Monday, December 17, 2012

Lieberman - trial by press

The Israeli prosecution has been investigating Avigdor Lieberman for the past 12 years for crimes that he may or may not have committed. That is the reason why there is an investigation, because they don't know. If they knew, they wouldn't have to investigate. Every election season in recent history has included two announcements: 1) There will be elections and 2) We are considering indicting Lieberman for serious crimes.

Last week the Israeli prosecution announced that they did not have enough proof to put Lieberman on trial for most of the material they were investigating. The prosecution, interviewed on the radio said, "just because we can't prove it doesn't mean he is innocent." Ummm. Actually, I believe that the concept of innocent until proven guilty applies to Lieberman as well. That means that if the prosecution can't gather enough evidence to put a person on trial, they do not have the right to then go and besmirch his name indicating that he is guilty as sin, without giving him a trial to allow him to actually prove it. The entire case reeks of political assassination. If they can't prove it then they wasted a lot of time and effort but they have to put their figurative heads in the sand and shut up. If there is evidence of a wrong doing put the man on trial. If there is no evidence, don't tell the public that he is a bad guy and they should judge him. Shelly Yachimovich, the leader of the Labor party, was a party to this nonsense. She called on the public "to judge Lieberman harshly for his..." His what? There is no case.

Lieberman will be indicted on one minor fraction of the case against him. So we should let him be judged in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion. The prosecution has been wrong plenty of times before, I wouldn't take their word against anybody else's.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Israeli Elections

Israeli elections is similar to mud wrestling. There is no hard and fast winner and everyone gets dirty in the process.

There are approximately 25 parties competing in the upcoming elections, most of whom have niche markets, and a few that represent most of the issues in the country. The Green Leaf party, for example, has one primary issue, legalization of marijuana, and a few secondary issues, such as legalization of prostitution and human rights . A party that gets fewer then 3 seats is not in the Knesset and it is a wasted vote to vote for a party that will probably not make it in.

 The Knesset has 120 seats and in order to form a government a party must present 61 seats, so there is a "stable" majority. Since no party actually gets 61 seats, the parties try to form a coalition of smaller parties to get 61 seats. In order to do this, the parties have to compromise on their issues and form a coalition agreement that all the parties in the coalition agree to. For example, the Green Leaf party may agree to partake in the government if the agreement includes legislation to legalize marijuana but does not address prostitution or any of their other wacky issues.

The party with the most seats gets the first chance to form a coalition. In the last elections, Kadima had the most seats, but were unable to get any other parties to agree with them so they were unable to form a coalition. The Likud, had fewer seats but were able to form a coalition and they formed the government. This is the primary reason why the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu merged recently, so they would have a much better chance of being the largest party and therefore getting first shot and forming the government. Small parties have the ability to push larger more mainstream parties in their direction by becoming coalition partners.

In the upcoming elections, it looks like the Likud Beitenu merger will have the most seats. If they form a coalition with center-left parties, then they will have to agree to having negotiations and concessions to the Arabs. If they form a coalition with more right wing parties they will have to agree to take a harder line with the Arabs and to continue building in the West Bank.

The stronger/larger the secondary parties are the more influence they have. The largest party has to promise them government ministries in order to join the coalition. The Bayit Yehudi in the current government only has 3 seats. They joined the government and received the ministry of space and technology. It sounds impressive that they were in charge of the entire universe outside of Earth, but it really comes with a small budget and no influence.

Should you vote for a large party or a small party? In my opinion you either want to vote for the largest party in the opposition or the party that best represents you in a coalition. Of course, you don't know if your party is going to be in the coalition or not. So, if you are worried that the largest party that represents you will not be the biggest party, then you should probably vote for them. However, if you are a firm believer in a specific issue and don't care about anything else, then you should probably vote Green Leaf. When you're high nothing else matters.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Central Committee meeting

Last week I went to the Bayit Yehudi Central Committee meeting in Modiin. This is my first foray into politics and I was very curious as to what it was all about. The other representative from our village are the head of the local bayit yehudi branch, the local party elder and the head of the PTA of the boys yeshiva high school. This was the first time for all of us aside from the party elder.

The meeting took place at a nice wedding hall and started off with a meet and greet and hors d'oeuvre. No alcohol was served. The party elder was shocked at how nice it was and kept repeating that in the past it was in a high school auditorium with borekas.

During the meet and greet, we spoke with Ayelet Shaked, who is in charge of the campaign in the north. She will be working with the local branches to maximize our effectiveness. We also spoke with Uri Orbach, Avi Vartzman and Jeremy Gimpel. Jeremy is #14 on the list and promised to come up to visit if he gets in.

The meeting part was very interesting, there are over 1000 members of the central committee, so each vote is less then 0.1%. Now that the voting for Knesset list is done by the general membership, the central committee has very little power in terms of voting after the decisions have been made. The goal, if you want to influence, is to get onto committees that help make those decisions that are then voted on by the central committee. The voting is actually a sham. They announce what they are going to do and why and then ask for a raise of hands. They look around the room and say, "it's a majority."

The action happened when we were asked to vote on the merger with the National Union. The NU actually broke up and it is only Tekuma left, not only that, but the former head of Tekuma, Katzeleh, left and joined one of the other parties. So the group we were merging with did not represent the power that the NU has in the Knesset. Never the less, they got very good terms and got 4 of their people in the 1st ten slots. This was explained to us as being unfair and unjust, BUT there has always been GREAT reasons why the merge hasn't happened and we were not willing to disappoint our voters again. The agreement had not been publicized beforehand, so Nissan Slomiansky read the entire agreement and while he was reading made some changes. There was a bit of action as people yelled and screamed. However, in a room with over 1000 voters, there is no practical way to vote down the proposal agreed upon by the leadership and the guy with the microphone. In other words, the central committee is actually a huge rubber stamp for any decisions that have already been made.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Naftali Bennet debates Ed Husain on CNN

In this debate, Naftali Bennet, the head of the Bayit Yehudi and a major in the IDF reserves, debates Ed Husain about Israel's actions in Gaza. While Ed doesn't come out and say this, he doesn't seem to see a problem with civilians being bombarded on a regular basis as long as Israel doesn't retreat to the 1967 borders.

It is very interesting to note that he actually doesn't say anything intelligent during the debate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Court upturns youngster ruling

The Tel Aviv regional court upturned the Bayit Yehudi court ruling that a person could only take up one reserved space. If Ayelet Shaked places highest amongst women, she will take up both of those reserved spots, even if another youngster placed higher then her.

I have not heard of another appeal to a higher court.

We believe Jeremy Gimpel has the political capital to make it to a realistic spot without using the reserved spot. He has enough political capital to take a realistic spot, in the top 5. This will only happen if you get out and vote. Jeremy not only represents the values of the Bayit Yehudi party, he is also representing the native English speaking population. There are no native English speakers in the Knesset, though there are over 250,000 American olim in Israel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Women in the Knesset

I am pro having women in the Knesset. Not because of any sexist reason, but because I don't really believe that the gender of a person mostly affects the decisions legislated. I even think the affirmative action that gives a woman a reserved place is appropriate. Eventually I would like to see women able to compete without the need for a handicap, but I don't think we're there yet, especially in the dati leumi community.

I saw an ad for one candidate (I don't remember who), that said [candidate name], your woman in the Knesset. I asked my wife if she would like me to have a woman in the Knesset and she said NO. The candidate might be excellent, and potentially could do a lot of good for the Jewish people. But all I know about her is that she wants to be my woman and my woman doesn't want her in that position.

In short, I would recommend against voting for people just because they are or are not women.

On that note, my wife is stumping for Ayelet Shaked, who we have heard very nice things about. Ayelet is a self-defined chilonit (non-religious woman), who believes in Torah values. She is Jewishly Zionistic and has done a lot of things to help the Jewish people, especially those in Yesha. Bringing her in as a Knesset member will also help with the image of the Bayit Yehudi as a pro-Torah movement instead of a Torah-followers movement, which I think is a good place to be politically.

If you vote for Ayelet, I recommend placing her 2nd or 3rd on the list. We would like to see Jeremy Gimpel as number one. Remember the 1st one on the list gets 4 points, 2nd place is 2 points and 3rd, 4th and 5th are 1 point each.

Youngsters win

As I mentioned previously, there are reserved spots in the Bayit Yehudi list for a woman and a youngster. The election committee decided that if a young woman (Ayelet Shaked) would win the female spot, she would also fill the yougster spot. The youngsters, including Ayelet, felt that this was not fair and not in accordance with the language of the decision to have 2 spots. They petitioned the Bayit Yehudi court to enforce 2 reserved spots even if a young woman wins the female spot. On thursday, the court acceoted their petition and reverted the rule to its original understanding.

Now, there are fewer spots for the older, more mature Knesset wannabes. Doron Danino took offense at this and is planning on petitioning the high court of justice to return the rule as it was according to the interpretation of the election committee. One of his chief complaints is that you can't change the rule 5 days before the elections.

On one hand, I understand with his problem of changing a rule a couple days before the election. On the other hand, there is nothing that any of the candidates would have done differently (other then possibly dropping out) because of this rule. None of the older people were counting on getting in because Ayelet is a shoo-in and therefore they had a guaranteed space. All of the candidates are campaigning as much as they can to bring in any type of support. As such, I find Danino's complaint to be without merit and recommend to the high court to dismiss it as frivilous.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Primaries - Continued

With the landslide victory of Naftali Bennet for head of Bayit Yehudi, the party is off in a new direction. Zevulun Orlev did a lot of good over the past 30+ years for the dati leumi community, but he was unable to accept the new reality. Shimon Peres is a good example of someone who knows how to roll with the punches. I don't agree with any of his views, but he has kept himself relevant since the founding of the country.

Primaries are now continuing. Next Tues, the Bayit Yehudi will be voting for its Knesset list, among other things. The big question is exactly what those other things are. I have heard through the grapevine that all candidates for the party central committee and local branches are in and there will be no elections. For the central committee there are 1000 spots and 1012 candidates. It wasn't worth the hassle to remove 12 people from the list. I would have lowered to number of central comittee members to 500 and kept the elections, but they forgot to ask me once again. As more information rolls in, I will keep you informed.

For Knesset list, each voter can vote for up to 5 people. The first person on the list gets 4 points, second 2 points, and 3, 4 and 5 each get 1 point. When the voting is all done, the list is based on highest score. That means that someone can win the popular vote by being number 3 on the most lists but get an unrealistic spot on the list because someone with fewer supporters got voted first on their list.

We are backing Jeremy Gimpel for Knesset and requesting that our readers make him the number one spot. If you do not have anyone else in particular that you want in the Knesset, don't put anyone else on your list. Over the next few days, I'll go over some of the other candidates as well.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Bennet won

It looks like a landslide victory for Naftali Bennet. With more then half the votes counted, Bennet was leading 70%-30%.

Lets hope this is the start of a new era for religious Zionism.

The message I got from both the National  Union and Likud Beitenu is "we have a partner." Despite Orlev's message that Bennet would sit in the opposition, the other parties would much rather deal with Naftali Bennet.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Primaries tomorrow

Tomorrow, (Tues) members of the Bayit Yehudi party go out to vote in the elections for the head of the party. Next week we will vote again for Knesset members and other roles (which I'll post about next week).

There are 3 candidates for the leadership, 2 of them are well known: Naftali Bennet and Zevulun Orlev. A third mystery candidate, Yehuda Cohen, is running as well. I say mystery candidate because he hasn't done any campaigning until the last week. His campaign included an interview on the srugim website and an email to all members of the party indicating what his positions are. I don't consider Yehuda Cohen to be a viable candidate, so use him for your protest vote if you don't like either of the other 2 candidates.

We are backing Naftali Bennet for a few reasons.
1) He came to the far north to speak to us, indicating that he feels that the backwoods periphery is relevant to him

2) A longtime member of the party from our community asked Orlev for help a couple years ago when the local rabbinate refused to agree to his position in the religious services office because they wanted someone from the chareidi community. Orlev's office said there was no budget for taking the matter to court. In our opinion, the issues of a small town just weren't relevant to him.

3) I listened to the whole debate between Orlev and Bennet. I didn't agree with one thing that Orlev said. I was on the same page as Bennet for everything that he said.

4) We feel that with Orlev as head, the party will continue its downward spiral and may finally succeed in dying. Orlev has insisted at all points in the campaign that he wants to continue with the party's existing path. He has not come up with any plan for resurgence or rehabilitation.

Get out to vote, and vote for Naftali Bennet.

Moshe Kahlon

Moshe Kahlon announced a few weeks ago that he was not going to run in the Likud primaries, but would "remain" in the party. Kahlon was both the Communication minister and the Welfare minister in the current government and is known as the most socially friendly Likud Knesset member.In areas of nationalistic concern, he is a hawk. This combination of caring both about the land of Israel and the people of Israel made Moshe very popular. If he had showed as much care for the Torah of Israel, he would have become a religious Zionist saint. However, he didn't feel that he was able to accomplish enough, so he announced that he was dropping out of politics.

After his big announcement, waves of support came rolling in along with requests for him to remain in politics. A poll was conducted to see how he would fare if he started his own party based on hawkish social principals, and the results showed him getting around 20 seats. These numbers have to be discounted a bit because it was a preliminary "what if" poll, which is notorious for changing drastically as soon as someone acts on it. In the end, Moshe continued with his decision to take a hiatus from politics and he will be going to Harvard to study or teach for a year (I didn't quite understand which).

He did declare that he would not be taking any positions as he wanted to refrain from Maarit Ayin, appearances that he got a position in exchange for not starting his own party. In Hebrew the word "job" indicates a position that you got as a political favor. Generally they are given to people who aren't qualified and just sit around a collect a paycheck.

I had a conversation with someone who wants to join our local branch of the bayit Yehudi. He is very against all forms of corruption and said that if he got a job in a specific municipal office he would resign his position on the committee so it wouldn't look like he got it because of political connections. I told someone else who wants to keep this guy off the committee that he should arrange a position for him at that office and then he wouldn't have to worry about him. Oh, how politics corrupts.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Likud - Beinteni primaries

With the big merge of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu, it is very confusing how the primaries will work. Likud Primaries are on Nov. 25, on that day only people who are part of the old Likud are going to vote for candidates in the old Likud.The Yisrael Beitenu central committee is going decide who is on their list. The seats will then ritchratch (I think that's a Hebrew word) 2 seats for Likud and 1 seat for Yisrael Beitenu. This is in conjunction with their current standing in the Knesset, 27 for Likud and 15 for YB.

The merge actually isn't a party merge it is two separate parties running on the same list for the Knesset for quantitative reasons. If the joint list works out, there is a possibility for a full merge during the Knesset session. Lieberman said they were going to pass a law after the elections enlarging the threshold to get in to the Knesset. I suggested in a previous post that it would be 10 seat minimum, and I stand to it that this is a good solid number. It means that a party with 2 seats isn't going to do anything anyways, so they should not be able to blackmail the government into giving them what they want.

Katzeleh - in or out

The head of the National Union party, Katzeleh (Yakov Katz ), delared a couple days ago that he was so confident in the number of mandates he was going to win that he would be number 7 on the list, which would end up being 14 on the joint list with the Bayit Yehudi after the merger. When I heard him say that I took him at face value and was very impressed with his confidence. I think the joint list can get 14 seats, with enough effort.

A report I just read indicated that Katzeleh had actually resigned from the party with his statement and now he wants back in. He is insisting on retaining head of party status and being given the most senior ministerial position that comes their way. What is interesting is that in the last Knesset they made a law that a minister does not have to be an MK. Therefore there is no problem with him not getting into the Knesset and retaining the 14th spot and still gaining the ministerial position that he wants.

The news report is trying to make this into a personal issue of honor. I think they are pulling it way out of proportion. Obviously with any political party there are people who don't like the head and start gossiping about it all. The report I read said that Katzeleh was insulted that nobody called on him to return to the party after quitting. Making a mountain out of a molehill.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

My response to Rav Hershkovitz

I received a letter from the current head of the Bayit Yehudi, Rav Daniel Hershkovitz, explaining his support of Zevulun Orlev for party head. I feel that this letter insults my intelligence and the intelligence of all Bayit Yehudi voters.

Dear Rav Hershkovitz,

You started off your letter stating that Naftali Bennet is trying to turn the Bayit Yehudi party into a second Likud, following the heritage of Jabotinsky. However, if what Bennet said, is that he is opening the party to traditional pro-Torah education Jews, who may not be your standard kippa sruga religious looking type. In any case, he is trying something new after you and Orlev have failed over the past 4 years. Joining together and saying vote for us as a package is basically saying, "Lets continue on with our great success." The problem being that the movement has all but fallen apart because the old party has become irrelevant.

You then mention that Bennet will not be invited to a coalition with Netanyahu because of a bad personal relationship. Immediately after that you spoke about how you and Orlev got together even though you had a bad personal relationship. In fact, for the past 4 years you have said plenty of negative things in public about Orlev. What makes anybody think that after the elections are over, suddenly all of your differences with Orlev have been resolved?

Make up your mind - can you put personal feelings aside for the sake of politics or can't you? Are you insinuating that only you and Orlev can put aside personal differences for the sake of a coalition, but Bennet and Netanyahu are not capable of this? This is absolutely ridiculous.

Then you mention the polls. The only reason the polls have the Bayit Yehudi rising in seats is because of the assumption that Bennet is going to win. If that doesn't happen, I don't see the throngs of voters voting for something that hasn't worked in the past number of elections.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

National Union supports Bennet for Bayit Yehudi

In the upcoming elections, the National Union is planning on running with the Bayit Yehudi on a joint list. In the last election, they were supposed to run together as well, but it didn't happen in the end. This morning Katzeleh, the leader of the NU, said in an interview that for the merger to really work, Bennet must lead the party list. When he was asked what would happen if Orlev won the Bayit Yehudi primaries, he answered that of course the NU would continue trying to run together, but it would be politics as usual with Orlev.

Katzeleh predicted 15-20 seats in the coming Knesset for the joint Bayit Yehudi-NU list under the leadership of Bennet. He went as far as placing himself in 7th place on the list, which would give him 14th place on a joint BY-NU list, exuding confidence that he would continue to be in the Knesset. My take on it is that the final deal with the Bayit Yehudi, Katzeleh will get the ministerial position so that he doesn't really care if he is actually in the Knesset or not.

Another thought I had is that if Orlev wins, Katzeleh wants nothing to do with the Bayit Yehudi and will thereby take himself out of the Knesset.

Labor cancels affirmative action

The Labor party has traditionally held a number of reserved spots on their knesset list. There were regional spots so people from the north or south could get in, places for representatives of kibbutzim and moshavim, probably some places for women and all that. Shelly, the leader of the party asked the central committee yesterday to remove the regional and sectorial reserved spots. She added some more spots for women and lowered the Arabs from 2 reserved spots to 1. I am a bit confused as to why a party whose leader is a woman needs affirmative action for women. They have already made it.
One of the given reasons for this change was an example of a reserved spot was filled by someone who got 1300 votes, meaning he had no real support in the party, and then switched parties and took the seat to Kadima.
I find it very interesting that the more "liberal" party is removing the affirmative action, while the conservative parties are adding it in.

I can understand sectorial reserved spots as a marketing ploy to draw in more members of that sector. If there is an arab MK who actually does something for his community, the odds are there will be more Arab voters for the party in the next Knesset race. Reserving spots for candidates in the perifery, acknowledges that central living politicians don't have a clue as to what is actually going on in the far reaches of the country and they need representation.
On the other hand, the candidate from the perifery should be able to convince his regional neighbors to vote for him because he has their best interests at heart. If they all vote for him, he will have a realistic spot on the list. If they don't care about perifery issues, then why should the party basically force them to care.

In any case, I see Labor growing slightly in strength during this election at the expense of Kadima, which should pretty much drop from the political arena. They are certainly not going to be a powerhouse as they once were and not a serious contender.

It looks like Likud Beitenu, even if they lose a seat or 2 because of the merge, will still have the most seats by far and will be forming the next government.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Political Affirmative Action

One of the methods the Bayit Yehudi is trying in order to revamp its image and make it relevant again is offering a realistic reserved spot for a woman and a "youngster." The highest ranking woman in the polls will get the 4th spot on the list and the highest ranking person under 40 will get the 5th spot on the list. If a woman or youngster receives a higher spot on the list, such as number 2, they use the reserved spot in their higher location. In other words, affirmative action is only relevant when the target population cannot reach the bar on their own.
An interesting issue has arisen in that one of the women running for the list, Ayelet Shaked, is also under 40. There are three iffy scenarios here.

1) If Ayelet gets the 4th spot, does that count for both woman and youngster and cancel out the other youngster spot?
2) If an older woman (not really an "older woman", but older then 40) gets the reserved woman spot and Ayelet Shaked has the highest votes of the under 40 candidates, would she get the youngster spot or can she only be a candidate for one reserved spot?
3) If Ayelet gets the most votes of both the younger and female candidates, which of the 2 positions would she fill? Would they let an older woman take the woman spot and give her the youngster spot?

The regulations committee has decided that a younger woman is able to represent both women and younger people, but the youngsters on the list feel that is quite a burden to put on young Mrs. Shaked. They have petitioned the Bayit Yehudi court to allow a candidate to only fill one affirmative action position at a time. They seem to agree that Ayelet can compete for both reserved spots and get whichever one is higher.
The petitioners are: Jeremy Gimpel (who we think will get in without affirmative action), Amiad Taoub, Yoni Shtabon and Ayelet herself.

Sandy - Repentence anyone

I recently was studying the book of Jonah in my quest to go through all of the tanach (Torah, Prophets and Writings) by the time I am 40. One of the things that struck me was the fact that a prophet comes to the Assyrian capital, Ninveh, announces that in 40 days the city will be destroyed and suddenly a movement of repentance strikes the land and everyone starts doing acts of kindness and becoming better people.

I suggested to the class I am studying with that there must have been a natural disaster looming in order to convince the people that he was serious. Why else would people suddenly think, "Oh man, that guy knows what he is talking about."  The general response of the other people is that there is nothing in the story to indicate that,

Looking at Sandy the Hurricane, and the utter terror she is invoking makes me sure that is what happened. I heard Obama on the news instructing people to prepare to evacuate and to follow instructions. I am expecting a news report, "This just in, a prophet of God has just indicated that New York will be completely destroyed if the people do not repent. Please put on your repenting shoes, get down on your knees and pray."

Unfortunately, the mainstream media is not reporting this and there is no general call for repentance. One of the problems with a generic call for repentance is that nobody would actually know what that meant. Everyone thinks that they are behaving properly. I assume that back in Ninveh, the citizens did not think of themselves as bad people, and would have been dumbfounded to hear otherwise. They would probably call the person an extremist.

What would that repentance entail? One may start praying regularly, but is he praying to the God of Heaven and Earth or to a human figure who they believe is his son or even to a statue or a cow? The repentance that was done must have been a humanistic repentance, involving treating people correctly, for that is the only thing your average person can think that he may have done incorrectly.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Orlev vs Bennet

I really enjoyed listening to the debate. After listening to the whole thing, I consider it to be a complete knockout for Bennet. The debate certainly succeeded in showing the difference between the two of them. I have no connection to the mafdal of Orlev and am completely in line with the vision of Bennet.

One of the main points of Bennet is that he will bring 10-12 mandates whereas Orlev will only bring 2-3. Orlev did not disagree with this. He agrees that he will only bring a few mandates and he is happy with this.

Orlev's main point is that the party should not be opened to traditional Jews because there is no point in having another right wing party, if it does not focus specifically on the dati leumi community. He also believes that you need experience to lead and he certainly has the experience.

These were basically the 2 points there were spewn back and forth over the hour and a half debate

Jeremy Gimpel was mentioned by Orlev in the last 45 seconds of the debate as one of the excellent candidates who we should vote for.

My commentary:
In my opinion, there is no point in a mafdal with 3 seats, it gives us absolutely no political power and turns us into the court Jew. As Naftali pointed out, it has become something whose purpose is to give a vort at the opening of the Knesset. There are a number of dati leumi people in the Knesset from other parties. They fled from the NRP because it became completely irrelevant. Opening the party to "Jewish issues" instead of dati leumi issues gives us so much more power, if it can bring in the voters.

Orlev has been part of the machine that has been losing voters left, right and center for the past 15 years. His excuse is that he was not leading the party at that time, so none of it is his fault. Now he wants to lead.
One of the things Orlev said he wants to do now is deal with high tuition in the dati leumi schools. Naftali's response was that this is not a new issue and why is he waking up now. We need political power in order to fix that issue.

I agree that you should have some experience to lead, but the past is dead and its road is broken. Without new leadership the pro Judaism faction will continue to be incorporated into other parties where they have a minor amount of political power. Building a new party on the ruins of the NRP that focuses on Jewish issues, with a focus on the national religious way of living is, in my opinion, the correct path and will bring people home instead of chasing them away.

Bayit Yehudi Debate

There was a debate today between the Zevulan Orlev and Naftali Bennet who are both running for the head of the Bayit Yehudi. I did not have a chance to hear the debate, as it was during work hours, but I hope to hear it later on if I can find a downloadable copy.

After the debate, I saw a headline on (a news site for the hebrew reading national religious people) that Orlev won the debate in a knockout and was much more prepared then Bennet. But when I clicked on the link it said the content didn't exist. When I refreshed the main page that headline was removed.

 The opinion piece that Bennet got trounced was found and there's a nother opinion piece that says Bennet won while Orlev did not accept any responsibility for the failures of the movement.

My brother-in-law actually listened to it and said there was no knockout, but there was clarification of differences. In his words:
"Orlev wants to unite religious zionists
Bennet wants to broaden the scope to traditional & secular who share values"

**UPDATE 2**
If you want to hear the debate you can download the mp3, there are 2 segments:

I'll be listening to at least part of it on my way home and I'll let you know what I think later.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

hanan zouabi

There is an Arabic woman in the Knesset named Hanan Zouabi (or something similar) from one of the Arabic parties. She is anti the state of Israel, has called for armed resistance against us and has participated in seditious acts such as being on the Marmara. Danny Danon, a Likud Knesset member and the president of World Likud, has called for her being banned from running for Knesset. There is a  law stating that people who support terror organizations and armed struggle against Israel cannot be elected to the Knesset. Danny would like my support in petitioning the Knesset to ban this lady.

I have a few issues with the whole situation. First of all, as Hanan herself stated, the attorney general in Israel decided that there was no basis for bringing charges against her for all the wrongs that Danny Danon feels that she committed. If the Israeli court system can't try her and throw her into jail, I don't think the Knesset has the right to make that determination. Second of all, She is representing her people. They all hate the State of Israel and would like to see the Jewish people drink from the sea of Gaza. However, Danny Danon did not propose any laws to expel all of the Israeli Arab population from the country. Why is that? If we were really against sedition, we would put them all on a boat and send them out to the wild blue yonder telling them  to find a new home. Obviously, we are willing to live with a significant population that hates us, and allowing them representation sounds reasonable to me. Third,  Hanan Zouabi is a woman. An Arab woman. The very fact that she has made it to the Knesset and represents her community is an unbelievable feat in the Arab world. We should be encouraging the Arabs to elect women, even if they hate us, and to promote equality. In other words, a woman who is elected because she publicly hates us is much better for us in terms of molding their society then a man who outwardly behaves like a gentleman.

Finally, there is a law stating who can and cannot be in the Knesset. Why should I need to support Danon in order to get the Knesset to follow its own laws. If they need my help petitioning them to remind them what the law is, there is another problem. If the idea is to provide enough pressure that the Knesset will decide to ban her despite the laws protecting her, this is mob rule.

The fact that we now have religious Jewish women dressing up like arab women in bet shemesh  indicates that people like Zouabi are role models to all people in Israel who hate Zionists.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

bnei menashe - a political force

I've been getting more involved in the local bayit yehudi movement. 250 people in our village signed up to be members of the party. This gives them the right to votein primaries for local and national elections. When we first saw the list of voters, there was a bit of confusion as to 50 names of people from the Bnei Menashe community who nobody asked to sign up. It costs 40 shekels to sign up and they are generally not very financially well off, so nobody thought to ask them.

Our initial thought was that someone was trying to skew the local election results by signing up people and paying their membership fees. It took another week or so until we found out that Jeremy Gimpel has been supporting their cause for the past number of years and when they heard he was running for Knesset they all signed up.

Most of the people in the national religious community in our village did not become members of the party. However, every single member of the bnei menashe did register. Even though they are less then 5% of the national religious population, they control 20% of the local primary vote. We helped them understand the process and they appointed a representative to be in the local branch of bayit yehudi.
On the other hand, the English speaking community, which numbers approximately 100 voters only signed up 10 members, which should give us little to no political power in the primaries.

A small community can become a viable political force if they all take action together.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Likud - Israel Our Home merger

In the latest political earthquake, Likud and Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) announced a mnerger for the upcoming elections. Some of the reports include a prime minister rotation where Natanyahu will head it for 3 years and Lieberman for the remaining 1.  Of course there has never been a Knesset that actually lasted the full 4 years, so Lieberman would get screwed in that scenario.

What's puzzling to me is who gains by this move. Looking at the political landscape, I don't see anybody who was going to vote for another party change their minds and vote for this one. But I do see Likudniks who don't like Lieberman and YB people who think Lieberman is selling them out leaving the party. In other words, I see Lapid or other "centrist" party gaining a seat or 2 and the Bayit Yehudi gaining a seat or 2.

What could be happening behind the scenes is a consolidation in preparation for a "change in style of government" law that passes shortly before the government disbands. This law, which everyone has been talking about for a decade would change the minimum number of seats for a party to 10. That would completely wipe out the smaller parties and there is enough support for that kind of law among the big parties right now. Currently, the minimum number of seats for a party in the Knesset is 3. In a coalition agreement, that gives 2.5% of the seats the power to impose their will on the majority. A 10 seat law would completely get rid of the fringe parties and force unity and compromise amongst people who stand on "principles."

In fact, I can see only good coming from a minimum 10 seat law.

I just heard an interesting take on the merger. In the last election, Kadima had the biggest party so they got the first chance to try and form a government. The Likud with YB together have the best chance of being the largest party and then having first chance to make a coalition.
Personally, I still don't think it is good for them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's a Feiglin?

In a previous post, I explained how coalitions work. There is another method of getting your issues into the Knesset and that is called Feiglining. Moshe Feiglin decided that he did not like the direction the country was going in. The Likud was becoming lefter and held positions similar to Labor of old. There was no major party that supported completely canceling the Oslo accords.

Feiglin believes that small parties are bad. They push their issues onto the rest of the country as a minority by blackmailing the ruling parties through coalition agreements. IOW, if a party with 3 seats (2.5%) and a single issue is a make or break faction in the coalition, their issue is going to get a lot more attention and chance for success then 2.5% support deserves. Most importantly, major issues, such as Feiglin wants to impact, can only be effected by a ruling party and not by a coalition agreement. So Feiglin joined the Likud, which is the largest party that historically is closest to his nationalistic viewpoint. He and his supporters signed up a tremendous number of new members and gained a lot of power on the Likud Central Committee.

One of the adverse reactions to the Feiglin method is the formation of Kadima. As the Likud Central Committee became more right wing and prevented the Likud politicians from acting in what they considered to be the national interest, they broke the strangle hold of the central committee by forming a new party. Some elements in the Likud dislike Feiglin because they feel he is an interloper. He should just join the Bayit Yehudi/National Union instead of trying to force his agenda on the party.

Approximately 1/3 of Feiglin's supporters are not religious, but they are true to the Land of Israel. The Bayit Yehudi was formed from the National Religious Party and elements who wanted to be able to include non-practicing members as well who have a love of Israel and Judaism. The reason why Feiglin won't join a party like Bayit Yehudi is because he doesn't feel that it has a chance to become a ruling party. However, if he joined the Bayit Yehudi in a unity move along with the National Union, they could get very close to being a ruling party.

The final question being, is Bayit Yehudi ready to be a ruling party or do they prefer to be the religious wing of whichever party happens to win.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Parish Rabbi

Do you know who the chief rabbi of your city is? Does your neighborhood have a rabbi? If you have some religious questions where do you go? You want to participate in a bit of Yom Kippur, but bike riding seems so disconnected. You haven't been to a bet knesset since your bar-mitzva, how should you celebrate your son's?

What we need is the parish rabbi. The person who will go into a secular neighborhood and go door to door telling people that he is their rabbi if they need any dose of spirituality. He must be open and warm, ready to celebrate the good times and provide support during difficulties. We need batei knesset where secular people feel welcome, where they can go for their smachot and feel at home. Maybe a Yom Kippur davening that does not take all day, and includes inspirational speeches. The rabbi should not condone the behavior of people who do not follow the religious laws, but he should not condemn them either. Teach out of love and reach out to people.

We have to understand that the reality is that most Jews in Israel consider themselves to be not religious. However, a large percentage are traditional in many aspects, including having a seder on Pesach, dressing up on Purim, lighting Chanukah candles, etc.. The chumra of the week is driving these people farther away instead of closer. We definitely need to reconsider the reality and think of a strategy to bring Jews closer to Judaism instead of farther away.

This is not just a pipe dream. The Bayit Yehudi/national religious can make it a reality as we get more political power. Currently, religious services in Israel are owned by the chareidi rabbinate. Unfortunately, most of the people who require religious services are not religious and the chareidi rabbis generally do not understand the secular population and have no desire to speak to them. As the Bayit Yehudi grows in power, we will have the power to appoint these parish rabbis, who want to effect change and draw people in.  This has already been started by the Tzohar rabbis. They have seen the hatred that the secular community has for the religious figures they have to deal with when they want to get married or buried. They see there is no answer for people who just want a bit of spirituality in their lives, but are not ready to commit to a full religious lifestyle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NBN is a good thing

A recent libelous article in Haaretz blasted NBN giving spewing false facts and half truths. Obviously, a non-profit, idealistic agency is better for aliyah then anything the government can provide.

The Jewish Agency was so unsuccessful in bringing Jews from the US to Israel before NBN came along. My experience with the Jewish Agency rep in Chicago went like this:
Me: "Hi, I'd like to make aliyah"
JA rep: "No you don't. It's much better living in the states."
Me: "No, I really want to."
JA rep: "You're making a big mistake. I'm living here for a reason."

We came in the 2nd year of NBN, before they had worked out all the kinks. When I described my NBN aliyah process to olim who moved before NBN existed they were shocked. No bureaucracy? No standing in endless lines? No shuttling from office to office without actually getting any answers? We didn't deal with any of that. We filled out paperwork on the airplane, got sal kilta at the airport which was waiting for us in an envelope with our names on it and came to Jerusalem 3 days later to get our teudat zehut, identity cards.

Governmental agencies in Israel are absolute hell. The people who work for them generally are not idealistic and trying to help people, they just have a job that they have to do. We bought a car with aliyah rights and it has a limitation on it for 5 years before I can sell it on the market. Instead of the limitation automatically coming off after 5 years, I had to go through hell trying to get it off 8 years later. Calling the department 5 times, getting different answers from different people.

 It could be that NBN can be streamlined more, but replacing it with a governmental agency is so wrong it sounds Obamaesque.

English Politics

 For those of you who saw the previous blog post, I am issuing an apology and retraction. I completely mischaracterized and misunderstood the idea of having an Anglo department in the Bayit Yehudi.

Jeremy Gimpel is actually working to create a political home for the English speaking community. Currently, English speakers are completely ignored in the government world. When you call a government office, you can press 1 for Hebrew, 2 for Russian and 3 for Arabic, but there is no 4 for English.

A lot of Americans have double taxation issues. Israeli spouses of Americans have to go through the standard Israeli process to get a US visa.  There is currently no English speakers in the Knesset despite the hundreds of thousands of English speakers living here.

We support Jeremy for the Knesset.

Monday, October 22, 2012


How does a government coalition work?
The party that is given the mandate to build a coalition starts by deciding what their goals are for accomplishing during the term. They then have to decide among all the other parties, who most closely resembles their goals and on the flip side whose demands will not cause too much of a strain from their core voters. When the Likud spoke to Kadima, they insisted on giving up too much to the Arabs without negotiation or getting anything in return. Kadima is like the bend over party and they act surprised when they are taken advantage of  (see rockets flying regularly from the gaza strip).

The larger the party is, the more they can get in a coalition agreement. In the last government, the bayit yehudi only had 3 seats. They received a minor ministry, positions in some important governmental committees and around 400 million shekels a year for Torah education. Of the more important decisions were the agreements to "consider", "think about", "form committees" and other nonsense about issues that are important to the national religious public. We also got control over national service.

I think the funniest item in the coalition agreement was the clause that there would be a forum based on good will and mutual interest between Shas and Bayit Yehudi regarding religious services.

In the upcoming Knesset, I would like to see a natural coalition of Likud, Israel Our Home (Lieberman) and Bayit Yehudi. They all have the same basic guidelines for how he country should be run. 

Joint Leadership...uh..gag

According to news reports, MinisterRavPartyHeadDanielHershkovitz quit the primary race for the head of the Bayit Yehudi and threw his support behind Orlev. The agreement they reached was that Orlev would be the party head and they would run the party together. They say they were influenced by Shas triumvirate party leadership and only want unity. They have invited Naftali Bennet to join them in their own triumvirate. This takes us back to the old days of the NRP. Handshake deals in smoky rooms trading votes for "jobs."

Keep in mind that best buddies Hershkovitz and Orlev cannot stand each other. They spent the last 4 years in the Knesset fighting with each other and only now when it seems that the Bayit Yehudi will replace the Mafdal Dinosaur, do they come together in peace and unity.  The big question is what will Hershkovitz get for trading his soul to the devil? My bet is president of Bar Ilan University. You read it here first.

The old party leadership is also trying to quell the younger vote. In the primaries the only place where members can vote is in the district they registered. This means that students and soldiers will not be able to vote in the primary. Is it coincidental that the majority of the youger members support Naftali Bennet?

I call on all Bayit Yehudi members to rise above the same old backroom deals and come together to vote for Naftali Bennet. In with the new.

Whats up with the single issue parties?

You may have noticed that there are a number of political parties that focus on a single issue. There is the green leaf party that wants to legalize marijuana, the pensioners party that advocates for older folk, "Man's Rights in the Family" Party that campaigned pro-father and anti womens rights. Obviously a single issue party would be disastrous for the country if they actually won an election, but that is not the goal of single issue parties.

I would call these parties the anti-Feiglin, who we will get to in another post.

To understand this single issue phenomena, you have to understand how Israel's parliamentary system works. There are 120 seats in the Knesset and the government is formed by the party able to form a coalition of at least 61 seats. The party with the most seats gets the first chance to try and form a coalition, but doesn't always succeed. In the last election, Kadima had more seats then the Likud, but they wouldn't compromise on their positions so they could not build a coalition. The Likud was able to bring in a coalition of parties and formed the government.

Small parties, such as the Green Leaf only care about one thing. They are willing to be part of a right wing or left wing platform as long as their one issue is handled. Instead of getting all their members to join a single party and work their way up and try and change the party platform to support their issue they have an easier way. Run on a single issue, get 2 seats and announce that any ruling party that wants their 2 seats has to support their one goal.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Education, Education, Education

I would say that the most important issue facing Israel today is that lack of education. Secular schools are not teaching Judaism and "ultra-orthodox" schools are not teaching the basic secular subjects needed to get a job in today's market. Both of these are absolutely necessary for the survival of Israel, whether as a secular-Jewish state or as a religious-Jewish state.

Secular Jews need to understand why they are here, what the importance of the country is to them as integral members of the Jewish people and what our historical and religious connection is to the place. They need to respect that the basis for the Jewish people in the land of Israel is based on the Torah and religious doctrine. Whether they choose to follow the laws or not, they need to be educated to respect this basic foundation.

"Ultra-orthodox" Jews need to understand that learning all day is not a profession. The kolel system is a modern invention that had its place in the early 1900s, when the landscape of Torah scholars was barren after the holocaust. It was never intended to become the norm, whereby people live there lives on tzedaka. If it is considered education, so that people can become teachers, it must be set up as an education track, which will get people in and out the door as fast as possible, earning a living. The Torah, mishna and gemara are full of warnings as to what will happen if you spend your life studying Torah and do not earn a living as well. In order to get a job to support your family, which is the basic obligation of the husband and father of a family, you must learn basic secular subjects.

Given a choice of any ministerial position, I would suggest taking the Education portfolio. We don't have to change the secular into Orthodox or the "ultra-orthodox" into secular, but we do need to give the next generation the tools to ensure the survival of Israel as a Jewish country.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bayit Yehudi Process

Primaries are underway for the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) political party. This post should have proceeded our endorsements, but things don't always get written that way.

During the last election, 4 years ago, the NRP (National Religious Party) changed its name to the Bayit Yehudi, and was supposed to be a merged with the National Union. That merge didn't happen and the national religious community punished the parties with a total of 7 seats. With a merged list, we are expecting much wider support and 10-12 seats in the coming Knesset.

One of the changes to the Bayit Yehudi in this coming election was the democratization of the party. Previously, joining the party and participating in formulating its policies was in the "old boys network" style. With the democratization, the public has awoken, and over 50,000 voters have paid 40 shekels (or 25 discounted for young members)  to become official voting members of the party. Everything is going to be voted on, including: local elections, central committee, knesset members and head of the party.

On Nov 6, the party members will choose a party head. There are 3 people running, Naftali Bennet, Zevulun Orlev and current head Rav Daniel Heshkovitz. We feel that all 3 candidates are highly qualified and have a lot to offer. We are backing Naftali Bennet for party head, as we feel that he has the energy to lead the party and the country to much needed change.

On Nov 13, we gather again for elections for everything else. This gives the newly elected leader 1 week to throw his support behind different ideas and give direction to the party so it is more clear who to vote for in the other votes.

Our village has 13 seats on the on the local board. The 250+ party members will choose those 13 candidates. The board will then choose who is on our list for city council. They will also determine direction and set goals for what we hope to accomplish locally.

We also have 4 seats on the central committee. The central committee determine direction and set goals for what we hope to accomplish nationally.

Finally, we are voting for the Knesset list. I believe there are 15 people on the list and the top 5 have a realistic chance of getting in. This is because we are expecting 10 seats and splitting them with the National Union representatives who are not chosen democratically by their party members.  We support Jeremy Gimpel for Knesset.

For the Knesset voting, each member has 5 votes. The 1st person on the list gets 4 points, 2nd person 2, and the last 3 people 1 each. The order of voting is very important and the 1st person on your list has 4 times the weight as the 3,4 and 5th person on your list. We recommend putting Jeremy first on your list and we don't really care who else gets in. They all seem to be highly quality people.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jeremy Gimpel

Jeremy Gimpel, from Ari and Jeremy (, stopped by to visit a couple days ago.

Jeremy is a candidate for a spot on the Bayit Yehudi list and has a realistic chance of getting in. He is backing Zevulun Orlev in his bid as party head. His reasoning:
"In the Bayit Yehudi/NRP, MK Orlev has the most experience, passed the most laws and has been the go to guy in the past. I love Naftali Bennet and only have respect for Rav Hershkovitz, but Naftali has never been a Knesset member before, and it would be good for him to be #2 for a term so he can learn where the bathrooms are in the Knesset before becoming party leader." 
Jeremy is a tanach (bible) buff and used the example of Moshe and Yehoshua, where Zevulun Orlev, a patriarch in the party, would show Naftali the ropes, giving him the experience needed to run the party in 4 years.

Rumors suggest that an additional reason for Jeremy's backing of MK Orlev was Orlev's decision to back him as well. While Bennet is backing 9 other candidates for the Knesset, Orlev is only backing 3. In the primaries, each voter can only vote for up to 5 people. A party leader who backs more then 5 people, has a watered down list, as none of them have his full support.

During our conversation, I did not hear one negative word about anybody. He praised the quality of all 3 candidates for party head, as well as the other candidates for the list. I feel that positive politics can only help us as a nation and a political party.

Jeremy has a deep connection to our village, as he has been helping the Bnei Menashe with funding and acclimation for the past number of years. This group of people, who may be of the remnants of one of the 10 lost tribes, came to Israel a few years ago and settled in our community.

We support Jeremy and highly recommend that all Bayit Yehudi members vote for him in the primaries.

Naftali Bennet

Last night Naftali Bennet came to speak at a chug bayit in our village. Naftali is one of the 3 candidates running for the head of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) political party. One of the things that most impressed me about his talk, was the lack of dirty politics. He had only nice things to say about the other 2 candidates, while presenting reasons why we should go with him. He also gave us the list of candidates he is supporting for the Knesset, but qualified that by saying that all of the candidates are very high caliber and he would be happy to work with any of them.

Most of his talk focused on the lack of political power that the national religious have in the country.In order to maximize our political power, he signed a unity agreement with the National Union which agrees to split the Knesset seats that we receive. Bayit Yehudi gets the first seat and National Union the 2nd and so on, National Union gets the first ministerial position. This means that if we receive an odd number of Knesset seats the Bayit Yehudi will have one more knesset member. If we have an odd number of ministers, National Union will take the extra one.

When the NRP (National Religious Party) turned into the Bayit Yehudi, one of the goals was to open it up to traditional Jews as well as practicing ones. One of the candidates for the Knesset on the party who Naftali recommended was Ayelet Shaked, who defines herself as non-religious, but is actually very traditional. I like the idea of having a more pluralistic party, but asked if party discipline would be enforced for religion-state issues? He answered that there would be, with a qualification that we are not Shas and not all decisions are made by a board of rabbis. Halachic decisions would be decided by the rabbis and political decisions would be decided by the central committee.

I liked what he had to say and I felt comfortable with his views.I am going to support Naftali Bennet in the Bayit Yehudi primaries.