Thursday, March 28, 2019

12 Days Until the Israeli Election: Hamas, Trump and Netanyahu

In the past month two major political developments have forced dramatic and polarizing action in the conflict between Hamas in Gaza and Israel under Netanyahu.  With a tweet from Trump, Netanyahu may find enough chaos in play to stay on top of the fray once again.

First, the Israeli Attorney General moved on February 28 to indict PM Netanyahu on several separate bribery charges.  Much like scandals in America these days, the supporters of Netanyahu consider it irrelevant, and his detractors advocate for removal of Netanyahu for corruption.  The inner circles of Likkud, however, are concerned and planning for a world - perhaps - without Netanyahu later this year.  In the meantime, he is weakened but still in charge.  What is the answer?  Netanyahu has a well earned reputation for strength in security issues, and a conflict usually immunizes him from criticism while he manages the crisis.

Second, Hamas has failed in its ability to provide economic development, salaries, and charitable aid in the Gaza Strip.  Qatar has been physically moving U.S. dollars into Gaza to distribute some of these resources through the postal offices, but in the last month massive protests against Hamas broke out inside the Gaza strip, and Hamas cracked down with large scale arrests and heavy handed repression of the protests.  Hamas' popularity in the Gaza Strip is based on two primary issues: 1) a network of social supports and subsidies called ikhwan, and 2) its identity as primary resistance to Israel.  The real power lies in the former and the political attention accrues to the latter.  With #1 collapsing, Hamas has chosen to fire missiles at Israel to create a larger conflict which will force its population to focus on #2.  Hamas has learned the lessons of distraction and manipulation well.

Meanwhile, Kahol Lavan's leadership includes 3 former Israeli Army chiefs of staff, but as people get to know Benny Ganz the shine is off the chrome and early energetic leads are cooling off.  Netanyahu is certainly under pressure.  Given Hamas rocket fire deep into Israel proper, Netanyahu has called up the reserves and mobilized the tank corps.  However, it's not clear how a military strategy will play with so many generals running in opposition.

Add to that President Trump's recognition of the complete annexation of the Golan Heights, and the resume of right wing topics are all in play during the last 12 days of the election.  The left usually seeks to emphasis economic development, civil obligations and rights, and peace.  No one is talking about that agenda seriously in the moment, and the outcomes are extremely murky.

One important development today is that Eli Yishai, former head of shas and current head of Yachad (a far right religious party) has withdrawn from the elections and thrown his support to United Torah Judaism.  Shas and UTJ together will account for 11-13 seats under current polling and would certainly be a necessary part of any coalition.

Also interesting, the Bennet/Shaked party "The New Right" has become embroiled in a controversy over a recent ad, and are suffering a momentary drop in support - barely meeting the electoral threshold for the Kenesset.  Presumedly, they will rebound, but who knows?  Should they fail, it will be a tremendous miscalculation by former stars of the right.

Finally, on the far left in the Arab parties, Ra'am-Balad look to be losing all 8 seats and not meeting their threshold either.  This is important because Balad is the main Israeli Arab citizen intellectual party, seeking pure democracy regardless of ethnic or religious identity and Ra'am is the largest Beduin party.  The remaining "Arab" parties (Hadash-Ta'al) are problematic:  Ta'al is a very strong critic of Israel's policies, particularly in Gaza and the West Bank, and Hadash is the Communist party.  Should Ra'am and Balad  be represented by Ta'al in the new Kenesset, it could further polarize internal debate.

Here are the Poll Numbers over the last few weeks.  Scroll the chart to the right to see the entire display:

DatePolling firmHadash
MeretzLaborBlue &
Current seats[3]5851811101530N/A357661
27 MarYahad announces withdrawal[4]
27 MarPanels Politics/Walla![5]8(1.9%)59304(2.6%)4315674759
26 MarMidgam/Army Radio[6]8(1.6%)51030444284556755
26 MarTNS/Kan[7]7558306(2.6%)(2.1%)286756759
24 MarMidgam/Channel 12[8]7441032(2.6%)44284556751
24 MarPanel Project HaMidgam/Statnet/Channel 13[9]74510315(1.6%)(2.4%)286585657
22 MarPanels Politics/Maariv[10]9693045314564757
22 MarMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[11]546930444266574652
22 MarSmith/Jerusalem Post[12]8458305(2.8%)4274666757
20 MarMidgam/iPanel/Channel 12[13]84410324(1.6%)4274655754
20 MarPanel Project HaMidgam/Channel 13[14]7459315(2.3%)(2.2%)295675759
19 MarPanels Politics/Walla![15]9(2.5%)68294(2.9%)5324674659
17 MarDirect Polls/Kan[16]846930(2.1%)(1.1%)4314666655
14 MarMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[17]6(2%)87335(2%)5265675756
14 MarMidgam/iPanel/Channel 12[18]74410314(2.3%)4284476756
13 MarDirect Polls/Makor Rishon[19]9(2.6%)61032(2.7%)(1.7%)(2.9%)324776759
11 MarPanel HaMidgam Project/Statnet/Channel 13[20]7567314(2.3%)4284675656
7-8 MarMidgam/iPanel/Yediot Ahronot[21]74510334(2%)429(3.1%)566757
7 MarDialog/Haaretz[22]84410314(1.8%)(2%)284785759
7 MarMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[23]9(2%)88334(2%)(1%)264884858
5 MarTNS/Kan[24]8457355(2%)(2%)304555757
5 MarSmith/Channel 20[25]94573144429(3%)665656
5 MarMidgam/Channel 12[26]8449365(2.2%)(2.7%)30(2.0%)566759
5 MarPanels Politics/Walla! News[27]9(1.6%)68366(2.7%)(2.8%)31(2.6%)674761
3 MarPanels Politics/Channel 12[28]9(2.2%)68385(2.8%)(2.1%)30(2.9%)674759
1 MarPanel HaMidgam Project/Statnet/Channel 13[29]9466364(2.3%)(2.3%)30(1.6%)576759
1 MarTNS/Kan[30]7566375(3%)(2%)29(3%)756759
28 FebMaariv[31]11(1.5%)56355(3%)429(2.9%)675759
28 FebMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[32]7(1%)67384(2%)(2%)29(3%)896662
27 FebNumber 10 Strategies/The Times of Israel[33]7448364(1%)429854757
24 FebMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[34]7(2%)7836(2%)(2%)(3%)31(2%)987762
24 FebMidgam/iPanel/Yediot Ahronot[35]7549354(3%)429(3.1%)655756
22 FebMaagar Mochot/Radio 103 FM[36]6856344427674654
21 FebDeadline for party lists to be submitted[37]

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Compassion, Anger and Hope: Pesach 5779

Compassion, Anger and Hope.

When do we open our doors?  The truth is, we only open our doors for people we know or for mail and packages.  We have created a world of locked doors and security cameras, with good cause - but also with deleterious effect.  We are more isolated from each other, and have become often removed from the social and economic needs of the disadvantaged in our society.  Our homes are our castles, and we create Passover comes to teach us that freedom and justice are for all by making us open our doors.

The seder demands that we open our doors twice, and with good reason, during the meal: HaLachma ‘Anya and Sh’fokh Chamatekha.  One is an act of compassion and the other determined anger.  In response to economic and political injustice, we need both.

HaLachma ‘Anya, “This is the bread of poverty/affliction.”  We begin the maggid telling of the Passover story by opening the door and proclaiming that “All who are hungry, come and eat.  All who are in want, come, celebrate the Passover.”  A student asked this past week, what if there is a homeless person out there? The answer is clear: the invitation is real. Passover is a retelling aimed at action, not a re-enactment devoid of immediate relevance. We are not play acting when we declare that our feast is for all who are in need of food and freedom. We mean it.  We open the maggid with the lesson of Compassion.

The story goes on with the four children, the rabbinic interpretations, modern applications, dayeinu, the seder plate, the meal and the festive birkat hamazon grace after meals for the third cup.  Save time for the end of the seder, because before you sing Chad Gadya or Adir Hu there are two crucial lessons yet to be taught:  Anger, and Hope.

Elijah’s cup is presented, the door is opened for a second time, and we spill our anger into the night. Sh’fokh Chamatekha al ha-goyim asher lo yad’ukha... We declare to God our anger, and command that He pour out his wrath on the anti semites of history and today, to all forms of hatred, bigotry that are in league with them: “Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations which do no know you and upon the kingdoms which do not call Thy name, for they have devoured Jacob and have laid waste his home. Pour out upon them Thy indignation and may Thy fury overtake them. Pursue them with Thine anger and destroy them, from under the heavens of the Lord!”

In a world where racist anti semitic slaughter wreaks havoc and murder in our synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the same hatred and vitriol mows down the innocent in the mosques of New Zealand, do we even hesitate to utter this prayer? How dare we? Anger is the appropriate response, and wishing God to crash down upon it is a legitimate prayer. We open the door to let our anger out into the night.

But, like a haftarah that must not end negatively, we then close the door, pour the fourth cup and sing the praises of hallel and silly songs of our eternal faith.  We conclude with hope: Next year in Jerusalem.  Ken yehi ratzon, may it be so.

A zissen Pesach,