So the ruling coalition has collapsed and an early election has been called. New alliances are being forged and new players have joined old ones as the ugly grab for power intensifies. But with the peace process dead will the left remain in disarray and will the long-ruling right continue to eat away at civil rights and freedoms? Here’s the Jewdas low-down on the depressing reality of Israeli politics.
Slogan: “It’s us or them”
Polling: 23 seats
When Netanyahu was only a small child, he was asked what he wanted to be when he grows up. His answer was predictable: “I want to be a prime minister,” he said. “Why?” asked his kindergarten teacher?”. It’s obvious isn’t it?” he replied. “I want all the Pistachio ice cream”.
As the years passed Bibi’s weakness for his favourite desert only grew stronger. As he climbed the political ladder, through the corridors of power, he fought his way through adversity, constantly reminding himself that one day, he would have all the ice cream. The moral of the story should be clear: if you dare to dream, to dream big, to crush your opponents, to cheat, lie & murder, then you too can secure your place on the Iron Throne. When Bibi reached the top, only one thing was on his mind. Together with his wife and spurred on by greed and power, he spent tens of thousands of shekels of public money on his beloved frozen nutty snack. The media, as they tend to do, found out and the Israeli public collectively shat it’s pants.
In a way it’s a miracle Netanyahu is even standing. In 2002 Bibi’s wife was quoted as saying: “Bibi is too great a leader for this country. In this country everyone wants to get slaughtered and burn. Why does he need to work so hard? We’ll move abroad, let the country burn”. In any normal country, that alone should be enough to disqualify or at least penalise a parliamentarian in his kind of position. But in Israel somehow it’s only a minor offence.
Sadly Netanyahu isn’t even the worst candidate running for Likud. By comparison to others in his party like Silvan Shalom, Ze’ev Elkin and the infamous Miri Regev he actually looks like a rounded, reasonable, and well balanced individual.
Regev started her career as an IDF spokeswoman (someone thought that was a good idea at the time). She is famous for her provocative and inspiring poetry, using metaphors such as, “The Sudanese migrants are a cancer” and calling an opponent “Mr Shaksuka” (a tomato and egg based dish). Here’s a remix of her shouting “Gideon Saar is not a thief, Gilad Erdan is not a thief, Bogi (Moshe Yaalon) is not a thief, I am not a thief”:
Ze’ev “Wolf” Elkin prides himself on passing a number of terrible anti-democratic laws. Here’s a video he made titled “Elkin Style”, where he proudly proclaims how he beat the shit of all the lefty and Arab Members of Knesset (MKs) while mocking them:
Likud’s election campaign videos have been particularly embarrassing. Here’s one that places Netanyahu in charge of a nursery, acting as a “Bibisitter” to other Members of Knesset including those in his coalition government.
Another one features the Islamic State asking a driver for directions to Jerusalem to which he answers “Turn left”. Then a slogan declared “The left will surrender to terror. It’s us or them”. It was pretty strange for Bibi to broadcast the threat of an ISIS invasion just a day after he told us miserly exiles we weren’t safe in the Diaspora.
In the end Likud stands for nothing, represents no ideology and has no moral compass to slow it down. They will do and say whatever it is they think will put them in a more powerful position. Money, power, cheap populism and weakening their opponent’s position are a lot more important to them then any ideology they may claim to represent. The party is riddled with the kind of lunacy, racism, corruption, bribery, thievery and general scumbagery that make for the perfect candidate to lead an Israeli government.
The Zionist Camp
Slogan: “It’s us or him”
Polling: 24 seats
In order to beat Likud, you must become Likud. The Zionist Camp is identical to Likud in all but one critical way: The Zionist camp prefers rum and raisin ice cream. Formed as a coalition between Zipi Livni’s “Hatnu’a” and Issac Herzog’s “Haavoda”, the two met accidentally at a Jerusalem ice cream parlour, where their orders got mixed up. A new flavour was created, but one which might be harder for the Israeli public to swallow.
HaAvoda is the ruins of the old labour party. Hatnua formed as a way of exploiting the legacy of the Israeli social justice movement. Its name literally means “The Movement”.
In order to ensure that they aren’t accused of being spineless self-hating Jews with small penises, the “centre left” party decided to name itself the Zionist Camp, so as to make no distinction between themselves and the Likud (The National Camp).
There is a chance this will be the majority party. And this is actually the worst thing that can happen to what’s left of the Israeli left, because as you will see, no matter who wins the elections, the government will be riddled with small to medium fanatic right wing parties, and the broader”left” will get the blame.
The party is fundamentally boring and uninspiring. It is the same old shit; so much so that 23% of the general public (give or take) are going to vote for it. But two people – Eldar Yaniv & Stav Shafir – are worth a mention.
In 2011, Daphni Leef (a Hadash supporter if the rumours are to be believed) was evicted from her apartment and set out to live in a tent on the streets of Tel Aviv. Huge numbers came to join her to start a festival for “social justice” that rocked the countries class and made headlines around the world.
One of the first people by Leef’s side was Stav Shaffir. Almost immediately she was dubbed “one of the revolt leaders”by the media. Shortly after she was poached by the Labor party and is now the youngest female Knesset member in Israel’s history. Here’s a recent video of her challenging the usual accusations that she isn’t Zionist enough:
Eldar Yaniv was an advisor to the then Prime Minister Ehud Barak. At the last election he ran on a sort of whistleblower/conspiracy mandate for a party called Eretz Hadasha (New land). His entire campaign was based on a series of documentaries called Hashita (The Method). He seems to expose the inner workings of much of the Israeli government and has overseen the “final collapse” of the Oslo agreement and the coining of the term “There’s no Partner” (for peace). His party was supposed to actually challenge corruption in high places, which is why it got 0.7% of the vote and didn’t pass the then required 2% mark (we’ll get to this too).
Of course, no one in government had any idea why all of a sudden the people decided to act on their own volition. But they had to get in on whatever it was and turn it into political capital. It’s no surprise that Yaniv and Shaffir decided to sell their cause and join the race for the Iron Throne. Don’t let them confuse you: they are meaningless and hapless tropes for an otherwise fundamentally boring party that has nothing to offer anyone.
The Shared list
Slogan: “My answer to racism”
Polling: 12 seats
One of the many terrible things that the Netanyahu government and the coalition that just collapsed did was raising the required vote to 3.25%, thinking that they could legally bar some of those pesky Arab parties from entering the Knesset. Ironically this move had some unexpected consequences.
One of these was uniting of all the “Arab parties”: Hadash, Balad and Ra’am Ta’al Ma’da into a “Non-Zionist Block” lead by Ayman Odeh, easily the most exciting and promising option. The list is set to be the 3rd or 4th largest “party”, although they keep on reminding everyone that they are not one party, just one list of parties.
Hadash is the Communist party and the only one contesting the election which unites Jews and Arabs together. The name literally means “New” and is an abbreviation for “Democratic Front for Equality”. It has an impressive track record on all the important issues. It works towards the demilitarisation of society, inter-sectoral cooperation, raising the minimum wage, improving union rights and dividing up the ice cream fairly.
Balad is a close friend and ally to Hadash and supports a binational state. If you’ve been reading any sort of internal Israeli news, you’ll have heard of Hanin Zoabi, Balad’s most famous candidate. You probably already thinks she’s the devil if this is the case.
Ra’am Ta’al Mada are three Islamic parties that formed a block and hold 3 seats. They have a polygamist and some moderately radical ideology. They support the Iranian Caliphate regime and Hamas. It’s hard to find nice things to say about them. But it’s hard to deny that as a Party representing Palestinians they belong on the list.
This block actually promises change and is the only party that is actually serious about making peace with the Palestinians. For that reason there’s a de facto media blackout on them; in many debates they are absent from the discussions or just get shouted at, humiliated and not allowed to speak.
Consider the case of Hanin Zoabi (mentioned above). She made the mistake of being born a strong charismatic and intelligent Palestinian women who attempts to represent the repression of her people in the Israeli Knesset. She even dared to go out of her way sometimes, like going on the Gaza Flotilla. She hasn’t said or done anything particularly dangerous or radical but has been disqualified from running twice by the Election Committee (both illegal and quashed by the supreme court). All the parties except Meretz and The Shared List voted to disqualify her.
Here’s a video of Likud Member Dany Dannon showing off how tough he is, which shows the nasty and prolonged media campaign against Zoabi:
The Shared list is set to be the third or fourth largest party in the Knesset, but its main problem is that not many Jews will vote for it, only the so called “radical left”. Almost noone is going to vote for a lefty let alone an Arab, and especially not Zoabi. None the less, the race is still on, and it is still possible change things.
What’s amazing is how easily these parties have managed to cooperate considering the vast political differences between them. It’s a feat that exemplifies the dramatic failure of the right-wing ruling coalition who, despite all agreeing with one another on maintaining Israel as a racist, apartheid state, have somehow managed to totally fall apart. There are speculations that the List will join a coalition government with one or more of the big parties, and opinion polls suggest that is what the majority of their voters would like, but the Join List says it’s very unlikely.
HaBayt HaYehudi (The Jewish Home)
Slogan: “Stop apologising!”
Polling: 12 seats
Headed up by Naftali Bennet, the same man that once said “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life and there is no problem with that”, the Jewish Home is a bat-shit crazy right-wing settler party. They have very little interest in anything except focusing their energies on hating on Arabs and have recenlty been linked to a bizzare anti-Semitic cartoon.
They are real scumbags, representing (some of) the nationalist religious right. They believe God ordered them to take the land, and that religious Jewish law should be incorporated into government, but are willing to cooperate with the secular right wing. They are ultra-Zionists who hate most of everything. They were in the last coalition government and helped pass a bunch of discriminatory laws. This is the party of hate. If you like to hate, you’ll love The Jewish Home. They probably already hate you.
Here’s the “stop apologizing” election campaign ad the party started:
Yesh Atid (There’s A Future)
Slogan: “It’s a fight for the country”
Polling: 12 seats
Headed up by Yair Lapid, an unbelievably shit Z-list celebrity, this party won a surprisingly large number of seats in the last Knesset, coming second after running on a platform of helping the middle classes in a bid to exploit some of that “social justice” magic. They came out of nowhere, and want to take everyone back to nowhere with them. They call themselves a centrist party and pushed hard for the recruitment of the ultra-orthodox to the IDF. None of their policies offer anything new and it’s hard to gauge whether they actually believe anything they say. Yair Lapid served as finance minister in the last government, where it became evident that he can barely add or subtract, so when it came to dividing the budget they allocated a lot of “Division by zero errors”. Fortunately he has a lot of rich friends to help him. He also managed to “find” some mysterious money somewhere.
Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel’s our home)
Slogan:”No citizenship without loyalty”
Polling: 6 seats
A fundamentally racist party, representing some of the secular far-right and settlers. The party sat in the “Likud-Beiteinu” coalition where they were lead by Avidgor Lieberman, a violent and erratic bruiser who’s constantly in and out of court on some corruption charge or another. He has a police record for beating the shit out of a 12-year old kid his son once got into trouble with, and then threatening to do it again.
Lieberman was the Minister of Foreign Affairs for around 3 years, during which it became evident that he doesn’t speak English very well. On the other hand he has nothing but good things to say about Vladimir Putin, who in return showered him with compliments. Soviet-born, Lieberman has been running as a self-proclaimed representative for the Russian community,
While not convicted of anything, Lieberman does seem to have taken money he wasn’t supposed to take and he was close friends with some 30 people arrested for various other similar crimes. He was also charged with promoting the diplomat who informed him of the police investigation against him. Consequently, Yisrael Beiteinu, which is not much more than an ego party for Lieberman, has lost much of its voter support.
Kulanu (All of us)
Slogan: “Victory for Me!”
Polling: 8 seats
Kulanu is a new political party led by Moshe Kahalon, an ex-Likud member who served as a communication minister and minister of welfare and social services. They consider themselves a centrist, rightish party, running on some sort of reduce-the-cost-of-living mandate, and aren’t too keen on the “peace process”, even though they do in principle support a two state solution. They’d rather not focus on the conflict. Again, a boring party with nothing to offer anyone.
Shas (Sephardic Guards)
Slogan: “The revolution returns”
This is an ultra-orthodox party representing a lot of the Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, running on a strict religious platform. They think homosexuality is akin to bird flu. Regardless of the obvious political differences and while Shas is very much a right wing party, they have at times cooperated with the left on some social issues, e.g. welfare for the poor and disempowered Mizrahi population. They also have a long history of corruption and bribery at the highest levels. The party leader is Aryeh “Lion” Deri. He served two years in prison for corruption. They too offer no real solutions, but if the Messiah ever comes back, he surely will come bearing gifts of kosher ice cream.
Here’s a video of Shas talking about “the invisibles”, the under represented and discriminated people they claim to represent:
Yahadut HaTorah (Judaism of the Torah)
Slogan: “We are all terrified”
Polling: 7 seats
An ultra religious party lead by Moshe Gafni. They are like Shas, only with no social platform, just ultra religious. They oppose recognition of homosexuality, on which Gafni had this to say: “We don’t have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here”. They refuse to have women members of the Knesset or women drivers or women passengers or women in adverts or women in general. They exist solely to defend the rights of religious Jews to study the Torah.
Slogan: “Left is Meretz”
Polling: 5 seats
These saps are the Lib Dems of Israel. To their credit, they were the only party aside from the Shared List that opposed banning Hanin Zoabi. But they are spineless liberals, the kind that are in principle against any war, until it starts, then they reluctantly support the troops. A “shut up, we’re shooting” sort of approach. None the less they do support restarting the peace process and will probably get the votes of people who consider themselves lefty, enlightened and cosmopolitan, but don’t really like Arabs and couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Palestinian. The party used to hold a significant number of seats but now faces oblivion. This is as far as left Zionism goes if it wants to get into the Knesset. Depressing isn’t it?
Yachad HaAm Itanu (Together the nation is with us)
Slogan: “Reliable, right, religious”
Polling: 4 seats
lead by Eli Yshai, this is the most fanatic party that is likely to get into the Knesset. Yshai is the man behind such statements as “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man,” and African migrants bring a “range of diseases such as hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis and AIDS” (a claim that was obviously disputed by the National Statistics Agency). They are running in conjunction with Otzma LeIsrael (Power to Israel), another fanatic group, headed by Baruch Marzel, an ex-Kach member (an internationally recognised Jewish terrorist organisation) who marked the Cave Of The Patriarchs massacre by starting a riot and wanting to “wipe the smile off Zoabi’s face”. They are motivated by hate and more hate. If “hate” was an ice cream flavour, they’d still hate it.
So there you have it. Things look bleak and hopeless. The right wing is set to continue their rule for many years to come, and we can expect much of the same or worse in the new government. That said, something new is happening under the surface, and with a lot of effort and a bit of luck the elections after this one might start showing some real gains for the left.