Tomorrow is Today or: Post-Election Musings

It’s been an eventful week, what with the General Election and all. On Monday, I was stopped in the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall by a TV crew and asked if I minded answering a few questions for the Russian News. I replied, naturally, that I don’t speak Russian.  (For some reason, I am often mistaken for a Russian immigrant, mostly by other Russians. Must be the blue eyes – but then again, I’m quite often asked if I’m Moroccan!?) Anyway, they said it didn’t matter, I could speak in Hebrew and they would translate. So, after some hesitation (being a very private sort of person), I said yes. I was then asked to describe my feelings, as a citizen, on the eve of elections. I spoke of the many dilemmas facing us (the voters) but I also said – and I firmly believe – that the most important thing is that we should go out and vote, because it is a privilege not enjoyed by large swathes of the world’s population. In fact, it is right that we should celebrate Election Day as a holiday. For two thousand years, we – the Jewish People – were disenfranchised throughout most of the world. For two millenia, we waited for the chance to elect our own government  and rule ourselves. Now, in fact, we’re spoiled for choice ;-). I swear, I entered the polling booth, and stood behind the screen where the voter selects  a voting slip bearing the designated letter of his or her chosen party and places it in an envelope which can then be sealed. As I said, I stood there – for at least two minutes – and hesitated. Finally, having made my choice and having dropped the envelope in the ballot box, I went on my way with a lighter heart. But for the rest of the afternoon, I continued to wonder if I had done the right thing.

Now that the elections are behind us and the results are known, the task of actually putting together a coalition is what occupies us all.  As the largest party, with 31 mandates, it is most likely that this task will fall to Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Beiteinu party. If things turn out as I hope, he will go for a fairly narrow coalition with Yair Lapid’s new Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) party (19 mandates) and Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi (“The Jewish Home”) party (12 mandates). That would give him a total of 62 mandates (there are 120 seats in the Knesset) and would enable him to push through legislation putting an end to the absurd situation whereby only a very small proportion of haredim (ultra orthodox Jews) serve in the army and when they do, it is because they volunteered. I believe even the religious Habayit Hayehudi party, whose members do serve in the IDF, would support this. The ex-con Aryeh Deri of the Sephardic ultra-orthodox Shas party has insisted that there is absolutely no way this will come to pass – although he has agreed that steps should be taken to encourage” more young, ultra-orthodox men to enlist (voluntarily, of course). I can already hear the veiled threat of mass demonstrations by the haredim, which, if experience is anything to go by, will quickly turn into riots. Now, don’t get me wrong – I do not hate haredim and I would much prefer for the goal of equal service for all to be achieved with good will on both sides. But I just don’t see that happening. Lapid wants everyone to do national service, either military service or civilian national service (working, say, in hospitals, schools, community centres, with the sick and the elderly etc.) – and that also includes  religious girls, and the Arab population. The Arab Knesset members also oppose this, by the way – like the haredim, they want equal rights but aren’t prepared to undertake equal obligations. In fact, their objection (against both military and civilian national service, whether voluntary or compulsory)  is based more on their opposition to “the Zionist State” – whereas the haredim claim (and many of them may sincerely believe) that studying Torah day and night is a contribution to Israel’s security as great as serving in the army.

However, I digress. Lapid wants a cap to be put on the number of yeshiva students who will receive a deferment of their military service. Deri opposes this. But such a cap would, in fact, be returning the situation to the one envisaged by David Ben Gurion way back in the early days of statehood, when he agreed to grant exemption from military service to 400 yeshiva students, because so many Torah scholars had perished during the Holocaust, the centres of Jewish learning in Europe had been destroyed and it was necessary to rebuild what had been torn down. That imperative no longer holds true. Furthermore, the numbers of yeshiva students (real or fake) has been steadily rising and now tens of thousands of haredim not only do not do any kind of national service but are also supported by the State while they “study”. Even when previous governments tried to compensate by passing legislation which would reward young men and women who had served in the army with special grants, the ultra-orthodox parties used their clout as coalition partners of whichever party was in government to extort changes in the legislation so as to grant the same financial incentives to any family where one of its members had served in the army or performed civilian national service – thus enabling Israel’s detractors to claim that the law discriminated against Arab citizens.

So the question is – are we prepared for a showdown? Or could Lapid live with a situation where there is no cap on the number of exemptions/deferments for haredim  but in which only individuals who have completed their national service – whether military or civilian – would receive financial benefits? I believe many citizens who are sick of haredi extortion would, in fact, be willing to settle for this. From something Aryeh Deri said, however, I get the feeling the haredim  would not.  As I said, with the narrow coalition I have described, Netanyahu could force the issue. But Netanyahu is always worried about the Day After Tomorrow and would probably prefer a wider coalition to rely on when facing the international issues now facing us. One of the people in Lapid’s party declared that they would not join a coalition which was not prepared to get negotiations going again with the Palestinians. But this is ridiculous. It was the “Palestinians” who halted the negotiations. It was the “Palestinians” who, after Netanyahu declared (and implemented)  a ten month moratorium on building in the West Bank, in order to create favourable conditions for negotiations with Abu Mazen, refused to come to the negotiating table unless Israel agreed in advance to return to the pre-1967 borders, and accept the “Right of Return” of all the “Palestinian refugees” to the whole of “Palestine”, including the area within the Green Line which marks the internationally accepted Israeli border! Evidently, no-one explained to Abu Mazen that the point of “negotiations” is to  – well, negotiate. In fact, the  lie that it was Israel which has refused to negotiate has been so oft-repeated and so widely propagated by anti-Israel newspapers and TV networks, such as The Guardian, the BBC and CNN, as well as our own Loony Left, that it seems to be taken as obvious and understood by one and all. Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party wants Israel unilaterally to annexe certain  areas of Judaea and Samaria  (the “West Bank”). Some people – the ones who warned that if Netanyahu was re-elected as Prime Minister, we would lose American support – claim that annexation would lose us even more support.

But let’s face it – nothing we do is right. As I pointed out above, we didn’t even get credit for halting “settlement building” in the “West Bank” for ten months.

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.


About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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16 Responses to Tomorrow is Today or: Post-Election Musings

  1. Silke says:

    thank you Shimona

    today I read somewhere that Abbas has announced that he is eager to negotiate with parties from within the Knesset individually, he has sent out invitations, if I remember correctly – who’s ever heard of something like that – imagine the French president saying he prefers to negotiate with the green members in our parliament instead of our elected government … No outcry at Abbas at best impoliteness has touched my eye as of now. (and all that while Turkey’s Davutoglu is proud that soon he’ll have Hamas and Fatah shaking hands. When I see the sober reporting about Mali, Somalia, Algeria et al I feel like I want to do I know not what to those stupid talking heads.)

    Whatever you aka Israel decides to annex the only worry I have is that luck be with you and it will just be right size for you to handle it with ease.
    A blue eyed woman looking Russian to Russians and Moroccan to others while having come from the UK – now that’s what I call an enticing heroine 😉

    and if you explain Israel’s history as well as you have explained the situation above then I’ll even overlook if the hero is a Paul Newman look alike. (nothing against Paul Newman as a person, far from it and his bicycle ride to Raindrops … is one of the most delightful things ever having popped up on a cinema screen

    • “A blue eyed woman looking Russian to Russians and Moroccan to others while having come from the UK – now that’s what I call an enticing heroine”

      Yes, I thought so too 😉 That’s why I came up with this:

      Re. Paul Newman – I’m suddenly reminded of an amusing scene in “Exodus” when Peter Lawson’s character, Capt. Caldwell, claims to be able to recognise a Jew at a glance and Paul Newman (as Ari Ben Canaan) complains that something has got in his eye and asks Caldwell to have a look and see what it is and, of course, despite the close scrutiny, Caldwell fails to identify him as a Jew. Paul Newman just doesn’t “look Jewish”.

      • Silke says:

        This myth about Jewish looks has puzzled me from day one

        maybe it was due to the fact that the city I lived in was American European headquarter for something. I have known Jews probably from age 11 on – none qualified to what the encyclopedia (published 1933 by Meyer*) I inherited from my mother told me i.e. red hair and flat feet (the flat feet thing is especially heinous because people with flat feet are not very suitable to military service.)

        As to your heroine – I think you can do better – no matter how gorgeous the male the female should outshine him …

        And if you make it a history thing you avoid the difficult maneuver of making her completely modern and somehow virginal at the same time which for me is the most amusing and skillful aspect of these books.

      • I know very few redheaded Jews – although my stepmother’s sister is a redhead ;-). There is a tradition that King David was redheaded. But according to Wikipedia, redheads are common amongst Germanic and Celtic peoples, so it’s strange that a German encyclopaedia should claim this is a specifically Jewish trait.
        Once upon a time, I wanted to be a redhead, so I tried dyeing my hair. But I found it didn’t suit me. Red hair on a woman who is not a natural redhead is terribly ageing, so I gave it up.

      • Silke says:

        you keep mum about your feet though 🙂

        Maybe a bit unusual for a German of my age I have almost always known Jews – whenever I was told that they were Jews, it was always as part of a chat in the same way that I might have been told, that somebody is a practising Catholic or from a peasant family or had been adopted or anything else a bit “unnormal” … and to this day I can’t think of a single physical feature all those Jews may have had in common, except for none of them having been nasty about the fact that I happen to be German.

  2. I agree with most of what you said. But why Annex parts of Judea and Samaria? Is it actually necessary? Will any good come of it? Doing it on the grounds that we “Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb” isn’t a very strong reason unless there is some specific POSITIVE benefit to be gained from doing it? What is that benefit? And does it outweigh the hassle that comes with such a decision?

    • He doesn’t say we should annex the whole of Judaea and Samaria, he’s talking about Area C (the area which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under full Israeli security control, whereas Area B is under joint Israeli-Palestinian security control and Area A is under full Palestinian control). His logic is that most of the Israeli “settlers” – some 350,000 – live in area C, but only some 50,000 “Palestinians”. These “Palestinians” would, under Bennett’s plan, receive full Israeli citizenship, thus negating all the accusations of “apartheid” by our enemies, and obviating the need for any of the residents (Israeli or “Palestinian”) to leave their homes. The necessity for annexation stems from security considerations – making Tel Aviv and Jerusalem safe and not practically on the border of any future “Palestinian” state.

  3. CATachresis says:

    Amos Oz is quoted as saying “If the UN would have to vote on a resolution blaming Israel for earthquakes, it will pass with an overwhelming majority”. I have to agree with him 😦

    • And Amos Oz is, in fact, known for his doveish, left-wing views…

      • Silke says:

        Was it Amos Oz or was it David Grossman who mentored that western author whose name I can’t remember right now, who indulged in quite a bit of Israel-bashing, during the time he toured your country and received an award?

      • I’m not sure which western author you mean so it’s hard to say. Do you happen to remember anything he wrote?

      • Silke says:

        this was it – it is the first on the list Google came up with
        Here is the complete speech (I haven’t read it)

        I found the impoliteness of what I read at the time mind-blowing. Somehow I am such a simpleton that I am convinced that that is not how honoured guests should behave. After all nobody forces them to accept the honour.

        My memory says that before that speech there was quite a bit of sound bites about what was said during that visit to Jerusalem together with David Grossman

        Since I am just reading a book about history of the Basques (not a good but an interesting read) I wonder whether he’d have pleaded their case while being awarded a Spanish prize with equal eloquence and what he would have come up with in replacement of the “prison camp” Gaza.

        I couldn’t find anything on who else spoke at the occasion, are laudatio and laudator the words one would use in English?

      • On the other hand, McEwan had high praise for Israel as a democracy. And he has also sharply criticised Islamism, on other occasions.
        I have never heard the words laudatio and laudator used in English.

      • Silke says:

        from somebody who has proven to have a way with words and who labels Gaza a prison camp high praise on something else very important sounds polluted or less harshly like the stuff they teach young managers in work shops as to how motivate the work force to try harder while not getting big headed (I think it is a rotten and inefficient technique, combining the two).

        It is something else if you get the nobel prize for literature and use the occasion to vent whatever you have on your plate as to when you are a guest. I am sure the Washington Post’s Miss Manners would not have approved. It is your young men who are in danger of getting hurt at those demonstrations McEwan condoned – I wonder how he feels about stone throwing “activists” on his isle.

        As to laudator and laudatio – Google translate claims to know better than you 😉 but offers me for laudatio as an extra encomium but nothing for the person who does it – maybe they are a German speciality but whenever there is a prestigious literary prize awarded here the praising speech for the honoured often is as interesting or even more so than his or her acceptance speech.

  4. @Silke “you keep mum about your feet though”

    Yes, well – least said, soonest mended 😉

  5. Pingback: Will He Or Won’t He? | THE VIEW FROM THE PALACE

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