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.