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.