and his right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party into the coalition. That gave him a more stable seven-vote majority while also getting rid of a defense minister who was proving to be a problem.

That was game, set, and match for Netanyahu and another hard lesson for the arrogant Kerry and his boss Obama, who should have learned in the last seven-plus years that the prime minister is always able to run rings around them when it comes to this sort of thing.

More here.


Dr.Gerstenfeld’s latest article was published today in Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s consent.

Gerstenfeld report

Netanyahu’s rise in the Public View since the 2015 Election

Netanyahu’s success versus Herzog’s failure: From a 1% lead over Herzog before the elections, Netanyahu now leads him by 31%

Manfred Gerstenfeld

One year has now passed since the last Knesset elections. Several polls have been published recently which engaged with the Israeli public on issues such as the popularity of possible candidates for Prime Minister, voting regrets in last year’s elections and anticipated votes for each party if new elections were to be conducted at the present time.1

A review of the now largely forgotten electoral campaign for the 20th Knesset is useful, both in order to gain perspective on the current political situation, and also to highlight the significant change in Netanyahu’s ranking in the public view over the last year.

The 2015 elections ended with the Likud, under Netanyahu’s leadership, gaining 30 seats and the main opposition, the Zionist Union, gaining 24 seats. That the Likud would win however was not even clear from the exit polls on election day.

The early elections were called after Netanyahu fired Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, respectively Finance Minister/Yesh Atid party leader, and Justice Minister/Hatnuah party leader, at the beginning of December 2014. Netanyahu claimed that Lapid and Livni had conspired to overthrow him by attempting to form an alternative government together with some of the opposition parties.2

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First published in Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s consent.

Gerstenfeld report


Manfred Gerstenfeld

Polls conducted during previous elections campaigns for the most part asked respondents which party they would vote for. In the latest election campaign, however, polls also included a variety of other questions.

As much as the formation of a new government may appear to be a difficult task, the government needs to respond and provide solutions to the issues and concerns of the general public, which were rendered evident through these polls. Some polls may help us analyze past elections. More importantly, others will enable us to compare what the public wants with which new policies the new government intends to implement. A series of examples will illustrate both issues.

One poll conducted during the most recent election campaign asked whether voters were satisfied with the party for which they had voted in the previous elections of 2013. On the average, 36% of the voters were dissatisfied. The main dissatisfaction concerned parties such as Yesh Atid, Shas, Likud-Beiteinu, and the Arab Balad party. About half of those who had voted for these parties were dissatisfied. The percentage of dissatisfied Labor voters was 26%, Habayit Hayehudi voters, 21%, while among those who had voted for United Torah Judaism only 5% were dissatisfied.

An Israel Hayom poll of December 3rd, 2014, found that 49% of the respondents believed that in view of the crises between coalition partners, elections for a new Knesset should be held, while 42% thought that this was not the case.

A Panels Research poll, also held in early December, indicated the major public disaffection with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Sixty percent of those polled said that they did not want him to continue as prime minister, 34% said they would, and 6% were unsure. In an imaginary head-to-head election between Netanyahu and Kahlon, 46% favored Kahlon and 36% preferred Netanyahu. Between Netanyahu and former Likud interior minister Gideon Saar, 43% chose Saar and 38% preferred Netanyahu.

In imaginary run-offs against other party leaders, however, Netanyahu appeared to win in each case. Against Labor party leader Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu would win by 1%, against Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, by 12%, against Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid by 17%, and against Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu would win by 28%.

In December, several polls found that if Netanyahu were to lose the Likud leadership, the party would obtain less votes. Only if Saar were to lead the party would Likud get 20 seats as with Netanyahu as leader.

A Panels Research poll asked respondents to rate Jewish party leaders on a scale from one to ten, as far as corruption was concerned. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Aryeh Deri was considered the most corrupt at 8.3, followed by Lieberman with 8, Netanyahu at 6.1, Livni at 5.7, Herzog at 5.3, and both United Torah Judaism’s Litzman and Yachad’s Yishai at 5.1. Lapid was at 4.9, Bennett at 4.4, Meretz chair Zahava Gal-on at 3.9. Kahlon was seen as the least corrupt at 3.5.

In December, 64% of those polled on behalf of The Jerusalem Post said that the socio-economic situation had worsened under the current outgoing government, and 58% considered that the security situation had deteriorated. Respondents were also asked about the most important issue in the coming election. Thirty four percent mentioned the economy, 30% security, 14% chose social justice, 10% raised matters of religion and state, 5% answered Arab-Jewish relations, and 2% education and culture. Only 1% said Israel’s foreign relations was the most important election issue.

More than two months later, a Times of Israel poll again found that the most important current political issue for Israelis was the economic situation, at 48%, followed by Israeli-Palestinian relations at 19%, and education at 14%. The Iranian threat was a priority for only 10% of those polled.

A poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute on behalf of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group found that 62% of the general public was in favor of a government excluding all ultra-Orthodox parties. Seventy six percent of those defining themselves as secular wanted a government without the inclusion of United Torah Judaism and Shas, as did 66% of those defining themselves as religiously traditional, and 80% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, 65% of the national-religious respondents and 95% of the ultra-Orthodox respondents opposed the exclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties from the government. The poll also found that 71% of Labor voters and 86% of Meretz and Kadima voters were opposed to the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the next coalition.

A TNS Teleseker poll published on January 9 asked respondents who was to blame for the housing crisis; 37% answered Netanyahu, 24% replied Lapid, and 14% held former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responsible for the crisis.

A Jerusalem Post poll in mid-February also asked whether or not the American administration was interfering in the elections. The majority, 62%, said it did interfere, 31% said it did not, and 8% were unsure. On another question, 62% responded in the affirmative that Netanyahu should debate Herzog and 27% said that there should not be such a debate.

In mid-December, a Panels Research poll asked who was to blame for the deterioration in relations between the United States and Israel. Thirty–nine percent answered U.S President Barack Obama, 29% said Netanyahu and 25% both. A Times of Israel poll in late February found that 72% of Israelis have no faith in Obama’s capability of preventing Iran from getting the nuclear bomb, up from January’s 64%. Only 33% of respondents polled view Obama favorably, while 59% see him unfavorably.

In January 2015, a Panels Research poll found that Moshe Ya’alon of the Likud was the most popular candidate to continue in his current position as Minister of Defense. He received 25% of the vote, as against 17% received by Bennett, 14% by the Zionist Union candidate, Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, and 10% by Major General (res.) Yoav Galant of Koolanu.

In February 2015, a Walla poll found that Kahlon was the preferred candidate for finance minister by 34% of the respondents, followed by the Zionist Union’s Manuel Trajtenberg with 17% and Lapid with 13%. Tzipi Livni was found to be the preferred candidate for the post of foreign minister with 24%, followed by the Likud’s Gilad Erdan with 18%, and Lieberman with 17%. Lapid came in with 14% and Koolanu’s Michael Oren at 7%.

A poll also asked who would be more suitable to deal with the political/diplomatic situation; Netanyahu obtained 48% and Herzog 33%. Questioned as to who would be more suitable to deal with the security situation: 55% of respondents answered Netanyahu, and 25% Herzog. Both candidates got 38% in answer to the question who would be more suitable to deal with the economic situation.

In a Jerusalem Post poll, respondents were asked whether they thought that the timing of the police investigation of Yisrael Beiteinu was of a political nature. Forty-four percent answered in the affirmative, and 40% said “no”. Asked whether they believed there would soon be another escalation in the Gaza strip, 64% said yes, and 16 % said no.

With so many indications of the general public’s mindset and concerns, the near future will allow us to assess to what extent the new government will be attentive to and meet the public’s demands.



More examples of the US Left influencing Israeli politics.

Like I said earlier, and please spread it: 

Netanyahu’s language concerning the Left’s mobilizing the Arab vote, even for a party other than their own (Zionist Union), reflects the political reality in Israeli politics. They need blocks of parties to create a coalition government. It would be the same if the Israeli Right-Wing was using all its resources in getting the Russian immigrant population to vote for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, using buses to cart them to the various polling places, and Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) warning and urging his supporters to turn out in droves to offset ”the Russian vote”.

Herzog, Livni blame their loss on racism

Tzipi Livni Isaac Herzog

Tzipi Livni speaks with Labor head Isaac Herzog in the Knesset. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Zionist Union leaders cIsaac  Herzog and Tzipi Livni blamed their six-seat loss in Tuesday’s election on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making statements they considered racist.

Netanyahu warned on Facebook and in text messages to voters Tuesday afternoon that Joint (Arab) List supporters were being bussed en masse to polling stations. In a series of interviews Thursday, Herzog and Livni said the tide turned on Election Day thanks to those messages.

“The votes for Netanyahu rose late in the day in response to the warnings about Arab voters heading to the polls,” Herzog told Army Radio.

Livni called Netanyahu’s re-election “the victory of hatred and fear.” She said Netanyahu got carried away with his pre-election mantras warning against “a government led by Tzipi and Buji [Herzog] backed by the Arab list.”

“I disagree with Netanyahu but he is not an enemy,” Livni said. “Netanyahu made us into enemies, and that is unforgivable.”

More here.

NOTE: Only pathetic losers would twist words like this for their own political advantage.


The only use for such a rag.


And the Left’s locking on to the Arab vote, doing all they can to get them to vote for the Arab united party, was not racist at all? Of course it wasn’t, any more than it was to note the obvious.


Netanyahu’s campaign finale dealt a body blow to Israeli democracy

The Israeli prime minister sees the Green Line as the border between where Arabs can’t vote and where they shouldn’t.

By | Mar. 19, 2015 | 4:32 PM


First came his declarations that any withdrawal from the West Bank was out of the question and there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. I don’t mean to feign shock. His previous acceptance of a two-state agreement and his participation in U.S.-imposed peace talks fit the classic definition of hypocrisy: the tribute that vice pays to virtue. But hypocrisy has its value; the tribute keeps the idea of virtue alive.

No more. Netanyahu’s explicit position is now that the permanent status of the West Bank is Israeli rule. Put differently, his policy is that there is part of Israeli territory, known as “Judea and Samaria,” in which most of the population happens to be disenfranchised. Either he does not see this as a significant flaw in Israeli democracy, or he does not see preserving democracy as a significant concern.

Then came Election Day. Netanyahu was desperately afraid that potential Likud voters might stay at home or cast their ballots for other lists, and thus deny Likud the status of the largest party in the Knesset. His response was the infamous status and video that he posted on his Facebook page: “The rule of the right is in danger. Arab voters are advancing in large numbers toward voting places. Leftist organizations are bringing them in buses.” I’ve translated the Hebrew verb “na” here as “advancing” rather than “moving” because the connotation is clearly military – especially when Netanyahu says in the next sentence that “we have a call-up order” to get out the Likud vote, and the video shows him in front of a map of the Middle East, as if he were speaking from a war room.


NOTE: First of all, I could only wish that Netanyahu’s statement concerning the creation of a Pali state was to mean that it would never be contemplated in the future, but all serious minded people realize that isn’t what he meant. Since the Haaretz is not a serious minded paper, they hype his words to mean what they want it to mean.

Seeing that there is no credible (if there could ever be) side for peace with whom the Israelis could make peace with, so in response to that glaring, obvious fact, there is no reason in the world for an Israeli PM to contemplate engaging in a fruitless exercise that could end up with the Islamic State on their doorstep.

Secondly,  the use of ”military language” in an election is something that many politicians engage in around the free West during their own elections, on both sides of the aisle. I can safely bet that there are video clips of Israeli Leftists doing just that, Israeli Arabs as well, as do the Democrats in the U.S..

Thirdly, in reference to Netanyahu’s language concerning the Left’s mobilizing the Arab vote, even for a party other than their own (Zionist Union), reflects the political reality in Israeli politics. They need blocks of parties to create a coalition government. It would be the same if the Israeli Right-Wing was using all its resources in getting the Russian immigrant population to vote for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, using buses to cart them to the various polling places, and Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) warning and urging his supporters to turn out in droves to offset ”the Russian vote”.


Gerstenfeld report


Manfred Gerstenfeld

The election results for the 20th Knesset determined both major winners and major losers. Yet just a few days earlier, while looking at the polls, one could have still justifiably argued that there was not much need for the elections – the expected results of the various political blocs seemed broadly similar to those in the outgoing Knesset.

The main winner of these elections, even more so than his Likud party was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He had become a general target, and the attacks were not limited to those of the opposition parties. A variety of people outside the political realm, such as a group of 200 former senior defense and intelligence officials, published advertisements and campaigned against Netanyahu.

The Likud had taken a huge beating back in the 2013 elections when it ran together with Avigdor Liberman’s party, Israel Beitenu. In the outgoing Knesset it only held 18 seats. It will now have 30 seats. The Zionist Union’s distorted central message was that Netanyahu had totally failed in leading the country. Its party leaders, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, claimed that the only logical consequence was that Netanyahu had to go. The Zionist Union’s claim was false. At a time of major economic problems around the world, Israel has done quite well. In the military field, Israel is far from a failure. Netanyahu has also resisted considerable foreign pressure to cede more territories to the Palestinians, most of which would probably have turned into additional areas controlled by the Islamo-Nazis of Hamas.

Another big winner of these elections was Moshe Kahlon’s new Koolanu party. Kahlon is a former Likud MK whose main merit as Minister of Communications was the radical reduction of telephone and internet costs. Although his party list did not have many nationally known candidates, it managed to get 10 seats. It will be impossible for Netanyahu to form a government without Koolanu. Kahlon will most likely become the Minister of Finance, a position for which he campaigned and which Netanyahu already promised him before Election Day. Strategically, Kahlon might be better off obtaining the Minister of Housing portfolio, as he could then reorganize the Israel Land Authority and manage to lower housing prices. Housing costs are a strong concern for a large number of Israelis. The Housing ministry may still be held by one of Kahlon’s party members.

A third clear winner was the Joint (Arab) List. During the 19th Knesset, Israel Beitenu had managed to get majority support in favor of raising the elections threshold from 2% to 3.25% of the total vote. Liberman thought that a higher election threshold would result in the elimination of some of the smaller Arab parties. However, the various Arab parties represented in the Knesset managed to overcome their differences for the purposes of establishing a joint list, consisting of communists, Islamists and Arab Palestinian nationalists.

The Joint List also succeeded in raising the Arab voter participation. The Joint List obtained 13 seats, as against 11 of the combined Arab parties in the 19th Knesset. They might have been helped by a very ugly comment by Netanyahu on Election Day where he declared that Jewish citizens should get out and vote because the Arabs were voting in massive numbers.1

The losses were quite pronounced as well. The Yesh Atid party, officially centrist but in practice leaning toward the Zionist Union, got 11 seats as against 19 in the previous Knesset. Its charismatic leader, Yair Lapid, seemed to have managed to shake off most criticisms of his responsibilities as Minister of Finance, yet it didn’t help him in the elections.

The religious parties all lost some of their electorate. The modern-Orthodox Habayit Hayehudi, led by Naftali Bennett, returns with 8 seats as against 12 in the present Knesset. In the last few days, many of its voters apparently deserted to the Likud. Shas, in the first election after the death of its religious patron Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, came down from 11 to 7 seats. United Torah Judaism listUnited Torah Judaism lost one of its 7 seats, partly due to the call of extremist Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach to boycott the elections. Finally, the Yachad party, led by former Shas leader Eli Yishai, did not pass the election threshold. All in all, the religious parties obtained a combined 21 seats as against the 30 seats they held in the 19th Knesset. Two of the religious Yesh Atid MKs, Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern and Rabbi Dov Lipman, lost their seats as well.

Another major loser was Israel Beitenu. It ended up with 6 seats as against 13 in the outgoing Knesset. This outcome has most likely been influenced by a major corruption scandal that came to light at the beginning of the election campaign, in which a key party member MK Faina Kirschenbaum, stands accused.

Another loser was the extreme left-wing party Meretz. It lost one of its 6 seats. When it looked that it stood to lose a second seat, its leader Zahava Galon announced that she would take responsibility and leave both the Knesset and party leadership so that number 5 on their list, Tamar Zandberg, could remain a Knesset member.2 Galon has in the meantime rescinded her taken her resignation.

The Zionist Union is incorrectly perceived as another major loser of the elections. Yet Herzog, by running a joint list of his Labor Party together with Livni’s Hatnuah, managed to create the second largest political faction in the country, well ahead of all the others. The Zionist Union won 24 seats as against a combined 21 seats the two parties got in the previous elections.

As no polls are allowed two days before Election Day, the general public sentiment, according to the last of the published polls, was that the Zionist Union was ahead of the Likud by several seats. In the last few days before the elections, the Likud made a furious effort to regain ground. One major element of its campaign was its participation in the massive right-wing rally held in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv on the night of Sunday, March 15th. 3 Netanyahu also contacted many voters with a pre-recorded telephone message, right through and including on Election Day.

The three exit polls held by Channel One, Channel Two and Channel Ten were massively erroneous.4 They gave the Likud 27 or 28 seats, as against 27 seats for the Zionist Union. These numbers were already considered a huge success for the Likud, in view of the last polls published before the elections. There is less of an excuse for those responsible for the highly inaccurate exit polls, as compared to those who published the many dozens of polls throughout the campaign. It may well have been that many voters, right up to getting to the ballot box, changed their voting intentions.

The most logical option for a coalition seems to be one backed by 67 MKs. It would include besides the Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Koolanu, and Israel Beitenu.

The challenges before the new government are great. The socioeconomic concerns of the electorate are substantial. The delegitimization campaigns against Israel will only get stronger. This the more so as Netanyahu has come out against the establishment of a Palestinian state.5

The relationship with the US needs major improvement. It is not only an issue of personal tensions between the leaders of the two countries. Such an improvement can only be possible to a limited extent while the White House is occupied by President Barack Obama. During his presidency, the worldwide status of the US has declined greatly. Obama has also frequently ignored or even whitewashed extreme crimes emerging from many parts of the Muslim world.


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Israeli Election2015

We Love Likud Award

The little town of Arab Al Naim voted a resounding 77% for Bibi’s party. In second place? The Joint Arab List at 15%.

  • Number of Votes:  238
  • Likud: 177
  • Joint Arab List: 35
  • Other: 19

Check out the breakdown of Israeli voter turnout at Israellycool!


Obama still fuming.

If he does call I would love to read a transcript.

netanyahu and obamination

EU Congratulates Netanyahu, No Word from Obama

EU calls to re-launch peace process, as Obama remains silent and Kerry reportedly avoids questions on Knesset elections.
Federica Mogherini

 The EU congratulated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his election victory Wednesday, but added it was committed to relaunching the peace process which he appeared to repudiate during the campaign by promising not to establish a Palestinian state.

“The EU is committed to working with the incoming Israeli government on a mutually beneficial relationship as well as on the re-launch of the peace process,” EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said in a statement, reports AFP.

During the election campaign, Netanyahu said he would not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Biblical heartland of Israel, a key part of the two-state solution backed by the EU and which he voiced support for in his controversial 2009 Bar Ilan speech.

“We are at a crucial moment, with many threats all over the Middle East,” the EU statement said. “The EU staunchly supports a peaceful resolutionof the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the interest of the Israeli people, of the Palestinian people and of the whole region.”

Mogherini said the 28-nation European Union would stand by Israel at a time when “more than ever, bold leadership is required from all to reach a comprehensive, stable and viable settlement of a conflict that has already deprived too many generations of peace and security.”

More here


Yesterday morning on the day of Israel’s national elections, I posted the following on Facebook concerning Isaac Herzog, leader of the main opposing party (Labor) to Bibi Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party.

The man is extremely dangerous. Vote Likud Israel. And somehow….I believe that they will. Just remember the fake polls from the Romney debacle*.

And I was right!

bibi likud wins 2015

* NOTE: Polls for Romney late in the U.S. presidential election of 2012 had him ahead of Obama, which proved to be way off. I felt that the polls this time around were just as skewed, and that the same thing would happen, but this time to Herzog.

Israeli elections take dramatic turn as official tally gives Likud sweeping victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shares a moment with his wife, Sara, at Likud headquarters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shares a moment with his wife, Sara, at Likud headquarters. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Israeli elections took a dramatic turn in the early morning hours on Wednesday as official tallies from nearly all precincts indicate that Likud has opened up a significant lead over Zionist Union, a far cry from the virtual dead heat that television exit polls had reported Tuesday evening.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting before dawn on Wednesday, the Likud has emerged as the clear, undisputed victor in the elections.

According to the official up-to-the-minute tally, Likud wins 30 seats while Zionist Union comes in second at 24 seats.

The parties that follow are Joint Arab List (14); Yesh Atid (11); Kulanu (10); Bayit Yehudi (8); Shas (7); United Torah Judaism (6); Yisrael Beytenu (6); and Meretz (4).

Eli Yishai’s far-right Yahad party has thus far failed to make the cut, though it has hovered near the minimum threshold throughout. These results are not final since 10 percent of precincts still need to report their results.

More here.


Bibi: Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud, a major victory for the national camp led by the Likud, a major victory for the people of Israel

Aussie Dave nails it!


 Be scared, be very scared…..

This exchange (directly below) was one of the worst lines in the interview:

Where does that impulse to suddenly slaughter a group of rabbis with a meat cleaver come from?

Herzog: There’s no justification of it, none whatsoever. It’s against any moral, legal, or human values, period. And it’s shocking. Nonetheless, when you look at the whole picture, we have to analyze it, and in order to neutralize these elements, we have to bring hope. And we cannot give up on that.

It’s not against Islam morals, law and not shocking, at least to the tens of thousands (if not tens of millions) of cheering Arabs upon hearing the news of the gruesome murders.

Bibi’s Opponent: ‘I Trust the Obama Administration to Get a Good Deal’

Isaac Herzog, who could end up as prime minister of Israel, has a very different understanding of his country’s relationship with the U.S. than the man he’s hoping to replace.

Isaac Herzog interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg at the Brookings Saban Forum (Peter Halmagyi)

Of the many differences between Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and the man who may unseat him, Isaac “Buji” Herzog (I’ll post separately on the ridiculousness of Israeli nicknames), none strikes me as more immediately consequential than the contrasting ways in which they view President Barack Obama.

Yes, Netanyahu and Herzog differ stylistically and dispositionally, and yes, their views on a range of economic, security, and social issues are miles apart, but it is their diverging approaches to management of the American file that is most dramatic.


Goldberg: Do you trust the Obama administration to get a good deal?

Herzog: I trust the Obama administration to get a good deal. We hope they’ll get the best deal possible. That means a lot of elements, most importantly, the fact that we have to agree on a set break-out time that will give ample warning to everybody. If the Iranians want to break the agreement and move towards the bomb, I think the professionals have to work on it and we have to give it a chance.

Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be naïve. We still live in a very dangerous and complicated world and region. The policies of the Iranian regime are clear to us. We’ve been discussing them here for years. And we shouldn’t be naïve to believe that if there’s a deal, all is well. There should be very strict supervision, very strict monitoring, and deciphering of whatever’s going on in relation to that program.

More here.


obama winking

All that dirty money and expertise from Obama’s people is being put to much the same use in Israel as it was in the US.

Netanyahu: Left Busing in Muslim Voters

Benjamin Netanyahu posted on Facebook that the rule of a conservative Zionist government is in danger.

“Arab voters are going to the vote in droves. The Left-wing organizations are bringing them to the polling stations in buses,” Netanyahu wrote.

“We have no V15 movement (the Obama-backed anti-Netanyahu campaign), we have just a call to arms (reference to call up of army reservists in wartime),  we only have you. Go out to the polling stations; bring your friends and your family.  Vote Likud to close the gap between us and the Labor party.”

More here.


Regardless of whomever or wherever, Leftism makes the brain go gummy.

Yet CIS’s naked acrimony toward Netanyahu has expressed itself in wildly implausible accusations, undermining its credibility, on the one hand, and exposing its partisan nature, on the other. When, in a press conference, one of its leading spokesmen charged that the prime minister “is responsible for turning the United States from an ally into an enemy,” it is difficult to know whether to respond with rage or ridicule.

After all, there was little sign of anti-Israeli enmity in the enthusiasm with which Netanyahu was greeted by the representatives of the American people in Congress – unless of course back in CIS, they feel the United States legislature is not part of the United States.

NOTE: My reference to, U.S. Senator John McCain, eludes to his honorable and courageous service as a military officer and POW, and latter, his disastrous political career that has only served to undermine the very republic for which he so bravely served.

Into the Fray: My (initial) challenge to the generals – all 200 of them


 Commanders for Israel’s Security hold press conference.‏. (photo credit:AVSHALOM SASSONI)

One does not have to be a military expert to easily identify the critical defects of the armistice lines that existed until June 4, 1967. A considerable part of these lines is without any topographical security value; and, of no less importance, the lines fail to provide Israel with the essential minimum of strategic depth – Deputy PM Yigal Allon, former commander of Palmah strike force, 1976.

…historians a thousand years hence will still be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. They will never understand how it was that a victorious nation, with everything in hand, suffered themselves to be brought low, and to cast away all that they had gained by measureless sacrifice and absolute victory… Now the victors are the vanquished… that is the terrible transformation that has taken place bit by bit. – Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons, March 1938.

With the two-state solution… Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse… Then we will move forward. – Abbas Zaki, PLO ambassador to Lebanon, 2009

I realize that I have referred to these excerpts in earlier columns, but together, they encapsulate with such succinct precision the substance of the message I wish to convey this week that I feel compelled to employ them once again.

Bitterest of ironies

Arguably the bitterest irony unfolding in Israeli politics is the disheartening spectacle of scores of senior military men who spent most of their adult life defending Israel, now rallying to promote a political initiative that will make Israel indefensible.

It is indisputable that this initiative will make Israel incalculably more difficult to defend, vastly more vulnerable and a far more inviting target to attack.

As mentioned last week, toward the end of last year, a group of former high-ranking security personnel (from the rank of brigadier-general and the equivalent in the intelligence services and police) began to coalesce around an initiative launched by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef, who served as commander of the IDF Armored Corps (1979-82). Today, the group, which goes by the name “Commanders for Israel’s Security,” claims have almost 200 members with over 5,000 years of accumulated security experience – very few of which had any professional pertinence to the task they have now taken upon themselves.

Although it professes to be a nonpartisan movement, it is anything but – aggressively promoting a political agenda that would be eagerly embraced by the Israeli Left, and firmly rejected by the Israeli Right.

Patently partisan

As time passes, CIS is emerging as an undisguised anti-Netanyahu lobby, working vigorously for his removal from office – and hence for ensconcing his political rivals, the Herzog-Livni duo, in power.

As I have previously pointed out, I am in no way an avid apologist for Benjamin Netanyahu. On numerous occasions I have found his performance as prime minister far from unblemished and have severely criticized his handling of affairs.

Yet CIS’s naked acrimony toward Netanyahu has expressed itself in wildly implausible accusations, undermining its credibility, on the one hand, and exposing its partisan nature, on the other. When, in a press conference, one of its leading spokesmen charged that the prime minister “is responsible for turning the United States from an ally into an enemy,” it is difficult to know whether to respond with rage or ridicule.

More here.


This is Dr.Manfred Gerstenfeld’s latest article on the election campaign in Israel. It is the last one before the elections.

Gerstenfeld report


Manfred Gerstenfeld

Throughout the previous weeks of the election campaign, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud have been on the receiving end of much criticism, most recently with “Bottlegate”, the State Comptroller Office’s report on it, and far more importantly, the State Comptroller Office’s report on the housing crisis. These issues dominated much of the anti-Netanyahu agenda. Over the past week, Netanyahu succeeded in taking back part of the election agenda through his speeches at AIPAC and the US Congress.

Netanyahu’s speech to Congress made a sizeable impact in the United States. It placed more scrutiny on the Obama administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue. Whether or not all of this has made a significant impact on Israeli voters remains unclear.


The election messages have now become more focused and concise, due in part to the television campaigns. The Likud central message is “It is either us, or them”. This slogan emphasizes that the choice of prime minister is between Netanyahu and Herzog/Livni. Some Likud advertisements show a picture of Herzog morphing into one of Livni. It assumes that most people see Herzog as more popular than Livni, who has frequently shifted party allegiance. It stresses the fact that Livni will replace Herzog as prime minister after two years, if the Zionist Union wins the elections. The Zionist Union’s central message is that Netanyahu has failed and thus should go home.

A crucial issue is which candidate for prime minister the party leaders will support when they are called in after the elections by President Rivlin. Shas leader Aryeh Deri stated that his party will support Netanyahu, though it has not excluded the possibility of entering a coalition led by Herzog.1 Shas has also repeated that it will not enter a coalition with Lapid’s Yesh Atid.

Lapid has stated that he will not join a government if the law requiring mandatory army service of the ultra-Orthodox population will be repealed. This makes the creation of a Zionist Union-led coalition even more difficult. This is the more so as the Joint Arab List has stated that it will not join any government whatsoever. Their spokesperson Raja Zaatry declared that, “We cannot be part of a government that still occupies our people.” He added that if, from the outside, the Joint Arab list can prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, they may do so.2

Another important issue is the agreements between various parties concerning surplus votes. Once all Knesset seats, for which there are the required number of votes, have been allotted, there remain a certain number of votes which are insufficient to have parties qualify for an additional seat. These surplus votes are then pooled with those of the party’s partner in the surplus votes agreement. This may give one of the two parties concerned enough votes for an additional seat.

Earlier in the campaign, the Zionist Union and Meretz had concluded such a pooling agreement. Annulling this agreement would allow Meretz to enter into a similar agreement with the Joint Arab List. It would then enable the Zionist Union to conclude such an agreement with Yesh Atid, which doesn’t have a pooling partner. However, the Arab List refused this proposal.3 One result of this bargaining was that Yesh Atid, which claims to be centrist, is now increasingly seen as belonging to the left.

Even more than in previous weeks, the key issue of the campaign seems to be Netanyahu remaining the prime minister. Yet that is not totally clear, because Herzog and Livni have refused to explicitly exclude the possibility of the Zionist Union being part of a Netanyahu-led government. Moshe Kahlon, leader of Koolanu, has consistently refused to say whom his party will endorse as Prime Minister.4 That leaves the Joint Arab List and Meretz as the two parties that have declared that they will not support Netanyahu in any case.

Yediot Achronot, Israel’s second-largest daily, and its website, Ynet, have sharply attacked Netanyahu throughout the campaign. They now published a document, dated August 2013, which states that Netanyahu had agreed to make substantial territorial concessions to the Palestinians.5 The Likud had a confusing variety of rebuttals, one of them, coming from the Prime Minister’s Office, stating that, “Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear for years that given the current conditions in the Middle East, any territory that is given will be seized by the radical Islam just like what happened Gaza and in southern Lebanon.”6

A mass rally against the re-election of Netanyahu as prime minister was held on the evening of March 7th in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, with some 35,000 people in attendance. The main speaker was former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has been criticizing Netanyahu for years. Dagan said that Israel faces its worst crisis ever under Netanyahu’s leadership.7

An effort was also made to revive the social protests of 2011. Tents were pitched once again on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, but only drew limited attention.8 After some days the Tel Aviv municipality had the tents removed.9

In the meantime, polls keep indicating that the Likud is slightly behind the Zionist Union, yet none of them show the Zionist Union gaining more than 24 seats. The division between the blocs remains more or less the same. Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Israel Beitenu have close to 40 seats, to which one can add at least 3 more seats if Yishai’s Yahad list passes the threshold. Yesh Atid’s 19 seats in the 19th Knesset are seemingly divided between that party and Kahlon’s Koolanu, which together have about 20 seats in the polls. The Zionist Union and Meretz together may reach 30 seats, a gain of about 3. The two ultra-Orthodox parties currently have 18 seats, which in the polls are now divided between the three ultra-Orthodox parties. The Joint Arab List has 12 seats in most polls, giving them a gain of 1 seat.

All of this makes one wonder what these elections are about, if there is such little movement between the blocs. As there are still many voters who remain undecided, this lack of movement may change substantially when the election results are in.


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Exactly, it’s called evolving politically.


Netanyahu says his past support for Palestinian state ‘simply irrelevant’

Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

”Simply irrelevant” was how the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described his former support for a demilitarized Palestinian state on Sunday.

“In the situation created in the Middle East, any territory that will be evacuated will be taken over by radical Islam and terrorist organizations supported by Iran,” Netanyahu stated.

“Therefore, there will not be any withdrawals or concessions. The matter is simply irrelevant,” he added.

The prime minister’s statements came in response to questions about an article in popular religious-Zionist Shabbat newsletter “Small World,” which wrote that Likud’s answer to a question as to its leader’s position on Palestinian statehood was: “The prime minister told the public that the Bar-Ilan Speech [in which he advocated a demilitarized Palestinian state] is canceled. Netanyahu’s entire political biography is a fight against the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

More here.


Gerstenfeld report


Manfred Gerstenfeld

The election campaign will move forward to its next phase on March 3rd, with the start of the national TV broadcasts. In the meantime, the media focus seems to be on Netanyahu’s planned speech to the US Congress and on the American debate over a possible agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear capabilities. The key issue of greatest importance, however, is what such an agreement between the West and Iran would entail.

The essence of the possible agreement with Iran was well-formulated by Henry Kissinger, who recently appeared before the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Kissinger stated:

Nuclear talks with Iran began as an international effort, buttressed by six U.N. resolutions, to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option. They are now an essentially bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability through an agreement that sets a hypothetical limit of one year on an assumed breakout. The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it.”1

What Kissinger said, rather diplomatically, is that the Obama administration is unlikely to deliver what was expected of it. One might add that Obama’s two terms as president have seen a decline in America’s international status. The US military pulled out of Iraq, only to return to bomb both Iraq and Syria. Tensions with Russia have greatly increased. Obama is in dire need of something which can be described as a foreign policy success, even if at a future date it may turn out to be a bigger disaster than anything he has done so far.

In view of the enormity of the issue at stake, the remainder is indeed of much less importance. This includes the tensions between the Republicans and The White House over Netanyahu’s upcoming lecture and how the invitation was initiated. Obama sees Netanyahu as a major hurdle in achieving his flawed Iran deal, and so the US administration has attempted to falsely blame Netanyahu and render him the scapegoat for deteriorating relations between the US and Israel. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that Netanyahu’s speech was “destructive of the fabric of U.S-Israel relationship.” 2

It is far from certain whether any of this has had much impact on the Israeli elections, and for various reasons. The left-wing opposition to the Likud isn’t very clear about what it would do differently from Netanyahu concerning Iran. Herzog said that a nuclear Iran is very dangerous for Israel but refused to say that it is an existential threat.3 Furthermore, Obama is increasingly unpopular in Israel. A Times of Israel poll found that 72% of Israelis have no faith in Obama’s capability of preventing Iran from getting the nuclear bomb, up from January’s 64%. Only 33% of respondents polled view Obama favorably, while 59% see him unfavorably.

The same poll indicated that the most important current political issue for Israelis is the economic situation, at 48%, followed by Israeli-Palestinian relations at 19%, and education at 14%. The Iranian threat was a priority for only 10% of those polled.4 How these figures will translate into voter preferences on election day remains to be seen.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira released a report on Israel’s housing crisis. One of its key findings was the sharp increase in housing costs: while in 2008 it would take an average of 103 monthly salaries to buy a home, in 2013 it went up to 137 monthly salaries. The proportion of a monthly salary needed for rent went up from 29% to 38% over the same period. Who is to blame for this crisis is likely to become a substantial issue in the upcoming televised election campaign.5 In a poll by The Jerusalem Post, 41% blamed Netanyahu, 20% Lapid, 16% blamed The Israel Lands Authority, and 6% blamed former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.6

After the State Comptroller’s report on the issue of the Prime Minister’s Residence expenses was published, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered a criminal investigation of the subject. He specified, however, that it was not a major issue and that most of the investigations and the public announcement regarding its conclusions would take place after the elections. Weinstein added that Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently exempt from any criminal investigation.7

The leaders of eight parties held a televised debate on Channel 2. The Likud, the Zionist Union and United Torah Judaism were absent. During the debate, Lieberman attacked Ayman Oudeh, the leader of the joint Arab list, claiming that he had threatened Arab Israelis who had wanted to volunteer for national service. Lieberman told him, “you call yourself Palestinian and not Israeli”, and added that Oudeh should go to the Palestinian parliament.8

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Wait, I’ve seen this before:


Like in the US with ACORN, the Leftist ‘community organizing’ band of misfits, though supposedly nonpartison,  registered people to vote, mainly for Democrats.

Nonpartisan’ campaign launched to increase Israeli-Arab voter turnout

A WOMAN walks past campaign posters for the Arab-led Hadash party in Umm al-Fahm

A WOMAN walks past campaign posters for the Arab-led Hadash party in the Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The campaign includes running conferences for Arab students in colleges; media outreach; and work on a new poll that will identify the messages that would encourage the most turnout.

The Abrahamic Fund Inititatives NGO launched what it called a “nonpartisan” campaign to increase turnout in the Israeli-Arab sector for the coming elections, after a report surfaced about possible US funding for such efforts.

The campaign includes running conferences for Arab students in colleges; media outreach; and work on a new poll that will identify the messages that would encourage the most turnout.

Earlier this month, the Washington Free Beacon reported that a group of US-funded progressive groups were planning a major effort to increase voter turnout among certain communities in Israel that are likely to vote against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The report quoted a memo it had obtained by the Ameinu group that promoted a $3 million effort for “a massive, nonpartisan Get Out The Vote campaign targeting selected demographic and geographic segments of Israeli society.”

More here.


Gerstenfeld report


Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr.Manfred GerstenfeldOver the past week, the political debate became heated but remained unfocused. There was a brief moment of unity after MK Uri Orbach of Bayit Yehudi and Minister of Pensioner’s Affairs passed away at the age of 54. He was eulogized by politicians of many parties across the board.

The debate over Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to the US Congress continued. To avoid having it become election propaganda, the Chairman of the Elections Committee, Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran, decided that the speech will not be broadcast live in Israel. A delay of five minutes will enable broadcasting companies to cut out any elements they would consider to be propaganda.1 The speech will be followed online in real time, thus the measure remains largely symbolic.


In view of the fragmented and often low-level debates, President Reuven Rivlin said at the Institute for National Security Studies conference that the candidates for prime minister should focus on the more important issues. He mentioned the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, security threats, the economic situation and the treatment of minorities. In view of Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to the US Congress, Rivlin remarked that Israelis have the right to hear what Netanyahu has to say first, and hear it in Hebrew.2

The Supreme Court overruled the Central Elections Committee’sAvigdor-Liberman-Getty disqualifications of MK Haneen Zoabi and Yahad candidate Baruch Marzel. Eight judges voted in favor of reinstating them, and only one voted against.3 Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other right-wing MKs stated that letting Zoabi run for the Knesset was akin to supporting terrorism.4

The marginal issue of the Prime Minister’s home expenses became one of the most discussed topics of the week. The State Comptroller’s office published a report on the expenses of the Prime Minister’s residence, which, from 2009 to 2011, rose from NIS 1.8 million to 3.1 million. In 2013 they declined to 2.4 million. The report also mentioned several potentially criminal issues related to these expenses.5 The Attorney General will now have to decide whether or not to have the police probe the issue.6 Likud minister Yuval Steinitz said that, “in 2012, [President] Peres’ household expenditures were 20 times as much as Netanyahu’s.” Steinitz questioned the timing of the report, the more so as the State Comptroller had never investigated the residential expenses of any previous prime ministers. Steinitz added, “Perhaps the comptroller gave in to pressure from the media.”7

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